"X or Y" questions and the culture of polarization.

  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 2:19 PM GMT
    I see alot of posts asking "are you a jock or a nerd", "are you high or low maintenance", "are you liberal or conservative", "are you religious or atheist" etc.

    Every time I see one of these "either/or" posts I have to roll my eyes. Something in the past ten years has caused people, especially those under 25 who's impressionable years have also been the Bush years, to think of everything in terms of "versus". Nuance and middle-ground is now regarded as weakness, indecisiveness, flip-flopping, etc. Our leaders have trained us to be black and white thinkers, with zero room for gray area. I understand why Bush thinks this way. He's a "dry drunk" and can only think in absolutes because he doesn't actually trust his own judgement. But that doesn't mean we have to follow suit. Admittedly corporate media propogates this type of thinking. This industry knows that conflict draws attention, which increases viewers, which sells ads.

    So to anyone who's asked the "this way or that" questions (or to anyone else who's used the "you're with us or against us" argument): Is your brain really that binary? And if so why (as in, what happened)?

    Apologies in advance to Crimthann.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 2:48 PM GMT
    I am not sure the Bush years are the reason, I think many people like their lives to be simplified, and categorizing people helps do that.

    Human beings are extremely complex creatures, I took Psychology for four years and only scratched the surface of human behaviour. Even a person who on the surface seems very "ordinary" is capable of tremendous things if given the proper training and opportunities. But pigeon holing people into jock, geek, nerd, etc. helps sort things out, somewhat inaccurately mind you.

    Furthermore, most people when developing an identity in their teens and twenties repress or suppress certain aspects of their personality in order to fit in or impress others. Therefore, you will get the guy who thinks of himself as a jock when he also could be a "geek". The jock persona is seen in society as more cool so he suppresses the geeky part of his personality.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 4:08 PM GMT
    Wysiwyg60 said: "I am not sure the Bush years are the reason, I think many people like their lives to be simplified, and categorizing people helps do that."

    Well I think this is just pure laziness. Or, to be more charitable, maybe we have more demands on our time these days and use binary questions/answers to get to perceived solutions and quickly move on to the next thing. I just think it is unhealthy and contrary to advancing as a society. Trying to reduce our complex world into black and white bits only leaves us fighting something infinitely more powerful than us.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 4:12 PM GMT
    XRuggerATX saidWysiwyg60 said: "I am not sure the Bush years are the reason, I think many people like their lives to be simplified, and categorizing people helps do that."

    Well I think this is just pure laziness. Or, to be more charitable, maybe we have more demands on our time these days and use binary questions/answers to get to perceived solutions and quickly move on to the next thing.


    Not disagreeing with you about the mental laziness. We are a generation saturated by Cable TV (and 24-hour news), video games, and computers. Everything is done for us, we don't have to do much mental weight lifting anymore if we don't want to.

    For example, my brother's two kids are bright, but do you think they can add a column of numbers properly? No friggin' way, they always had calculators in school so they are always making mistakes. When we play "Hearts" I always double check their scorekeeping. A simple example of the influence of technology on the human mind.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 4:21 PM GMT
    I see your point. I'm starting to be very thankful that most of my formative years did not involve computers, cable TV, video games, instant news, etc.. I'm starting to think my brain is the better for it, but maybe I'm too contemplative for the generation behind me who might be operating at a faster, even if less thoughtful pace.

  • jarhead5536

    Posts: 1348

    Apr 22, 2008 4:27 PM GMT
    Not to get too pointy headed, but we are at bottom very fearful and insular creatures, with the brains of tribal hunter-gatherers. That residual tribalism is harmful to us in all sorts of ways, but especially in this one. We have an instinctive need (for purposes of self-preservation) to quickly and accurately label everyone we come into contact with that is discernably "other". Persons from outside our tribe are innately not to be trusted, so quick, prejudicial identification may be necessary for survival, at least according to our reptilian brains.

    We have attempted to counteract this labeling (aka stereotyping) since it is clearly not helpful to achieving all that universal brotherhood of man stuff, but instinct is a powerful thing.

    Black and white absolutes are closely related to tribalism, since ambiguity of any sort interferes with our quick identification of the "other". Xenophobia, racism, homophobia, religious hegemony and economic protectionism/isolationism (of the very sort advocated by the fundie Christian Republican Right in America) aka, Shrub, are only the latest expressions of tribalism. It's all based in fear...
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 4:27 PM GMT
    Thanks XRuggerATX for bringing to light an obvious but unspoken issue. The whole attitude of our 'Sophie's Choice' culture makes my brain hurt sometimes. That and the lack of critical thinking is ubiquitous. I swear, if I hear one more person spout a 'fact' that they heard on Fox news or use the term irony because they think its the same thing as coincidence, I'll simply get up and quietly leave the room.

