The tragic events of last Saturday again raised the question of what to do about hate in America. Do we hate the hate groups? Do we oppose the hate groups? Do we ignore the hate groups? Do we try to “understand” the hate groups?
Most of us value human life. We may value some humans more than others, family over friends, friends over strangers, countrymen over foreigners, etc. A certain degree of dichotomous thinking is natural. A certain degree of us-vs-them is appropriate. So what is the boundary? When is dichotomous thinking a problem?
Dichotomous thinking becomes detrimental when it exacerbates more problems than it addresses. When it makes situations worse rather than better. Members of so-called hate groups value members of their own race over members of different races. A mass-murderer who is a member of one racial group is more valuable than a generous and benevolent member of another racial group. For now we will put aside the absurd consequences that flow from this line of “reasoning.” One of our key features as humans is our ability to assign value to the people and things around us. Our values are as individual as we are and trying to tell anyone what they should or should not value is a messy business indeed.
We share the planet with a large number of individuals who assign value to other humans based on race. This is not going to change in our life-times. The question for the rest of us is why do their numbers continue to grow? As the internet allows information to flow so much more freely, why do their ideas spread so easily? Why is the information age failing the causes of logic and reason? The answer is this. Simple black and white, us-vs-them, emotionally laden ideas flow more easily over the internet than do complex, goal-oriented, problem-based ideas. The former have less informational viscosity and flow like water through the ether. The later flow like molasses and are easily drowned out by dichotomous noise.
This situation is going to get a lot worse before it starts to get any better. We can expect a lot more terrorism, racial strife and divisive politics until we recognize the fundamental distinction between dichotomous thinking and analytical thinking, between thoughts and ideas that stem from the cortex vs those that stem from the sub-cortical reptilian brain. This is the real battle line and it is no different than it was in the time of Plato and his three part soul (reason, spirit and desire).
Is there any hope? Is there anything about our time that suggests we might finally achieve what no age before us could? Can our knowledge of the brain be the catalyst? Our knowledge of physics? There have been scientific advances in the past. Can the amazing increase in the volume of mass communication do it? It certainly has not so far. In fact, the information age has simply accelerated our movement in the wrong direction, away from logic and reason towards more short-term dichotomous thinking. Can heading in the wrong direction at a faster pace help clarify the right direction?
There is one scientific principal whose importance is not widely acknowledged, entropy. We live in a universe driven by ever increasing randomness. Creating any form of order requires work. If there is a problem and 10 people propose 10 different strategies, nothing gets done until enough of them agree on a unified strategy. With the internet those 10 become hundreds of different strategies. Until there is a unified approach to the problem of dichotomous thinking, things will only continue to degenerate.
I humbly propose that ALL thinking people join me in my cause. I propose a framework in which thought information and ideas be categorized based on the degree of dichotomicity, how dichotomous they are. A framework in which all dichotomous ideas are treated with scepticism. Is the degree of dichotomicity appropriate for the problem at hand? A framework in which the process by which dichotomous thinking replaces higher level analytical thinking is widely recognized and immediately identified and criticized. A framework in which the self-amplifying nature of dichotomous thinking is widely recognized. Hate begets hate, noise begets noise, partisanship begets partisanship. A framework centered on understanding the process by which values lead to goals and goals lead to strategies. My solution to the problem of hate is to treat it is as subset of a larger problem.
Hate groups will only stop trying to spread hate when they realize that it is a losing strategy. We will never get them to exchange their values for someone else’s values. What we can do is get them to question whether the strategy of advocating hate actually supports the goal of promoting the well-being of their racial group. What they fear is humiliation and domination by others. Humiliation and domination are the by-products of dichotomous thinking. By humiliating and attempting to dominate other races, they are exacerbating rather than addressing the problem. The best way to promote the benefits of any single race is to promote the health and harmony of the society as a whole and create systems that ensures no group is dominated by another.
Will the framework I propose solve these problems by tomorrow? No. Will it change the minds of current members of hate group? A few at best. The reason to adopt this strategy is for the future. If the framework I am proposing were widely disseminated, it would at least start to slow the spread of hate. If children were taught at a young age that we have a big brain and a little brain and bad people manipulate you by getting you to listen to your little brain instead of your big brain, they would be much harder to poison with hate later on.
The greatest barrier to the spread of my idea is this: I will get the credit. It is my idea, not yours. So why should you adopt my idea when you have ideas of your own. Why should you give me the credit if there is a chance you can get credit for solving the fundamental problem of humanity. To this I say, I claim the role of the Wright brothers as with regard to the airplane or Edison as with regard to municipal power. I am first, but I am not a journalist nor a politician nor an elementary school teacher nor a social scientist. I do not plan to fight against those in the role of Curtis Jennings (a better designer than the Wright brothers) or Nikola Tesla (whose design for municipal power was better than Edison’s). I see this idea as a framework on which those more qualified than me will eventually build a better more harmonious world.