One of the great challenges of our time is what to do about the polarization of people in relation to politics and religion.
The single thing most people seem to agree upon is that our disagreements have become increasingly deep, bitter, and hostile.
There may be no single way to lessen our disagreements or even tone down the hostility.
I would personally welcome anyone’s attempt to help with such. Jonathan Haidt’s effort at using moral psychology to better normalize the way our minds work at choosing right from wrong is especially strong and helpful, I believe.
And I also believe it might help if we try shifting our conversations away from identities and toward issues, for a change.
What do I mean here?
Identities ring in our debates about different personalities and they largely focus on labels for other people and ourselves. Before we know it, we are then encamped in identity politics or identity religion where we are talking only about personalities as if these were problems to be solved. But are they?
We all have identities. They lend themselves to differing labels and personalities. But I doubt these are really problems to be resolved. They are instead difficulties to be lived with. Difficulties often frustrate us, and identities always divide us. But difficulties cannot be solved; only lived with. We call that "coping."
Issues are the real problems of daily living that beg for solutions. They are solvable while difficulties are not. Issues don’t have to just be “lived with.” In the political arena, we have issues like economics, trade, healthcare, climate, energy resources, public safety, transportation, communication and more. These are solvable problems affecting even our human survival. They are begging for answers, for ideas.
The mark of most if not all politicians is that when ideas about issues are being questioned, they resort to answers about identities and personalities. They go to work defining themselves and their opponents. They seek to make themselves the solution to our non-existent problem of identities. Too often our political press is then thrown off the path, lose the scent, and follow some rabbit trail into the woods of identity politics.
The same is true in areas of identity religion. Within the broader field of Christianity, for instance, the issue is almost always the Bible. What is the Bible? What isn’t the Bible? What was its text? What was its context? How did that context then and there fit with our context here and now? These are biblical issues. They are seldom touched in way of conversation beyond academia. Instead, we live with these unresolved issues while striving to solve the difficulties that come with our own identities and labels.
The extent to which we spend time talking about identities and personalities, using labels to define ourselves and others, we become divided. That’s what identities are designed to do. Identities differentiate. Any good business model will work at treating consumers as if we are numbers for market share and at differentiating products as if they are solutions for life’s difficulties. Within capital markets, most goods and services do not respond to issues of survival. They respond to labels of convenience, and are marketed as solutions for difficulties. Consumers work incessantly, and spend endlessly to resolve difficulties that can only be lived with, "coped" with but never solved or eliminated.
So how is this working out for us?
Aside from the obvious………. that we have become brand conscious to the point of differentiating even ourselves from others by virtue (?) of identities and labels……. what goes on while we’re busy choosing between identities, labels, personalities and products?
From my own perspective, at least, what goes on is that our issues, our problems, are still left unsolved. Which is another way of saying that we’re still living with our problems while busily debating solutions for our difficulties. Our feelings about identities paper over our ideas about issues. Leaving our unresolved issues free to become our future crises.
We all have issues. Issues growing into crises if we keep on doing what we’re doing now.
Perhaps it’s time to lay the business model aside if we prefer to solve today’s problems before they become tomorrow’s survival issues. What competition gets us is a lack of cooperation necessary for solutions. Ideas that resolve issues lend themselves to cooperative brainstorming in person, not competitive debating in media.
If we get our issues resolved, then maybe our identities wouldn’t be so critical. They could be divisions or difficulties to be lived with, instead of today’s deep and bitter hostilities in search of impossible solutions.
So is that possible?