How did we get to be so politically divided?
It seems like a simple question, but I’ve yet to come across a definitive answer.
I believe it comes down to the fact that it’s impossible to put oneself in another’s shoes. Perhaps our views would change if we exchanged backgrounds and life experiences with a person on the other side of the political fence. Who knows?
One thing is sure. Each person has a unique context through which they view the world.
Think of the times someone misinterpreted something you said or recalled a shared experience differently. No two people ever read the same book. We interpret what we read (and what we see) in the context of our perspective.
I realize my thoughts and background differ from others. Yet, I consistently fall into the trap of assuming my experience of events is the same as theirs. This is a source of considerable conflict.
Outside events are not “givens”; they are co-created by happenstance and our own unique context. Maybe this is a design feature of reality. In quantum physics, the method of observation determines what is seen.
Differing contexts create differing truths. What one person regards as true may be totally rejected by another. Opinions regarding the January 6 hearings and the Mar-A -Lago FBI raid are good examples.
When we judge other’s views through the lens of our own perspective, they can look ignorant or unhinged! We look the same to them. Individual perspective restricts us from experiencing our shared humanity.
When I listen to friends from the “other side” make their case, it seems like they pull facts from an alternative universe. We see what we believe! “Fact-checkers” have no impact.
We’ve reached a point in the United States where compromise is unlikely. Half the country sees things one way, the other half in an opposite way. Worse yet, many feel the “other side” is driving the country to ruin.
This is a dangerous situation.
In the introduction to this series, I made a bold claim. I stated that we must learn to see differently to heal our separation.
Constructive change in the United States will not come from changing our thoughts or beliefs. It will only come through a shift in perspective or how we see. Rather than viewing the world from the perspective of self-interest, we must learn to see from the perspective of our shared humanity.
Is that even possible?
Probably not completely, but each step we take in that direction will help!
A smartphone camera provides an excellent example of the “anatomy of conflict” that besieges us.
Let’s say we view a beautiful sunset and pull out our phones to take a picture. When we examine the results, the picture never looks like what’s in front of us. Rather than the real thing, it’s merely an image produced by a tiny computer using an algorithm to convert photons into a picture. Have you ever noticed that photos taken with an iPhone differ from those taken with an Android? That’s because of differing proprietary circuitry and algorithms!
No one is surprised when smartphone pictures don’t match up. However, we are always amazed when we find we interpret events differently from others.
Consciousness operates from context. Our unique context is the algorithm that creates our reality. We see what we believe. Here’s a recent example:
I was running late one morning and suddenly (and erroneously) remembered that I had failed to put gas in the car the day before. I distinctly remembered the gas gauge reading empty. What I failed to see that morning was the gas gauge registered full. Turns out I had filled the tank the previous day. Nevertheless, looking at the gauge, I saw what I believed. Hurriedly I pulled into a filling station and was flabbergasted when the car wouldn’t accept any gas!
Context creates the reality we experience, and that’s just the beginning.
Consciousness is built on sensory information that enables us to distinguish one thing from another, for instance, hot from cold, light from dark, and coarse from soft.
The ability to make distinctions is crucial to our survival. As we mature, our ability to distinguish between events and draw inferences from those distinctions becomes increasingly fine-tuned. A good example is meeting a new person. Within a few seconds, most of us make a judgment regarding mutual compatibility.
We see what we believe and make rapid judgments based on what is seen. This self-created context is baked into our beliefs and behaviors. The context of a ranch hand from Montana differs from that of a cab driver from Manhatten. Is there any wonder why we disagree?
Seeing the world through the unigue perspective of self creates an illusion of separation that blinds us to the unity of our existence.
We must first learn to see through new eyes to heal our separation.
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