Do You Think Like A Zebra?
It might not be an understatement to say that the West is living through the most polarized political climate in living memory. It’s as if the political center has collapsed, leaving a massive vacuum that the right and left continue to fight to occupy.
Unfortunately for these societies, and the bewilderment of interested international observers, the fighting seems to become more hysterical, divisive, and in some instances, physically violent with each passing day.
This is the problem with thinking in dichotomies.
Every discussion cannot fail to turn into an argument that then becomes a matter of what is “right” and “wrong”, failing to grasp that “right”and “wrong” are subjective concepts.
Case in point, what one side believes to be “right”, the other believes to be “wrong”; while on another subject, the inverse is true.
Thinking in terms of right and wrong then evolves, or more accurately, devolves, into thinking in terms of “Us” and “Them”. This is where the situation gets extremely dangerous.
“Us” and “Them” thinking has led to the worst atrocities in humankind over the millennia, including but not limited to: 2 World Wars, the Holocaust, the Crusades, Islamic extremism, slavery, and systemic racism.
Although nowhere near the same magnitude, family members not talking to each other because of differing views over Brexit, Trump, and Covid are all symptoms of the same disease.
Given the extreme events such thinking has brought about throughout history, it shouldn’t be surprising that the premise of black and white thinking is, in itself, extreme.
This is because, for one viewpoint to be considered correct, it must disprove the other viewpoint entirely – in their minds, for one side to be right, the other must be wrong. However, anyone (including black and white thinkers themselves) with the slightest bit of life experience can tell you that life is never so simple.
More often than not, there are more than the two sides to an issue. It’s just that our human tendency to simplify reduces issues to their two extremes.
One does not always have to agree or disagree in totality with an opposing idea. Why not take the parts that can work and discard the ones that can’t, thus forming a new perspective and understanding of matters?
Why not consider which differences in perspective are valuable, and offer interesting insight into the matter under discussion Instead of discarding opposing viewpoints in their entirety?
After all, thinking and perception are not binary, winner-takes-all processes, they change in shades and degrees of grey.
If only more people could perceive this, and sooner!
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