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Healing the Divide

January 13, 2018

"The ego seeks to divide and separate.  Spirit seeks to unify and heal." ~ Pema Chodron.

 

Part of my brand is that I can talk to anyone on any side of the socio-political spectrum, and that part of the reason I'm able to do this is because I've removed my own identity as a factor in the equation, thereby allowing myself to pace other people without them knee-jerk rejecting me because of who I am.

 

In the course of this exercise, one thing I often find helpful for allowing me to transcend my own personal feelings is to imagine myself as some dispassionate observer come from another planet, looking down on the world as a whole and merely observing all the little factions of humans running around going about their lives.

 

It's a mindset and a technique adopted in part from people like Carl Sagan.

 

From this distant vantage point, I'm not a member of any tribe, class, race, or group.  I am merely an individual taking in reality:

 

 

One thing I notice is of course a history of discrimination, of systemic injustice, oppression, slavery, bigotry, colonialism, apartheid, conspiracy, and so forth.  All that has indeed happened and continues to happen in many places.  However, unlike a lot of people, I don't see it as just occurring in one place, by one particular group, but all over the world and by many different people in their own way.

 

Each net cast on the sea of mankind contains within it both good and rotten fish.

 

In some parts of the world, things are getting worse, and it's hard for people to see that regression.  In other parts, however, things are getting better and it's hard for people to see that too, especially when they're in the thick of it and their own lives are filled with misery.  I know from experience, because it was hard for me to see all the good things in life when I was a victim of systemic injustice.  I've known anger and a desire to reform, but that anger is wasted if it's not channeled into anything useful or productive.  That was my mistake, and continues to be the mistake of many.

 

Their anger too often leads to violence and that just tends to make everything worse, not better.

 

Belligerence and Hypocrisy are contemptible traits, made worse when paired together.

 

 

In order to fix this problem, we need to be willing to transcend ourselves and to take a long view of life, the universe, and everything from a loftier vantage point.

 

Humanity has fallen into a deep, dark pit and the only way out is up.  The walls are slippery, some people broke their legs on the way down, the light seems far away, it's cold, it's wet, it's cramped, and everyone's terribly afraid.  Everyone's looking to get out, to get back to a better place, and rightly so, because this situation sucks bigly.  Those fortunate enough to still have strength and intelligence will probably try to climb on top of their fellows in an act of desperation, but will quickly find the mob doesn't appreciate that and so they'll soon be pulled back down, meaning no one gets to escape and everyone continues to live in equal misery crying and moaning until they die at the bottom of a hole.

 

Thus, the only way up is together.

 

Sometimes, you get lucky and someone comes along to throw you a lifeline, and indeed some intervention from on high might also be necessary in the end, especially for the truly broken people of this world.  They might have to be hoisted out by a rope from above.  I wish I could say I was that person, but I'm down in the well with the rest of you.  However, I'm at least looking up, scanning the horizon, squinting at the dim light, and calling out for help as I think about what to do next and if there's anything down here I can use to improve our situation.  Meanwhile, everyone else is busy fighting for control of their own personal corner of hell.

 

 

"Human beings are born with different capacities.  If they are free, they are not equal.  If they are equal, they are not free."  ~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

 

 

Perhaps the most accurate and useful thing to come out of the social justice movement is the concept of the kyriarchy.  If you've never heard that term before, it basically boils down to this idea that everyone is multifaceted, being defined by many different factors, not just one; and in these various categories, it's possible for someone to be both an oppressor and oppressed at the same time.

 

This differs from other forms of Marxist postmodern systems wherein people are divided into only one of two categories (e.g. male vs. female, black vs. white, rich vs. poor) and then tries to build a socio-political worldview around that.

 

I don't think I have to explain how such binary constructs lack nuance.

 

Kyriarchy at least acknowledges the complexities of reality.  Under a kyriarchical model, you can be an oppressor for being male, but oppressed for being black; you can be an oppressor for being white, but oppressed for being female; you can be oppressor for being intelligent but be oppressed for being disabled; you can be oppressor for being attractive, but oppressed for being homosexual; you can be oppressor for being born into a first-world nation, but oppressed for being poor; ad nauseum.

 

Such a system is at least superior in terms of its predictive and moral value compared to a typical Marxist dichotomy that only looks at one factor.

 

The problem, however, is that kyriarchy taken to its logical conclusion ultimately leads back around to individualism.  If everyone is both oppressor and oppressed at the same time based on a thousand different characteristics, then trying to organize a society through a centrally-planned hierarchy in this way becomes the height of hubris and a bureaucratic nightmare.  It also defeats the stated goal of postmodernism, which is to get rid of socially-constructed hierarchies, if you then go and build the biggest, most comprehensive, most complex one of all.

 

Hubris and Bureaucracy are also contemptible traits, made worse when paired together.  Thus, a kyriarchy cannot work either as it is ultimately self-defeating. 

 

Far easier to just say:

 

"Well, life sucks, life's unfair, the world is a cruel place and everyone has problems, but we're all struggling to get by in our own way.  We all have to make the most of what we're given and do the best with what we've got.  Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses and it's up to you to figure out what they are and how to apply them to your life for the benefit of your own self-interest and the good of others."

 

 

That's the individualist mindset:

 

 

 

The individualist mindset says that the most marginalized minority is the minority of ONE.  That even under a kyriarchical structure, it could be said that having social support and being part of a tribe is a form of privilege, whereas an individual must give up a portion of their freedom in order to be considered as a member of any collective group, but in joining a group, you have power and that's why individual rights have to be protected.

 

Because of the way in which postmodernist factions are set-up, they can become quite powerful very quickly; but just as quickly, they will turn on anyone who has a dissenting opinion, labeling them as a traitor and an existential threat to the group.  Such concepts as free thought and diverse individual identity are an anathema to identity politics because it's a rejection at its core to the agreed upon rules of postmodernist philosophy that says, "You're either with us, or you're against us."

 

I've often expressed that one of the most important things you can say to someone, which isn't said often enough these days, is:

 

"I disagree with you, but I'm not against you."

 

Because we're divided along tribal lines, we've not been hardened to stand strong as self-reliant individuals.  Our strength comes from others and we in turn become dependent on them.  To some extent, that's good and necessary as it helps make our own lives and the lives of those around us better; but in many other ways, it conditions in us a sort of knee-jerk reaction to any sort of criticism.  We call it either loyalty or defensiveness, depending on the outcome it produces.

 

Indeed, it could well be that the only reason a person is even offering criticism in the first place is that they care about you enough to let you know there's a weakness, and they're bringing it to your attention in order that you might then go and fix it and make yourself even better.

 

Else, why do it?  Why waste what precious little energy you have to make no gains?

 

Sometimes people are just deceivers and trolls, but sometimes they're not.  It can be hard figuring out which is which, and this is why trust is both an important and fragile thing that takes a long time to build, but a moment to break, and often times a lifetime (or more) to repair.  We need to stop breaking things and start fixing things.

 

Our world is broken and fragmented. 

We are a species that takes sides. 

I think it's time we change that. 

It's time we #HealTheDivide.