Why are we so polarized?
My mother had a great many sayings, one of which was that you could always count on the pendulum to swing back eventually.
I try to tell people that - never feel too secure with your set-up, because nothing is ever set in stone. We may think that we have grown more intelligent, and that we have learned from our history, that there will never be a repeat of the Dark Ages, the Witch Hunts, and that no one such as Hitler would ever be able to pull the wool over our noses again - but they do. Time and time again, they do.
The biggest issue is that people become complacent, and don't want to change their routine. They think if they can still go to work, still send their kids to school, still function fairly normally on a day to day basis, then all is well with the world and nothing needs to be said. It's only when things start to affect us personally that we start to take any notice of what's happening.
The DAPL pipeline, for instance. No one is really fussing about it except for the folks in the Dakotas, because it's far away, and doesn't really apply to us along the coasts. The water in Flint Michigan is only bothering the people in Flint Michigan. The water I have, here in Cincinnati, is actually considered to be excellent. So I really have nothing to worry about, that these other areas are affected by these issues. Besides, there are a hundred different stories going around, and if you read long enough, you will find one that tells you that all is well, you needn't look any further into this - people are just over-reacting.
I find that, a lot of times, people are just over-reacting to sensationalized news. But what is happening in America now is surreal to me. It's like an episode of South Park, or The Simpsons, only it's horrifyingly real. And just like a cartoon episode, we mock what is going on now the way we mock the cartoons, only we don't seem to be realizing - this isn't a cartoon. Going overboard is hilariously funny in a cartoon, but in real life, it really isn't.
It has gotten to the point where we have become so ridiculous that no one even bothers to listen to anyone anymore. If you talk about being in favor of big oil, the judgements snap into place and you needn't speak any further - the sides will line up, and that's it. Just this side against that side.
When anyone speaks of balance, they aren't listened to at all, not even for the first few seconds. Nope. It's our way or nothing, period, the end.
So - How's that been doing for us over the past 80 years or so? Are things going good, with everything becoming so completely polarized?
Our founding fathers meant for us to work together. Not for one side to simply bulldoze over top of the other. That is exactly what we have been doing with every change in government. The new leadership attempts to erase everything the last one did and swing the pendulum, with a hard shove instead of a swing, completely in the opposite direction.
Whoever is currently in power becomes the father figure to all of us, and those who are not seem to become errant, misguided children. We pat them on the head and say, "Oh, you will come around when you realize how much better our way is going to make the world. Just watch and see."
Can we come together? Or no?
When we first came to this country, there were people already here and, although they didn't have the technology we did, they were actually doing pretty well for themselves. Was it heaven? Probably not. People of every nation fight and kill one another - they die of disease and starvation. These things happen everywhere. We like to think we've improved this country since we came here. Was there disease? How long was their life span before we came? Did they have indoor plumbing? These are the questions people bring up in defense of themselves and how the indigenous peoples were handled in the past. Life is better for them now, or it would be, if they would simply buy in to our system and assimilate. If they would go to our schools and learn our ways, work at our jobs, they would come to understand how much we have improved the world. They simply need to open their minds. Learn. Educate themselves.
We sigh and roll our eyes at these people fighting an inevitable pipeline that is going to go through their land, whether they want it to or not. After all, it's really not their land anymore, is it? It's privately owned - it legally belongs to someone else. Treaties? That was then, this is now; they need to get with the times. It's sad, really, how obstinate they are. We pat them on the head and tell them, "If you would just realize how much better your life is now - stop fighting the inevitable and just do it our way. You'll see. It will all be good."
We, the modern human being: We have changed so much, we think. And yet we are doing the exactly the same things to people now as we have always done. We are simply dismissing their way of life as being silly, and not having any value. Yes, we.
How can we go about helping our native Americans? How can we right this wrong we did, and are still doing today? We can't. It would never occur to us to give them back great expanses of natural, untouched land, and that is the only reparation in which they seek. They want their way of life back. They want the original, happy lifestyle they had, before we came and made everything better for them. To give away natural, untouched land, and just LEAVE it that way? It would be a waste of natural resources! We'd be moving backward in time! No, it can't be done. The only thing they can do is accept fate, and assimilate.
I speak of the Native Americans so much because they represent a lifestyle that seems to be considered to have absolutely no value at all. I simply cannot understand this. To live as one with the land, simply, without changing it in any way - this is something we now consider to be archaic, primitive, barbaric. No human being in their right mind would want to live like that. We cannot seem to fathom why anyone would want to live that way. Yet there are tribes protected in the Amazon that have had no contact at all with the modern world. This lifestyle doesn't offer wealth, power, notoriety. It has a completely different set of values. Contentment, satisfaction, emotional and spiritual rewards, a sense of family, belonging, connection. These things have as much value as wealth. How many lonely despondent people live in small apartments amid thousands of their own kind, and don't know the name of the person next door? We have all the material possessions anyone could possibly want, and still we aren't happy, or satisfied with what we have. Why?
Because for some reason, the way we live - it has to be all one way or the other. There can be no middle ground.
We've made this country great. Look at all we have done for this country. In approximately 1 life span, we went from barely having electricity to walking on the surface of the moon.
