Brexit, EU, Trump, and Political Identity

Speaking intelligently, and making sound decisions on important political matters requires nuanced thinking and the willingness and ability to treat matters as made up of more than single, isolated factors. We need the capacity to integrate different, sometimes even contrary political impulses.

We live in increasingly polarized social and verbal environments in which individuals bury themselves blinkered in hard and inflexible lines of policy views and political identity. This is a negative trend that bodes ill for the health of civilization on all levels, local, national, or global.

There are numerous reasons for this debilitating decline in the capacity or willingness for nuanced and critical thinking, and resulting balanced civic behavior. One could nickname this phenomenon “the rise of the 140 character mind.”

A big part of why the quality of thinking in our time has so dangerously and precipitously declined has to do with the remarkable, near divine onset of controllablespeed. Louis CK launched his once promising comedic identity parodying the impatient 20 something nearly in tears because a function on their phone took more than a nano-second.

This tyranny of instantaneousness is mother of the new bigotry, the closed and narrow socionauts incapable of nuanced, complex reflection. People no longer pause for a moment and think. Strengthening this decline largely fueled by the simple and ugly growing addiction to distraction is the additional reality that the onset of controlled speed has produced a geyser of wealth. The lure of wealth brings further out the Faust in many, “You mean if I give up pausing to think, I join the lust and the chance for material wealth? Where do I sign up?”

A second important diversion from spotting and worrying about the tragic emergence of intelligent, well-educated people lemming-jumping into the chasm of narrow minded bigotry is that so much in the world is going remarkably well. Wealth is burgeoning and technology advances are thrilling. These advances effectively serve and improve so much in our lives, travel and leisure, research, medicine, sports achievement, transportation, communications, commerce and much else.

With so much improving so rapidly for so many, the crippling force of failing to think carefully and the resulting rise of intelligent, well-educated, closed-minded bigots goes unnoticed.

Look at your Facebook stream to see if you can find a single “friend” who posts politically whom you believe is capable of learning something contrary to his or her current view? If your list is like mine, this little experiment should scare and depress you.

But, here’s the question: If we really have become so bad, why are we achieving so much? The answer to this question speaks to the concern of this inquiry, namely Brexit, EU, Trump, and National Identity.

The answer is this: The miraculous achievements in our time arise from a spike in collaboration, in tech, business, and all arenas where progress occurs. Business always leans toward collaboration. The more collaboration the more wealth. This is why business people are perfectly sanguine trading with so called “enemies,” even competitors. The information era and the extreme wealth it has produced is directly proportional to the empowering, liberating fruits of collaboration. A truly stunning manifestation of unprecedented faith in collaboration in our time is the emergence of Open Source. This is simply fact, harmony and collaboration cause growth. Division and conflict exhaust and deplete.

Now what are we to think of such phenomena as Brexit, EU, and the extreme closed-mindedness and bigotry on both the left and the right characterizing political participation in the US presently? This bigotry and narrow-mindedness arises from the atrophy of mental habits needed to think through complexity and to integrate nuance, the 140 character mind.

Important political decisions such as the Brexit vote and the US presidential campaign (to mention only two) have not one but two separate and in fact contrary sets of factors that must be grappled with and sorted out. 1. Which is better harmony or separation, and 2. Which is better centralizing power or the increase of local authority and autonomy. These two considerations are entirely separate and contrary. Yet Brexit and EU conversations and votes, and the US presidential “conversations” and campaign give no evidence that these combined polarities are considered and engaged thoughtfully so as to resolve the subtleties and complexity required to bring these separate questions into attractive proposals for healthy and constructive decisions, conversations, and votes.

It is the opinion of this writer that 1. harmony and collaboration trumps separation, 2. Stronger local identity, authority and autonomy trumps (is healthier for everyone) increasing centralized of authority, and 3. In the meta-view, the harmony question trumps the local-centralized question.

We do not see issues and positions framed in ways that simultaneously affirm these seemingly paradoxical affirmations. This means that voters (and chatterers) have not been presented with well thought through and properly defined options for speaking and acting on these extremely important decisions.

Bringing about outcomes that arise from serious reflection, averting the crippling drivel that spews from 140 character minds, requires careful thought and patience. It requires engagement, encounter, and sincere and trusting negotiation with thinkers and activists who hold views and commitments different from our own.

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