Sunday, December 19, 2021

Political polarization has significant consequences for human well being.

And while the claim might sound extreme, we may in fact be putting our human survival at risk. We confront multiple dangers today that could well be the end of us. The top five on my list (in no particular order): the risk of nuclear annihilation, climate change and its consequences, how the growing gap between the world’s haves and have-nots risks global economic destabilization, misuse of emerging technologies, and the growing potential for widespread disease. It is clear that effectively confronting any of the first four will require that we get beyond seeing the world in polarized, us-versus-them terms. I had not previously framed addressing the risks of worldwide disease in this way, but the 2020 pandemic has made it obvious that there, too, failing to bring more encompassing perspective to bear could be our undoing.

Johnston, Charles . Perspective and Guidance for a Time of Deep Discord: Why We See Such Extreme Social and Political Polarization—and What We Can Do About It (p. xii). ICD Press. 

While Johnston lists his top five risks of survival for homo sapiens, Michael Lewis does a similar thing and lists a couple of items not on Johnston’s list such as  the shut down of the electrical grid and the fifth risk being the failure of competent management which we have seen manifested in the Trump Administration.

Beyond the values polarization we are experiencing right now in our society, it is managerial incompetence which can be most threatening as we have seen with the Trump Administration’s mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic contributing to millions of unnecessary infections and hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Differences of values, opinions, and beliefs are one thing, but when they contribute to unnecessary harm, the people in our society are at risk for extinction. The polarization of values, opinions, and beliefs has significant consequences if they are not handled in a competent manner to minimize the risk they pose for the population subjected to and engaged with them.

The first step in problem solving is collecting accurate information about the factors contributing to the problem. The second step is naming the problem in a valid and reliable way so that all the stakeholders can agree on what to call it. The third step is working together across systems on collaborative strategies to mitigate if not eliminate the problem. The fourth step is identifying and adopting prosocial values that contribute to positive evolutionary development for our species and the planet.

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