Mommy and Daddy America

Every once in a while and especially now, people start writing articles in news publications, Facebook, Twitter etc about how we all need to come together. We all know that these articles are ‘weak’ or ‘pandering’ or even worse ‘uninteresting’.

As a child of divorced parents, who still have no idea how the other side lives, I have literally lived this my entire life. I can tell you that each of them has put down their arms and come together to sing kumbay…haha. That’s not true.

Listen, sometimes people are just never going to agree. But that doesn’t mean we stop trying and realize, that maybe this person has figured out some kind of justification for their lives, and what does it mean.

So what will it take for Mommy America and Daddy America to come together again? Well, Death will help. In that I mean the baby boomer generation has no idea how millennials live or the challenges they share. They have a stereotype of them and millennials have the same about baby boomers. Once baby boomers start checking out, millennials will take over. Then millennials can complain about the 7th Generation(TM) and how they are screwing up America. With their organic ways. Until then, we have some time, so let’s do some research shall we?

There are two books consequential to explaining the 2016 election away.

One is called the Big Sort by Bill Bishop published in 2004.

In it he argues that we are sorting ourselves into like-minded communities. I.e. Liberals go to Austin, TX and Portland, OR and conservatives either stay in small communities or choose to live in red states. He goes into detail with demographics, who lives where and the implications. He argues that increased mobility and the ability to choose where you want to live, along with mobile careers makes it is easier to sort yourself into a community you are comfortable with. Think about the last people you knew trying to buy a house. I would argue this trend of accommodation has continued onto social media with customizable feeds and algorithms that allow you to keep all the bad out. Medium has one of those themselves, articles and interests that you want to see.

The other book is Blind Spot by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald.

In this book, whose subtitle says it all, the theory is that many a good person has a lot of hidden biases. My favorite one is biases of (self-described)liberals, because most liberals think they have no bias, but you ask them about conservatives, and stand back. But this extends to everyone, when we do not understand another person, race, age group, we fill in the gaps about said people/groups. It is a trait that probably served us well when we, as humans, were being attacked by sabertooth tigers or looking for berries to forage, but it may not be great in an age of information. This book goes into detail about these biases form and the working theories behind it. It is amazing to me that this particular brand of science is relatively new.

Those two books explain in detail some reasons for how we got to where we are, now why would I want to cooperate/trust other people?

A recent Freakanomics podcast featured scholars who studied where countries show economic benefit to general shared trust. The economies of Austrailia and Denmark were used, where the correlation between shared trust could be demonstrated. Beyond this, and on an anecdotal level, you may have noticed a decline in productivity when you hated the place you worked at or didn’t trust the people you work with. One of our most productive times of America recently was in the 1950’s, where post-war nostalgia was high and public trust was also at a high.

I know all of you are going to rush out and hug your most hated enemy. That is not my point. My point is that working with people you do not like is actually an acquired skill. It is something we used to do, it used to be easier because there were always people around you that you didn’t like and required you to deal with. Now that we can edit those people out or not really form friendships/acquaintances with, we can do a lot of damage to one another for a while. You can shrug people off and stick to the things you believe and like, no matter the consequence. It is also sets up individuals being the judge of how we want to interface the world and as I stated above, we have plenty of biases/misjudgments.

So in closing, please go find a person you disagree with, you don’t have to talk politics, quite frankly you need to do the opposite. Get to know them personally. Take them out for lunch. And tell them they are WRONG. Just kidding.