The Divides that Need Bridging (Part 2 of 3)

In our last post on The Problem with the Moral High Ground (Part 1), we wrote that we cannot force our way into “fixing” the divides made increasingly evident by the 2020 US election results. Believing we have the moral high ground only makes each of us more powerfully attached to our own beliefs and worldviews. And it creates a focus on winners and losers.

In Michael Lewis’ book, The Undoing Project, he talks about reforms. The very notion of the need for reforms suggests change is needed, something is broken or requires fixing. With reform comes the belief there will be new winners and losers. People who imagine they will be losing something, work harder to resist the change than potential winners do to embrace it.  We have noted in the past in our Worldview Intelligence writing that this is especially the case if it is something fundamental to their sense of identity.

Win-Lose, Stalemates and Status Quo

When the sum total of a win-lose proposition is a stalemate, the stalemate then equals the status quo. We end up moving the deck chairs into different configurations without questioning if they are the right chairs, if we have the right people sitting in them or if we are even on the right deck. Which means little to nothing actually changes.

Reductionist, Mechanistic Worldview

Winners and losers is a reductionist worldview. In her post on Preparing the Ground for a More Perfect Union, friend and colleague Michelle Holliday writes that a reductionist worldview is a danger to our humanity and our survival. She says, “Trumpism and its global equivalents stem from the simplistic worldview of reductionism and dominance that has shaped Western society since the dawn of the Modern Era. That worldview is steadily losing ground to a wiser, more complex, more life-aligned take on things. But it’s not going out without a fight. Under threat of irrelevance and replacement, it is digging in its heels and doubling down on the worst and most extreme expressions of its underlying principles.”

Election Results are a Reckoning

This election radically illuminates that 2016 was not an anomaly to be explained away by individualistic elements. A Blue Sweep in 2020 would have made it too easy for left leaning citizens to pretend that the serious societal issues in the US (that also exist elsewhere in the world) would be addressed and we could now get on with our lives. Those of us who consider ourselves to be progressive could have declared victory and breathed a sigh of relief. This would have been a mistake. Even more so, with the current administration refusing to acknowledge the election results.

More than ever, this is a time of reckoning. Americans are being called to look, really look, at who they are as individuals and as a society. This is a call to examine how they have become so divided and how important societal issues have become moral battlegrounds. We (Kathy and Jerry) have been reflecting on how deeply engrained history is in our beings and how historical patterns are part of our DNA, individually and collectively. This will not shift with election results and it surely will not be ’fixed’ by political wins or losses.

Reality Based and Fictional Narratives

There is an additional complicating factor here. On November 6, 2020, historian and public commentator Heather Cox Richardson wrote that the divide in America is not about principles and values. Rather it is between people who live in a reality-based world and people who live in a fictional world. This fictional world has been created by generations of right-wing media beginning with Rush Limbaugh in the late 80’s. This divide is part of the reason it can be so challenging to see a way forward.

This fictional narrative is the one that now claims Biden did not win the election; or if he did it is because the election is illegitimate. This narrative includes stories about pedophiles in pizza joints, a belief that Sandy Hook didn’t happen, that COVID-19 is a hoax or, incredulously, that Washington is being run by lizard people.

With no proof to back them up, these stories fuel a narrative and a national or political identity built through the power of suggestion and deceit. It is hard to know if the people creating these lies even know if they are lying anymore or if they rub their hands with glee thinking about the chaos they are creating.

This is gaslighting on a grand scale, maybe unimaginable until now. The forces of social media, the dark webs and more have changed the dynamics of information sharing and reach. There are no longer a few media sources that are considered unbiased, that are a go-to for the vast majority of citizens. Information is fragmented and polarized and can be to almost infinitesimal detail.

Illuminating Patterns and Identities

It is beyond time to do the hard work of illuminating what it is that makes us who we are – all of who we are, to acknowledge it is us, especially the parts we want to look away from, and decide if we want to do the work of forging a new path as we wrote about in Part 1.

Not everyone will be brought along or will want to come along. Bridging principles and values differences can be hard enough. Bridging reality-based and fictionalized narratives brings one pause. There is no tried and true path to follow. Is it even possible to find common ground to make connections?

We believe we have to try. Otherwise, the descent into more division and chaos will resemble dystopian novels and movies more than it already does. We believe some of the best ideas are yet to be invented.

Co-Creating a Path To Shifting the Dialogue

Who among us is ready? What are the elements of an approach that could shift the dialogue from winners and losers, from a reductionist, mechanistic view, to one that might change the entire essence of the exploration to find a new way forward?

Psychology tells us that challenges to our identities create the automatic response of defending our mortality. This knowledge can be used as a starting point from which we can begin. This is true whether the narrative is reality based or fictional. When an fictional story is repeated often enough, our brains do not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined.  

In Part 3 of this series, Charting a Path to Bridge Divides, we offer our initial thoughts on a strategy that could be developed. We recognize any strategy will be better, more powerful, more innovative with a greater chance of success when it is co-created. We need all of us now, more than ever before.

One Response to “The Divides that Need Bridging (Part 2 of 3)”

November 12, 2020 at 7:45 pm, Myrna Peterson said:

It is impossible in conflict resolution to come up with a win:win solution with those who live in a fictional world. In their world it’s I win:you lose!