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How common threats can make common (political) ground

Jonathan Haidt


Posted: Jan 11, 2013

“If an asteroid were headed for Earth, we’d all band together and figure out how to stop it, just like in the movies, right? And yet, when faced with major, data-supported, end-of-the-world problems in real life, too often we retreat into partisan shouting and stalemate. Jonathan Haidt shows us a few of the very real asteroids headed our way—some pet causes of the left wing, some of the right—and suggests how both wings could work together productively to benefit humanity as a whole.” - TED


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Excellent stuff once more from Jonathan Haidt, although I agree with nearly all that he says, I do think these political divides and natural tendency towards polarisation is elemental within Human nature, even within the smallest of groups?

Leaders for polarised parties will naturally tend to Hyper-partisan positions, how can this not be the case? So therefore it is impossible to vote for bi-partisan candidates as leaders as these will not rise to the top? Obama may be the nearest to the Clinton ideal of social democrat, yet even the most ideologically driven and even tempered democrat will be scorned and polarised from the opposing field?

Here in the UK there has been a natural evolution of merging party politics, (since Blair "New" Labour), within the three main parties and primaries Labour/socialist, (Red), Liberal democrats, (Yellow), towards Conservative, (Blue), with this evolution spawning an alignment with social democratic values, ie Ed Miliband Labour/Socialist espousing austerity and not opposing cuts, through towards David Cameron PM/Conservative espousing "Big Society" ideals and social responsibility and welfare, yet still at the same time de-constructing the welfare state and healthcare here, (so not too much of a slide towards the left then?)

One thing that all politicians have in common is their incompetence! Their naivety concerning even basic economic histories, (not that I am any expert), I would at least contemplate the successes and failures of Keynesian and Hayek economics and seek further wisdom from experts – Oops, of course one of these won the Nobel didn't they? So obviously Hayek was correct and Keynes is wrong.. yes? Or am I polarising? (middle way grasshopper! thesis and antithesis.. etc)

Taking a naïve shot here, I would say that Hayek serves best when world and nation state economies are booming? And Keynes ideals should be applied when crisis occurs – and not the other way around? In other words, hands off political manipulation and interference of markets when all is progressing well?

Serious threats can polarise as arguments arise to course of actions, so this will always be the case also, fear leads to uncertainty, conflicts and excessive arguments. This is hopefully where the real "leader" steps up and pushes the lame weak minded executive "manager" aside? One of my fave disaster movies is "Deep Impact" a more democratic model of disaster as compared to gung-ho "Armageddon" republican sensationalism? (both films released the same year! Guess which one got higher box office takings?) Yes if I had a choice I would vote for Morgan Freeman as president, so think yourselves lucky US, you have Obama and he is close, a true statesman!

I think that Humans naturally divide every "single" thing into the duality of "this" and "that"? Even a small group will quickly divide into partisan politics divided by these standpoints on morality – so is this polarising rooted in personal discord, any partisan split with family and friends even, based upon petty differences, exaggerated and escalated to incorporate and invent further political divides to substantiate differences? A fundamental failure in Human relationship, emotional skills and social ineptitude?

What then is the answer for Unification? .. Global executive, Queen Bee, a return of religious ideology, CEV, direct democracy?

Personally I feel that lame politicians should be answerable to the their electorate so they can be dismissed at the first signs of incompetence and cronyism? Increased democracy through referendum also gives the opportunity for peoples to vote not merely with their loyalties, but using their minds and objectivity towards each dilemma and crises – perhaps then we may see a more efficient alignment of Universal Human moral values, hopes and fears.. and this is also a win, win for the lame politicians also, as the pressure to make correct decisions will be out of the hands of the few or the individual?

Good talk by Haidt, but in our present globalised world, it's interesting that he skips over the topic of globalisation - the "bleeding elephant's head in the room", as it were.

A key contributor to some of the 'asteroids' he mentions - eg. global warming and income inequality - is, after all, intimately bound up with each nation's need to keep its economy competitive and attractive to global investors and corporations; a need which systematically precludes policies to reduce emissions or income inequality.

This global-scale asteroid calls for a coming together, not just of society in the U.S., but societies globally. The following TEDx talk explains and offers a possible solution:

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