Thursday, April 17, 2014

Political Tribes

We instinctively gravitate toward those who are like us and away from those who aren't, in order to ensure our happiness as well as our personal and genetic survival. We group into tribes. Alpha personalities then percolate to the top of the tribes and we instinctively follow them, surrendering a certain amount of our individual thinking to our group's thinking. This helped ensure that we and those like us survived the historical competition for limited resources.
We've done quite well. Our species has won that competition with an evolutionary blowout. The score wasn't even close. Now, with no other species to compete against, what do we do with that primitive instinct? It is as hardwired as our instinct for sex, and we can't turn it off. So what do we do with it?
Unfortunately, we turned it against ourselves and it resulted in terrible "us against them" behavior. It pit Homo sapiens against Homo neanderthalensis, settlers against Native Americans, Catholics against Protestants, Blacks against Whites and North against South. Today it pits citizens against aliens, rich against poor, OU against Texas, and Republicans against Democrats. While it can be as benign as OU vs. Texas, in other cases it results in genocide. In all cases it results in human division and less than objective thinking.
While most animals have little ability to control their primal instincts, we do. We can choose to ignore our discomfort and embrace someone who doesn't look, act, believe, or vote as we do. We can objectively weigh our fears and rein them in. I believe we must control our less-needed primal instincts in order for our species to reach the next level in our evolutionary journey. I also believe that If we don’t, we may not be on top of earth’s ecosystem much longer. Here’s how I would suggest a way to start.
The first thing that tribes do to separate "them from us' is to create barriers, whether they be physical like walls and borders, or mental like beliefs. Let’s work to remove any and all barriers that separate us. We tore down the Berlin Wall. We integrated our schools. We've worked to clean up our sexist and racial pejoratives. We've made a start, but there are still many physical and mental barriers that our tribal instincts cling to. There is one in particular that we see in action every day – one that is world-wide and as ancient as governments -- political parties.
I've done some research on political party systems and our two-party system in particular. As I admitted earlier, I know little about political science, and I look through ethological glasses. But I found political party systems to be classical examples of instinctive tribalism that, throughout history, reinforced human division and retarded economic and social growth.
I do not believe that there is sufficient reason, especially in this information age, for political party barriers to be maintained. Our nation suffers from their influence and the negative effect they have upon people voting their conscience. We are front-row witnesses to tribal hatred increasing in our Homeland due the polarization caused by having to take sides as a Republican or a Democrat. We should feel under no pressure to vote according to our “party”. Whatever our beliefs are on anything -- abortion, homosexuality, religion, science – we should be allowed to vote without feeling pressured by our tribal peers. We should vote according to our own objective reasoning and moral conscience.
Tribal mentality is a real threat, not only in far-off places like Uganda, but in America. And nowhere is tribal mentality more evident than in federal, state, and local governments. It filters down to every street in the United States. To help ensure our survival as a nation, and perhaps even as a species, it needs to go the way of the dinosaurs.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hyperbole

One of my pet peeves is when hyperbole (exaggeration) is used to influence others. Technically, exaggeration is lying, but that's not my main beef. Hyperbole like, "I'd die for those shoes!" or "I'll never look at another woman!" are relatively harmless lies. However that's not the case for hyperbole used by public figures such as politicians and preachers to win votes and souls. We see it all to often today in emails and public media for a simple reason. Lies will believed by some, and by many more if told often enough.

Hyperbolic lies are also commonly used in family feuds where phrases like, "You've always", and "You've never" run rampant. They only serve to unfairly inflame both the speaker and the listener. If facts are not sufficient to stand on their own without exaggeration, perhaps it's time to reconsider their value. Hyperbole exists when emotion and/or dishonesty is in charge. Unembellished facts are found where logic and/or honesty is in charge.

But, I promise to not get mad at you if you tell me, "That's the best guitar picking I've ever heard!" (Although I might think you need to get out more.)

Thursday, April 03, 2014

As time goes by, many things slip through our fingers -- strength, vitality, beauty, health. But the good news is that it's not lost. It falls into the hands of our children.