    Fortunately, there are many here who have a voice of reason that goes beyond mere experience, or facts. It is actual critical thinking that sometimes results in a response that starts with "That depends..." rather than "You should always...."
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 4:32 PM GMT
    jarhead5536 saidNot to get too pointy headed, but we are at bottom very fearful and insular creatures, with the brains of tribal hunter-gatherers. That residual tribalism is harmful to us in all sorts of ways, but especially in this one. We have an instinctive need (for purposes of self-preservation) to quickly and accurately label everyone we come into contact with that is discernably "other". Persons from outside our tribe are innately not to be trusted, so quick, prejudicial identification may be necessary for survival, at least according to our reptilian brains.

    We have attempted to counteract this labeling (aka stereotyping) since it is clearly not helpful to achieving all that universal brotherhood of man stuff, but instinct is a powerful thing.


    Evolution and psychology I love it! You are right that is part of the reason (at least for males). We are capable though of thinking much more about things then we do. Our education system does not help. Critical thinking does not seem to be high on the list of high school curriculums. It especially needs to be taught when interpreting the media. People take what it says at face value. This is especially infuriating when it comes to medical stories. "Eating oat bran reduces your risk of such and such cancer by 50%!". They don't bother telling you what your probability of getting this cancer was in the first place, or the other factors (such as genetics) that may come into play. Drives me icon_twisted.gif
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 4:36 PM GMT
    bgcat57: Another thought along these lines: Sometimes when our emotions are heightened we can resort to absolutes and not see the nuance in things. I think of the kneejerk reply to a post on RJ..."all Muslims/Christians/Republicans/Democrats/vegans/Canadians", "you should always", "you're less of a man because you are among the _____ group". Another phenomenon of recent American culture is that it is suddenly okay to wear your emotions on your sleeve and spout kneejerk, sweeping statements in the name of feeling an emotion. I think reality TV and YouTube help cause this dynamic. We see each other as imperfectly as ever, and forgive our emotionally charged intellectual mistakes more easily because we see them more often, but tell ourselves that everyone cannot possibly be that crazy all the time. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, just another factor.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 4:39 PM GMT
    Wysiwyg60: Evaluating and advancing students based on standardized, multiple choice tests sure isn't helping either. Thanks again, dubya.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 4:42 PM GMT
    The worst of it is, critical thinkers are now labeled as "smug", "elitist", and even new scary words like "secular" (a loaded stretch) or "flip-flopping".
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 4:46 PM GMT
    XRuggerATX saidWysiwyg60: Evaluating and advancing students based on standardized, multiple choice tests sure isn't helping either. Thanks again, dubya.


    You have a point. Unfortunately students are still not acquiring some of the basic skills they are supposed to be learning in elementary and secondary school. Part of the problem in the public system (at least in Canada) is that it is nearly impossible to get rid of or improve the performance of bad teachers. Some of the ones I had in grades 1-8 were unbelievablly bad. I don't know what the solution is if standardized testing is not doing the trick (I never had it when I went to school, my dad did though).

  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 4:49 PM GMT
    Wysiwyg60 said: "I don't know what the solution is..."

    Money. As in teacher pay. Heroes should be rewarded and encouraged, not made to live a life of martyrdom.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 4:56 PM GMT
    NNJFitandBi: I didn't find anything. Help me out.
  • kinetic

    Posts: 1125

    Apr 22, 2008 5:19 PM GMT
    XRuggerATX said
    Every time I see one of these "either/or" posts I have to roll my eyes. Something in the past ten years has caused people, especially those under 25 who's impressionable years have also been the Bush years, to think of everything in terms of "versus". Nuance and middle-ground is now regarded as weakness, indecisiveness, flip-flopping, etc.

    Right on!
    Most everything is a shade of grey to me.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 5:31 PM GMT
    NNJAnyone else want his profile deconstructed? ;)


    Speaking of deconstruction and questions of truth (or its substitution with what Colbert brilliantly renamed "truthiness"), Stanley Fish has been writing about the subject in his NY Times blog -- and producing a firestorm of controversy.

    His blog is here: http://fish.blogs.nytimes.com/

    You have to scroll down to read part one (and its 600 comments!).