The natives here didn't even ride horses when we arrived on these shores. They didn't even know what a wheel was. We have brought so many wonderful things to this world, inventions, building, sewage treatment, medicines. We gave these things to them, handed them over on a plate. Our world truly has been improved by all the miracles we have created by utilizing it's natural resources.
And it's true - technology is absolutely wonderful. I truly believe humanity was meant to create with it's hands, to be curious, to try and improve things, to make things better. But something happened to us that has destroyed the sense of camaraderie we used to have for one another. And that thing, that one thing, that came between all of us in this world, was money. Wealth. And with great wealth comes great power. And it's a heady sensation to have - power. Power corrupts, and has to be managed responsibly. No one should have great power for too long a time. Our founding fathers knew this, and carefully put a system in place.
So we don't share our secrets anymore. We hoard them, and we patent them. We try very hard to fix it so that no one else can use them. By doing this, technology was forced to go in only one direction - toward the greatest source of money. Supply and demand. And a simple thing like demand can be controlled as well, with the use of advertising. We were all trained to believe that wealth was the ultimate goal. Life was all about dying as wealthy as you could possibly be, having as many material possessions as you could possibly have. For the sake of our descendants, of course. Our family name. With money and power, you will have a place in history forever.
So technology is wonderful, and we created more and more things - faster cars that can't actually be driven on a real road, vacation homes and summer cottages where we could get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. (How strange that we want to get away from it, when it is the ultimate in happiness, right?) And we created machines to make our lives easier. Vacuum cleaners and dishwashers and clothes washing machines for the home, threshers and tractors for the fields, great boats, planes and trucks to move our product quickly across the face of the earth, so all could share in having these things, and roads - roads connected us all together and made the world much smaller and easier to travel. Then simply having things wasn't enough. We had to have the best, things, the newest version of things. And things became disposable.
These things are wonderful, yes? Yes they are. But they didn't make life easier for us - no. Actually, they just freed up more time for us to do more work, be more productive. Productivity is great, but in all honesty, it is not all we were meant to do - it is not all we are meant to become. But if you look, people who are not being productive are a problem. They are in the way. They loiter, they hang out, they find things to do that aren't very constructive. There is only one thing to be done with these people, and that's keep them busy. So, jobs - factory jobs, street cleaning jobs, construction jobs - any kind of job to keep people from cluttering.
So let's look at another lifestyle - the one our Native Americans used to have. Not for 200 years as a country, no. For thousands of years before that. That lifestyle would have probably continued through to this day, if it hadn't been disturbed. We roll our eyes at this quaint primitive culture. Not once in thousands of years did they change their ways, or grow or develop into something more. They simply survived, day to day in a harsh environment. Simple survival is not for the likes of us. No, we want way more than that, and in truth, we are meant for way more than that.
So far it's been impossible for me to explain to urban people why anybody would want to live a "natural" life. No plumbing - who could tolerate that, nowadays? No medicine - look at all the diseases we've eradicated. Living as one with nature is barbaric, and far harder than they would have you believe in the movies. Native Americans weren't a gentle people - they could be seriously vicious and mean to one another. (That charge, right there, always gets me, because no one can tell me of one technological society today that can't be seriously mean and vicious to one another. Human beings can be the meanest and most vicious creatures on the face of this earth. It doesn't matter how advanced we think we are, and it doesn't matter where on this Earth we are from. Human beings are on the whole completely unpredictable as far as their nature and temperament are concerned.)
But let's take a very quick look at these indigenous people. These people lived in transitory tribes, all over the face of North America. The land was free to all who stood on it. In the winter, you simply moved to a place that was warmer. If you ran out of food, you moved to a place that had more animal life. You followed the herds. You used all that the earth had to offer, and appreciated the things that you had. They appreciated them more, probably, because these things came with a great deal of work that was required by their own two hands, and so pride is involved with the creation of items that were used and called your own. Nothing was easily replaced; instead, it was reused until it couldn't be used anymore.
Variations of Industry
Living life like this, you were dirty. With no indoor plumbing, you probably stank. There were probably bugs in your bed and clothing and hair.
Work was hunting, gathering, and preparing what you hunted and gathered. Time consuming, hard work that had to be done for survival. But if you really look, they probably didn't have to work nearly as long as we do in today's world. They spent a lot of time sitting around the fire, telling stories, making and repairing things they might need the next day. There was plenty of time to loiter and enjoy each other's company, while at the same time being useful.
Others might find that kind of life boring - I have found it can be very satisfying and leads to a thing many people aren't at all familiar with; contentment. Happiness.
This lifestyle was not perfect by any means. Were women treated as equals? How were the odd ones treated, the outsiders? What of religion? Were things done simply for reasons of fear and superstition? Of course there were issues, there are always issues. You can ask these same questions about America today. How much have we really improved in any of these areas?
Now, in survival of the fittest, there are simple answers to a lot of questions. Big fish eat little fish. The odd and weak die so that the stronger can survive and procreate, and life can evolve. There is no room for weakness. This is a cruel system, but it's a system that works.
