Apr 122013
 

Canadian novelist, Margaret Atwood, once remarked that in Canada, you can say whatever you want, because no one will listen. And, it’s a standard operating truism – particularly in America and increasingly in Canada – that politics is becoming extreme and polarized, no matter where people are on the political spectrum. Not only that, but the intensity has been ramped up by demonizing of the other side if they disagree.

 

“Paranoia strikes deep / Into your life it will creep.”

— For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield

These are the research findings of a new book called, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Relgion by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. He suggests that it’s not only possible to get along with people of diametrically opposing views, but both win by doing so.

I can remember a time when large family get-togethers were alive with political discussions, yet no one seemed to think the other person was evil … it was just family …  everybody made an effort to understand where the other was coming from.

Today discussing politics is definitely not fun; and let’s not even talk about religion, because the cultural divide is so wide. So how can we move forward, together, in the face of pressing global issues like the rise in world-wide temperatures, single parent families, income inequality, etc?

 

“What a field-day for the heat,

A thousand people in the street,

Singing songs and carrying signs,
Mostly say, hooray for our side.”

Haidt, and his team, have observed that different groups of people have different moral principles. The six key areas are: Sanctity, Authority, Loyalty, Fairness, Liberty, and Care.  When these views are polarized true understanding is paralyzed.

For example: conservatives value loyalty, authority and sanctity as core moral principles, but also value care, liberty and fairness. On the other side, liberals are primarily concerned about care, liberty and fairness. Both sides, however, are resistant to evidence about their shared and sacred values … what binds them, it seems, also blinds them to objective reality.

 

“It starts when you’re always afraid.

You step out of line, the man come and take you away.”

The solution – according to the research – includes starting with the admission that other side may be right about certain points; and rather than find common ground, which so hard to do, we should look for common threats.

If your organization is on the ‘left’,  and your main concern is about income inequality, you might want work with a group on the ‘right’ whose core issue is about strengthening the family … because without adequate income, family stability is threatened. This type of working together also has the added bonus of addressing the declining level of civil discourse.

Personally, nothing good has ever come from being too quick to judge others. So I decided to give people time with which to better understand them – just like others have undoubtedly done for me.

 

 

Fred Parry

Fred Parry / www.fredparry.ca  (2013)