Desegregating our Tribal-Moral Communities: A Plan to Bridge the Divide


Aims and Aspirations: Making our Country, our Communities, our Alternate Media, and our Universities “Living Laboratories of Discussion”

In a time of great dehumanization across demographic, political, religious, ideological and racial lines, perhaps two defining items should guide us in how we move forward as a Nation, and as a society:

Closing the Empathy Gap, by Building a Bridge of Conversation between polarized groups

Actively Tear Down Taboos of Conversation (and the ‘Taboos of Association and Agreement’) between Polarized Groups

Imagine two people sitting down, discussing their backstories and inner lives, and trying to imagine ‘what it is like’ to be the other person. To walk in their shoes. And then, connecting with more and more people from the ‘other group’, as their spheres of inclusion is expanded and their moral and intellectual horizons broadened.

A section from my upcoming short book on a revolution of science, skepticism, reason and compassion across America, as an alternative to the tribalism, dogmatism and rigid ideology of the “Left vs Right” paradigm.

What is critical here is the ability to invoke moral imagination, to ‘imagine what it’s like to be that person’ — essentially, to walk in their shoes. This helps close the empathy gap by lessening the distance between ‘us’ and ‘them’, thus making people outside our inner circle (or ‘sphere of moral inclusion’) less likely to be demonized, dismissed or viewed as enemies, and more likely to be brought into our circles of human concern. We expand our desire to extend empathy and concern to more and more people, we have a better society for more and more people. This is key in facilitating the Nonzero — the cooperative arrangement in which all parties are better off.

A Win-Win Scenario based on ‘shared moral terrain’ between Black Lives Matter, community residents, police and politicians. The key is to ‘map’ common ground across different groups and value-sets — and get them to talk to each other.

What are our tools to accomplish all of this? What can guide us as we crowd-source the many pieces to a roadmap ahead?

Here is a summary of how we can do all this: It would be about crowdsourcing the best ideas, models and creative and innovative tools for teaching critical thinking, especially to the next Generation. The focus would be how we can inculcate critical thinking across our schools, our prisons, and within our neighborhoods and communities, in ways which work with local residents and community-builders, from the ground up. In an arms race of critical thinking and Socratic discussion, pedagogy, and technological innovation, it would be a true bottom-up approach, from the streets of Brooklyn and Atlanta to the Mid-West and to the reaches of Los Angles and Portland, Oregon.

Let’s all have a friendly ‘arms race of reason and compassion’ from the universities, organizations and thought communities in each of our major (or minor) cities. I’m betting on my city of New York. Perhaps the freethought, activism and science communities in other places like Caltech and Portland can take that as a friendly challenge

Additionally, in the spirit of a Reason Revival, we should set these among our highest goals:

Standing up to false dichotomies, unfounded binary thinking, dogma and tribalism within our political discourse, in all its forms 
 Amplifying the voices of moderates and freethinkers in the ‘center’, and especially of reformers from within the Left and the Right 
 Promoting a bigger role for reason, skepticism, and science within our society and our political culture 
 Empowering alternative media, in every way we can, to stand up as an alternative to the status quo of mainstream soundbite culture 
 To empower and lift up every pocket of science and skepticism within our poor communities, our rural landscapes, and our towns and cities. 
 To give a voice and a platform to every person and movement that seeks to respectfully and responsibly advocate and articulate science and reason over political ideology, from the university to the Internet. Crowdsourcing YouTube videos, essays, books, and ideas. 
 To build productive and lively relationships with artists, musicians, actors and actresses, models, and general celebrities

Coming soon to Universities and neighborhoods near some of you. If we can have a Gender Studies Department and Social Justice movements across the expanse of our college campuses, why can we not have a “Freethought and Reason Incubator” across these same campuses? Critical thinking and skepticism should be a top priority, for the sake of science and justice alike. These are not incompatible aims, but mutually constitutive of true social and moral progress, compassion and intellectual curiosity.

What will all of this accomplish?

Given the right tools and support, it would involve filming and sharing hundreds of public conversations between different ‘political and moral tribes’, across partisanship, ideology, race and income. Here is a short articulation of this idea, from a YouTube video:

A Science of Common Ground across the American Landscape” —

Nationally, and perhaps even globally, it will encourage a New Solidarity between reasoned, compassionate freethinkers on both sides of the political spectrum. This will lead to a convergence of humanizing discussion across race, ideology and demographics, and perhaps foster a radical re-alignment of our core values:

-Science and reason vs tribalism and dogmatism

-Human dignity vs the suppression of human dignity, from any side

The video showed a Black Lives Matter protest group meeting a counter-protest group on the streets of Dallas. The Black Lives members walked across a road to the counter-protesters, and what ensued was the opposite of anything most of us — if any — can recall seeing with opposing groups at a Trump rally. Rather than engage in the usual combative argumentation, they warmly embraced each other with hugs, expressing gratitude that they could share a moment of mutual understanding in their common humanity and their common desire for people to flourish. It seems clear that both groups wanted the same ideal — a better coexistence among fellow sentient beings, black or white, citizen or police officer — and were simply expressing it with different political language and symbols.
Empowering the voices of freedom-loving Muslims, and working in good faith and friendship with Muslim communities, are indispensable facets of the long fight of counter-extremism and winning the bigger war of ideas. Neither the ideological extremes of the Left or the Right is equipped to facilitate this. Intellectual honesty, reason and compassion are fare better tools for this. The AltRight and the Regressive Left comprise one of the most foolish and dangerous false dichotomies in living memory. We must choose the path of a ‘New Center’ between these extremes. The difference this makes for the fight against extremism, and for Muslims themselves, is profoundly important.

It is time we decide what we truly value, and what is truly most important to us.

A Closing Statement, in Solidarity with political freethinkers across America

About the Author

Organization: Reason Revival (founder)