But as we have learned, even the weak can have value - in their intellect, in their ability to think or create. And so we have developed emotion and empathy in our human world as well. We care about things, and we often see value where others do not.
Do you see where I'm going with this? Does anyone?
I simply don't understand why we cannot have the best of both worlds. We fight each other tooth and nail NOT to do this. Why?
Whether you are technological or primitive in your beliefs, the same issues arise in our societies. Human issues. They have existed since the dawn of time and will continue to exist, in whatever utopian world we attempt to build. We can try and bury our barbaric nature, but it's there, underneath, just waiting for it's chance to rear it's ugly head once more. It's a part of us and will never go away. The fact of the matter is, we are organic; we are a part of nature. Some see that as a weakness, others see that as an asset, but in truth, it is simple fact. We are a part of the natural world, and therefore cannot extract ourselves from it completely and survive. Well, we can survive, but I seriously doubt we would find contentment. Wealth? Probably. Contentment and satisfaction? No.
Today we have so many causes. Racial causes. Gender causes. Developmental causes. Racial slurs, Gender slurs, calling someone an idiot, all these things are frowned upon, and we rarely say these things out loud - unless of course, it is permitted. When we all want to jump on a bandwagon and go against someone, then it's okay to call them names: liberals and progressives, conservatives, fascists, bigots, commies, whatever - it's okay to use slurs against whatever the "in" thing is to be against at the time.
Fight for Right! But what is that, exactly?
However, the terminology we use today is sweeping. It's not really very focused. Slurs used to be very focused. If you call someone gay, it means they like the same sex. If you call someone retarded, it means they are mentally slow. These are very specific, very pointed labels. But today, the labels are broader. Bigot. Fascist. Racist. Progressive. Left, or Right.
If you call someone a Conservative or a Liberal, what does that really mean? It means they are part of a complete belief system that encompasses and takes a hard stand on all the issues; once you say the label, you need say no more about them. That is what they are. Conservatives are racist, have no use for gender identity issues, see no need to treat mental illness because it's not a real condition. They see no need for animals other than the ones we use, and nature is simply a commodity to be utilized. Science is great as long as it proves something is useful, that you can make something out of it to sell. Everyone should work work work and when they die, their value will be recorded in their account books. On and on and on I can go, telling you what a conservative is. And liberals, ugh. Big babies. They cry for the rights of everything - they think the dandelions in your yard have rights. They are lazy and live in their parents basements. They don't know what real work is.
Or you could say that conservatives believe in discipline, work ethic, and building of a solid infrastructure. Liberals believe in the value of life and equality for all.
It can be spun in a pleasant way, or a negative way, depending on which side you stand on. But even more disturbing is that fact that no two people believe or feel the same way about everything that is supposedly on their list. It's stereotyping on a grand scale, but it seems to be okay to do this. It's not the same thing as a slur. It's confusing, the etiquette of what is considered to be politically correct, and what is not.
The fact is, negative or positive, all different ways of thinking have very valid points, and none should be completely discarded and shut down. We should take into consideration a variety of possibilities - try to see the value in another point of view, and consider how these ideas could be blended with our own.
That is what we are supposed to do in this country. This melting pot. We take in, and we blend.
But we don't do this. We watch the channels that agree with us, read the articles that agree with us, and disregard all other input as skewed or inaccurate. In fact, we even put out skewed and inaccurate information simply to prove that other information is skewed and inaccurate. With technology, it seems we have come to relish and reward this thing we call trolling, and some of us seem to thrive on spending a great deal of time trying to make everyone else look like idiots.
It didn't used to be this way, this derision we have for each other, but now I think it has become very commonplace. We judge each other, assuming what each other's opinions and beliefs are, simply by means of the label we give each other, based on some political party.
He drives a Prius. Self righteous, stuck up Liberal.
He voted for Trump. Racist bigot.
And although no two people believe exactly alike, we still will allow for no concessions - oh no. Things will all start to go downhill if we do that. Compromise is a slippery slope. We cannot let the other side gain any sort of a foothold. They can have NOTHING.
So, with Obama, we swung hard, one way. Now with Trump, we are swinging, hard, the other way. There is no middle ground. It has to be one way or the other.
How's that been working out for us? I can answer that very simply. It's not. Both sides have great value, great worth, and if we met in the middle, great things would actually come of our society. It wouldn't be perfect, because nothing ever is. But it would be a million, trillion times better than it is now.
Can we give the indigenous peoples their land back? No. Not the way they want - not the way it was before. But we could take their lifestyle into consideration and make concessions for it. We have great expanses of wild areas that need protecting - who would be better to care for these great expanses of land?
Of course, we would have to agree that great expanses of wild land actually have value in their own right, and right now, the pendulum has swung away from that belief. Wild land has potential resources. But is there not a way to recognize the importance of both? We do have huge areas of industrialized land that are deserted now. Couldn't these areas be utilized as a resource, or if not, could they not be returned to their natural state?
There is so much we could do if both sides actually worked together. SO MUCH. It is a shame we seem so completely incapable of meeting in the middle. Why one side has to be crushed and completely obliterated, and why this system has gone on for so long, I simply cannot fathom.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.