MONDAY, JULY 12, 2021
Of "toxic polarization:" Here at this site, we've been asserting a certain view for the past several years. We've been saying it's hard to see a good way out of our nation's current mess.
Our current mess is a tribal mess—a war of competing tribes. It's hard to see a way out of this mess because it's so heavily fueled by new technologies and by the large profits acquired therein.
People are making lots of money promoting our current mess. The technologies in question aren't going away. Neither is the widespread, all-too-human desire to make lots of money any darn way you can.
Talk radio isn't going away. Neither is cable news or the Internet, or our sprawling "social media."
Something else isn't going away—the human impulse to align with a tribe and engage in tribal loathing. For all these reasons, it's hard to see a good way out of our spiraling mess.
Today, we're flipping the focus of this site, or at least so we intend. There are questions we've pondered for fifty years which we want to pursue to the end. At present, we're planning to explore those topics in our principal morning posts.
Our focus on our current mess will shift to briefer afternoon posts. Today, we want to introduce Peter Coleman, who offers the view that there actually is a way out of our current mess.
Who the heck is Peter Coleman? He's a professor at Columbia. He describes himself as someone who works "in the field of peacebuilding and conflict transformation."
That sounds like a very good field! The leading authority on Coleman's career thumbnails him as shown:
Peter Thomas Coleman (born September 9, 1959) is a social psychologist and researcher in the field of conflict resolution and sustainable peace. Coleman is best known for his work on intractable conflicts and applying complexity science.
Coleman is a professor at Columbia University and the executive director of the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity (AC4) and the Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution...
The profile continues from there. Yesterday, we watched the bulk of a C-Span event concerning his latest book.
That book is built around some useful terminology. Its title is this:
The Way Out: How to Overcome Toxic Polarization
We've been saying it's hard to see a way out. Coleman's book suggests that there is a way out of this mess—out of the mess he defines as "toxic polarization."
For our money, that excerpt draws from the worldview of Our Tribe more than it does from Theirs. But we'll recommend Coleman's basic focus—his search for "cooperation and conflict resolution"—even as we continue to think that the factors cited above make it hard to picture a good way out.
Tribal wars will often involve propaganda from both warring tribes. The "toxic polarization" in question won't come from only one side.
At this site, we've largely focused on the messaging which now animates Our Town. We've done that because everyone who lives in Our Town has been able to see the toxic shortcomings of Donald J. Trump. It's harder to see the propaganda we may be fed from within our own tribe.
Our primary posts this week will start to define a new "Physics / Philosophy Howler." In the afternoons, we'll still tend to focus on the unhelpful propaganda which emanates from our own side.
In our view, such propaganda suffuses the pages of Our Town's leading newspapers. Some such work is completely accurate. It may be part of Our Town's contribution to "toxic polarization" nonetheless.
Coleman mentioned Gandhi and Mandela at several points during his book event. They were high achievers.
Dr. King, but also John Lewis, advocated refusing to hate. We still think that's a good idea. For everyone in all human towns, stopping the toxic starts here.