The case for more division

One of the most overrated virtues in the 21st century is unity. The substanceless buzzword that is thrown cheaply around and has this undeserved aura of respect. Unity for what? And unity as opposite to what? And how do we achieve this unity? Should we just always assume it to begin with?

It's not rare nowadays to hear people say: “Let's all unite and try to find a middle ground.” And similarly: “This controversy will just generate more hate and unnecessary heat.” (As if hate would be something immoral, something that should be avoided at any cost). This is especially true when the discussion involves politics.

Well, I think it is unhealthy to think like that. It calls for mediocre agreement. Unity can be found but only through an argument, through a clash, through a division.

Division is needed, it is what clarifies things. It is the only way towards a progress. We don't build bridges from the middle. And similarly, every parliament in a civilized society is designed for an opposition to take place, not consensus — the elected political forces sit in the assembly that is opposite one another. If we suppress this clash of ideas and difference of opinions, no evidence can be presented and we are back to square one — where we are feeling that whatever we think are fine, because we might be in a safe moral majority.

Copernicus was divisive. He dared to question the Earth-centered idea. Later on, Galileo was divisive — he dared to ignore the warnings of Inquisition to stop publicly state his belief that Earth moved around the Sun. Darwin was also divisive. He dared to question how different species came to be. It created a clash between his ideas and those commonly accepted ones — that all creatures had been created “according to their kind” by God, as described in the first chapter of the biblical book of Genesis.

This divisiveness of earlier generations has improved the societies most of us today live in. Unity, on the other hand, is easy, it's passive and conventional. It is the willingness to rail against orthodoxies, the ability to come up with an independent thought, regardless of how many seconders it might attract, what really should count and what we should hold as a virtue instead.

The truths we currently take as the self-evident ones are usually the most prone ones to fall for the sainthood status that we tend to shield from any unwelcome questions. But it is always worth establishing the first principles. How do we know what we think we know? Is global warming really happening? To what scale and how much human activities are affecting it? What are the evidence for it? What are the evidence against it? Does diversity in cultures and ethnicities lead to measurable benefits for all and increase of productivity? What are the evidence for it? What are the evidence against it? Is democracy the best form of government? Again, what are the evidence for it? What are the evidence against this proposition?

By the constant search for compromises and having unity as our holy end goal we tend to forget the vital middle step that is the only path that may lead us to this unity, at least one that is worthwhile having — division. An open debate where any argument can be encouraged and heard out. Not silenced and censored. Because when we start to categorize opinions as right or wrong ones, when we shield ourselves from the opposition, when we forget the importance of division — we can't achieve any progress, only pretentious, regressive middle ground that is posing as one.

In the political climate where empty calls for unity are heard whenever anything even slightly controversial takes place — we need more division and polarization, not less.

Kristaps, Miami Beach, June 28th, 2017