In this section I lay out my current point of view on causes, potential solutions and what success at addressing this challenge looks like. At this stage in a new thought process, initial premises often end up looking naive once one develops more experience. With that caveat a premise helps to begin dialogue, so herein is my current point of view.
I’ve observed in America at large growing contempt for those with opposing viewpoints. This is not only fundamentally shallow and — in my view — ill-informed, it is also counterproductive to one’s own interests, no matter which side one is on. In order to optimize our own self interests, we need to collaborate with others. Collaborate with enough others, and you have built a community. In any community of meaningful size there will be sufficient diversity of opinion that perspectives will inevitably come into opposition. How does one achieve the benefits of collaboration when confronted with differences of perspective?
How does one achieve the benefits of collaboration when confronted with differences of perspective?
When one finds another party deeply objectionable, it can be difficult to bring oneself to collaborate effectively with them. So it might do oneself well to ask, “Have I been fair to myself in concluding they are objectionable? Do I really know for certain that they are objectionable? Have I actually spoken with them about what they think? Have I ever visited their community? Have I heard them, in their own voice unfiltered by some editor at FoxNews/MSNBC, explain truly what their angst is and what are the motivations for that angst?”
Because if you have not done this work, then you are doing yourself a disservice. You are projecting upon another a trait that is blocking the two of you from being able to collaborate, but you haven’t validated with confidence that the trait is even accurate. Why would you do something so counter to your own interests?
It turns out there are a lot of psychological reasons why we do this to ourselves. This is one of my areas of study.
Arguably, this is a really simple human problem. All day, every day we navigate through differences of opinion with others. Probably 99% of the time we do so successfully. We do it all day at work. We do it with our friends, our families, our schools, organizations we interact with. But then we get to the end of the day, we sit down and turn on FoxNews or MSNBC. And all those skills we know how to use, somehow they just evaporate, because unlike everyone else I deftly negotiated through a difference of perspective with today, this guy on the TV, _he_ is clearly wrong, and ergo he is an asshole.
unlike everyone else I deftly negotiated through a difference of perspective with today, this guy on the TV, _he_ is clearly wrong, and ergo he is an asshole.
But because we’ve shown in the rest of our lives that we have the capacity to — deftly even — negotiate through differences, I firmly believe that this political animosity issue at the national level can be dramatically improved. I also believe that if a problem can get worse, it can get better. Indeed polarization, specifically, has shown a cyclical pattern through history. We can fix this, and the benefits will be a nation more effective at solving its problems and achieving its opportunities.
Then, if we can fix it here, we can fix it elsewhere. Which would be a pretty big deal.
This is why I’m working on this problem.