It has been about a year since I started this site. I had hoped it would stimulate dialogue. It looks like there are return visitors, but almost all the replies so far have been spam. If there is something here that resonates with you, I would love to hear from you, either as a reply to the site or a direct email to me at DichotomousThink@aol.com.
This is still an idea in evolution. With time, I become more and more convinced that there is something fundamental here. Unfortunately my training is in science. I have no formal training in philosophy, political science, sociology or journalism. I am open to help and feedback (positive or negative) from anyone. Thanks.
Paul Ryan recently criticized president Obama for deferring our foreign policy leadership to the UN security council. “Why should we give Russia and China a veto?” There is no doubt that by blocking action in Syria, Russia and China have blood on their hands. Of course what many people do not realized is that their reason for blocking action is the betrayal they felt after going along with resolutions regarding Libya. To them, NATO used this as a green light to get involved on behalf of one side against the other.
It appears that the president is using his community organizing skills on a global scale. Brining together diverse groups with differing values and agendas is an inherently difficult task. It requires overcoming a great deal of entropy (the natural tendency of the universe to become more disordered). It is much more difficult, from an intellectual point of view, than simply dictating what will be and making it happen with overwhelming military action.
It is unfortunate that this approach is costing lives in Syria and no one likes to be perceived as weak. I support this approach, however, because it goes beyond the simple weakness vs. strength dichotomy. It treats the world’s problems as problems. It is path to long term development of mutual trust among nations. It may be slower, but any progress that is made is more likely to be sustainable. At this point, any trust that may have developed will be gone if the U.S. were to go back to the days of “cowboy diplomacy” and throwing our weight around.
It seems that you can not watch an interview these days without the journalist asking the guest “Who is to blame?” The answers tend to range from the equally small-minded “Blame the people I don’t like” to the obvious “What good does blame do?” or “There is enough blame to go around.”
Instead of blaming ‘people’ how about we blame ‘processes’? Why can’t congress get anything done? Dichotomous thinking. Why can’t there be peace in the middle east? Dichotomous thinking. We can shovel facts around supporting the argument that this group is bad or that group is good, but at the end of the day, the barrier to progress is always in the thought process. Dichotomous thinking replacing goal-directed problem-based thinking.
I was involved for several months with various OWS working groups. I started with Education and later moved to Demands. Given my near obsession with the importance of goal-directed thinking, I finally gravitated to the Vision and Goals group. I met a wonderful and diverse group of individuals. There was a real dedication to the goal of drafting a document that would represent the entire OWS movement. Unfortunately this never happened during the time I was part of the group. It was hard enough for us, as a working group, to come up with something and whenever we did present to the General Assembly, there were always enough detractors to prevent anything from be ratified.
It is wrong to say that OWS has failed or fizzled, and it certainly has had an effect on the debate in the US. That said, it never blossomed into the American Spring and it is clearly not where we all hoped it would be 1 year later. Was OWS a victim of dichotomous thinking? In part. There was a certain amount of “me, me, me” replacing “us, us, us” along the way. The real problem was entropy, that natural tendency for things to become more disordered. People did not appreciate the amount of work it takes to create order among such a diverse group. Inclusivity is great, and I am glad OWS was never co-opted by lager interests like the Tea Party was. It is an unfortunate example of how important goals are to human activity.
OWS needs to go beyond the simple dichotomous “Wall Street is bad.” Until there is a clear Vision and well formed set of Goals, I am afraid that OWS will remain largely ineffective in the future.
A film is made apparently with sole intention of criticizing,
insulting and upsetting the Muslim world. In response, a mob murders a group of innocent individuals. The goal of the mob is presumably to discourage such films. “They insulted our prophet, we have to respond.” Now the American
right-wing (as expressed on Fox News) is upset that there is not a greater “outrage” on the part of the Obama administration, claiming all they have done is apologize to the Muslims. Reporting by Al Jazeera English suggests that all the
administration has done is to condemn the killings without condemning the film.
While condemnation of both an inflammatory and hurtful film
as well as the murder of innocent people may each be appropriate, what does condemnation really accomplish? What is the goal for which condemnation is a solution? The real problem is the small-mindedness. Will such a film bring
about any positive changes among Muslims? Of course not, it will only encourage small-minded Muslims and make it harder for others to move their community forward. Will the murder of the US ambassador, in anyway, discourage the making of subsequent anti-Muslim films? Of course not. The notoriety will only increase backing by other small-minded individuals. Will strong anti-Muslim rhetoric called for by the US right-wing discourage further violence? No, it will just lend more support to
the wrong people.
In all aspects of this situation, there is a disconnect
between the presumed goal and the dichotomous actions taken or called for. Ultimately, these events clearly demonstrate how dichotomous thinking leads to more dichotomous thinking. The first step must be to shift the focus from dichotomous thinking to problem-solving. The fist question should always be “What is the goal?”
Asking “What is the problem and how do we solve it?” should
never be characterized as an apology or appeasement or weakness. It is this way of thinking that is the greatest barrier to our moving forward as a species. Clearly this is not going to happen over night, but it is still worth working for.