You are to blame for the current bipolar state of society. I am responsible for crazies that seek political office. We all created Ann Coulter (and I shutter). That’s right we have collectively created and framed our current society of simplistic black or white thinking. We have all allowed ourselves to be spoon-fed a system of dualistic thinking that we tacitly asked to have impose upon us. This is why we are currently divided as a nation between two candidates for President that are in fact remarkably similar to one another. The entire electoral process is steeped in the tenets of a binary system. One candidate is black, the other white. Romney the conservative versus the liberal Obama. It is the political equivalent of Coke or Pepsi – both are still cola.
But, why do we eagerly grasp for this extreme dualism in society and let it disease our thinking processes? The answer is that it is comforting and easy. Binary thinking provides comfortable absolutes that do not require any investigation. The other side is always wrong and evil, while you can go to bed at night knowing that you are good and reasonable. Nuance and critical thinking are virtually eliminated in this system of thought. You are not required to have a reasoned opinion. You watch the news channel or blog that re-enforces your already installed worldview, thereby further relieving you of the responsibly for engaging in contemplative thought. You become a simpleton that parrots the preordained talking points of your political team. You stop reading/watching the supposed opposition in an effort educate yourself about their views, rather you grant the power of decision-making to leaders and their mouthpieces. This why Rush Limbaugh, FOX News, Rachel Maddow, and their compatriots exist and dominate the discussion in the realm of public opinion. They are the electronic placards and blow horns for one team or the other. They offer a prepackaged set of values, thoughts, and fears that the public is all too eager to install into their mentality. Subscribing to absolute values makes life less complex, easier to deal with, but it is a fake comfort. Plainly put, it allows us to be lazy political participants who can be justified in our passion, indignation, and hatred. It is WWE wrestling for supposed adults. Our need for certainty leads us into making poor unreasoned decisions.
Dualistic or binary thinking is essential to controlling a populace in a presumed democracy. The state can easily perpetuate itself be delivering the binary paradigm of us and them. Evil Communism versus God-granted Capitalism or the class Conservative/Liberal dualisms represent examples of this control. By delivering two diametrically opposed views with no in between, we feel compelled to adopt into one view to exclusion of any value being present in the other option, and therefore we are herded into a group in a small corral. We essentially give up our individual thought processes in order to belong the right team, the team of our “choice”. The opposing side comes to represent an increase in your own suffering. For example, you have chosen the conservative team, you are convinced that allowing a liberal government will invariably result in economic turmoil thus increasing suffering. Your perceived decisions come out of a sense of belonging and righteousness, and out of overwhelming terror. For the state and by extension its political parties, it is vastly easier to control two aggregations of political expediency than thousands of ephemeral coalitions of diverse thought. The state/party uses your fear of suffering to lead you by the nose to the water they want you drink.
The current US Presidential election is the ultimate example of dualism run amok. Millions of people bought into the right/left paradigm with reckless abandon. They view the candidate of their choice is the next coming of Christ himself, while the opposition are nothing short of evil incarnate. Romney supporters thinking that Obama is a secret Muslim communist is a commonplace notion. Obama backers view Romney has the quintessential narcissistic corporatist who will do nothing but enrich those already own his own economic class. The country is divided into two opposing camps that support candidates that are presumably polar opposites of one another. However, are the candidates truly that differentiated? Looking at the unlimited corporation contributions to their campaigns, it becomes obvious that their political pursuits are funded by the same elite, wealthy class. The presidential candidates both represent the best interests of this class, and these interests may no and most likely do not represent the interest of common good. They are two sides of the same gold coin. Dualistic thinking is reasonable for erosion of our political discussion into slogans and adamant proclamations of supposed fact, while it truly serves the perpetuation of the current political power structure.
Even dualism as its own dualistic opposite, relativism. Relativism is not a cure for dualism, rather it institutes a system of thought were distinctions and clear judgement are not possible. Ethics become a wash of muddy gray compromises. Actions or inactions are done in an effort to not offend or appear open-minded. Relativism eventually becomes the absolute, and thereby implodes into the vacuum of its own valuelessness.
Then how do we create a society beyond dualism and relativism where reasoned thought provides the direction of the culture? I believe the answer lies with the three-fold prescription of compassion, wisdom, and happiness. If one views the entire world with compassion, you understand that there is no real other, no outside threat. You realize that everyone simply wants peace and happiness, to be free of their own suffering. You come understand their base intentions. With the practice of compassion, you drop the notion of belonging to a group, rather you strive to relieve the suffering of yourself and others. The application of wisdom, rather than punditry, allows one to construct solutions based on compassion while still drawing distinction between beneficial and harmful actions. Wisdom is the preventative for sliding into relativism. Cultivating a happy state of mind re-enforces the ability to act with compassion and wisdom. With a happy mind, the tendency to react out of fear or hatred is lessened, if not eliminated.
Imagine an election in a democracy where you knew that every candidate was completely well-intended and there was respect for divergent worldviews as we were all working towards the elimination of suffering. I know that it is an Utopian wet dream, but if I didn’t dare to envision of a perfect society, there would be nothing to strive toward.
Just as the grammarian makes one study grammar,
A Buddha teaches according to the tolerance of his students;
Some he urges to refrain from sins, others to do good,
Some to rely on dualism, other on non-dualism;
And to some he teaches the profound,
The terrifying, the practice of enlightenment,
Whose essence is emptiness that is compassion
Nagarjuna (c.100 – 200 AD)