Divided Attention and a Theory of Cohesion
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Divided Attention and a Theory of Cohesion • Posted: Jun 29, 2014 20:27:53Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

People are troubled by the lack of cohesion in today's world. Their tolerance for differences in appearance, behavior, values, courtesy, willingness to cooperate, selfishness, and wealth has been stretched to its limits. Hostile reaction has become commonplace. Willingness to defer to the wisdom of institutions and the people who run them is at an all time low. Instead, people are sorting themselves into defensive and offensive combat groups. Plans for battle are being made and acted upon. The notion of community, especially the community of all mankind, is completely dead.

Sad. Very sad. And scary. But sometimes fear is symptomatic of a mere poverty of ideas. Perhaps there is a way, especially with the ubiquitousness of today's communications, to see beyond our obvious divisions to a vision of how all this discordance we perceive fits together and makes perfect sense, a vision in which we, or at least most of us, understand our place, can trust in its processes, and know what to do. That would be comforting. Wouldn't it?

Think back to the notion of family. "We are family. If we just stick together, we'll be fine." A quote you've undoubtedly heard before? Pure defensiveness. And, how many times have those same words been used by one or more to subjugate and abuse others, keeping them from interacting with the outside world, beating them into submission, feeding them self-serving fantasies of evil "them" vs. good "us". Think now how that same line of reasoning is being used by religious leaders, military dictators, fear-mongering politicians, talk-show hosts, and autocratic corporate bosses across the globe to stoke fear of "the other" in all of us, all in service of keeping a self-selected few at the center safe and free from want.

Now consider a different notion of family. Think of family as a pea pod, a nursery, in which children are viewed, not as developing slaves in defense of a cause or clan, but as developing autonomous actors capable of creating new wisdom and utility we all might profit from. Within this other vision of family, nourishment is novelty, not centuries old platitudes. Nourishment is open discussion, speculation, and plans to put theories to test, not rote recitation, diatribe, and reiteration of threat against non-submission.

"Ah, well," you say, "but what then after? Chaos? No societal cohesion at all?"

Not at all. Those who learn within a family to question, discuss, and plan how to adjust, adapt, and learn more are far more suited to survive and prosper in a dynamic world. And dynamic world is what we have before us. After such a family, membership in working groups becomes the norm. People meet, find common interest, then plan together to divide the task of developing new wisdom and utility that may offer wider benefits to all. There is no "evil other", because wisdom and utility is free flowing within a marketplace of fair exchange, not being hoarded or kept in reserve for the benefit of a few and the impoverishment of many. In fact, free flowing wisdom and utility acts to diminish differences and increase societal cohesion, not further divide.

Want to increase societal cohesion and diminish your own disgruntlement? Think: what new wisdom and utility do you have to offer the world around you? Should you come up with something really interesting, you'll be surprised at how many new, non-hostile, friends you'll have.

This author's opinion, you say? Perhaps. But, if you look around closely, I think you'll see there is a viable alternative to fear, with many many willing to participate. It will only take making use of.

Friday, June 29th, 2012