    I think the strict adherence to dualism really is grounded in monotheism, which itself reduced the world to good (god) and evil (Satan). The global rise of fundamentalism has a lot to do with the intensification of this way of thinking.

    Science, or at least its misunderstanding, has a role too.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 5:46 PM GMT
    obscenewish said

    I think the strict adherence to dualism really is grounded in monotheism, which itself reduced the world to good (god) and evil (Satan). The global rise of fundamentalism has a lot to do with the intensification of this way of thinking.


    You just expressed what I was thinking!

    Additionally, others have mentioned the Bush years as a cause, but I think our leadership is a effect/product of the "group think" of the country. Hence the rise in dualism, the rise in fundamentalism, the increased focus on leisure and luxury, the rise of celebutantes and gossip culture, etc. I like my gray areas (and don't mind my gray hairs!) and can't imagine being less cloudy. (I don't see how you can grow up Catholic in America and not be rife with hypocritical paradoxes!)

    Anyway, this is a topic I think about a lot...but thanks to my gray areas, I don't have any definitive opinions on. I, and most of us I'd wager, recognize the changes afoot. But the why and how...who knows? It's hard to write history as it happens. Easier once the dust settles and the horses return to the barn, so to speak.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 5:47 PM GMT
    Sometimes, I feel like a teepee. Sometimes, I feel like a wigwam. I guess I'm just two tents.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 5:56 PM GMT
    Considering monotheism is an Egyptian construct used to validate the deification of the pharaoh, class and caste separation, I would think, is the true genesis of dualism.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 6:16 PM GMT
    NNJfitandbi saidOh, and your tagline "If you want to stop aging, start playing."

    Well, I think you can see what's binary about that.

    People who worry about getting old are bad.

    People who play sports -- expeically RUGBY (that's from your name) -- are manly, young and good.

    Ruggers don't like sissies. And they don't care about looking pretty.

    And you paint yourself as the guy who gets the last laugh. Just look at that photo!

    XRuggerATX=Peter Pan

    The problem, of course, is that you seem to care very much about looking good. You have a very carefully constructed persona, Rugger.

    --OK, I'm done.


    If anyone wants to know more about me, please email NNJFitandBi and he'll give you a full assessment.

    Now then...my profile was written before my first post, and was a somewhat emotional response to some stimulus that I've since forgotten. It's a strongly worded profile, and aspects can probably be interpreted as binary by those who naturally gravitate towards that way of thinking. Apparently this includes you, NNJ. You've taken information in a profile and place it in your own mind as simply statements of "good" and "bad", then tell me that's what *I* meant.

    I'd change it to reflect my more nuanced world view, but I get good responses from it so I still let it feed my ego for a bit longer. How else did I get on 100 hotlists in six months without going shirtless or pantsless? /ego :-)
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 6:18 PM GMT
    mickeytopogigio saidConsidering monotheism is an Egyptian construct used to validate the deification of the pharaoh, class and caste separation, I would think, is the true genesis of dualism.


    You read my mind icon_wink.gif
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 6:31 PM GMT
    To be honest. The whole classification thing is pretty tired, but not without some reason. for years I was concerned that my tastes and identity fell randomly in a range where, at no point, did they lie firmly in one camp or another. Be that musical tastes, masculinity, politics, sexual attractions, etc. I found that it was difficult to properly represent myself without some comparison. Then I turned 30 (note this is just my journey, not a dig at people younger than me). I spent a wonderful weekend with some of the most iportant people in my life and realized that we all fall in this range and flux according to mood, situation, etc. And I am who I am without comparing myself to other people or categorizing myself into deinitive groups. And, more importantly, people like and and my friends love me.

    I am reletively new to being a participant in the online world, though in my career I spend much time with an ear to the ground of social media and networking. I think in a internet driven age, there is an added push for people (especially young gay men) to create an identity that they can relate with and that they can draw other to them. Really its personal PR.

    By categorizing ourselves, we are able to express part of ourselves. The issue arises when that catgorization become so black and white. These word we use to represent ourselves have very defined meanings that have to be constructed into larger subcultures and social groups. Now, obviously there are many variations within those groups. However the constructs that are firmly based in language are very tight and the attention span of potential participants and the bandwidth for multiple variations within these groups is very tight.

    So what's my point?

    Online interaction will never replace in-person interaction. There is so much more nuamce and subtlty and random COMPATIBILITY that can be discovered with in meeting someone for 10 second than can be compiled in thread after thread of surveys and classifications. So, I say get out of your rooms and from behind your desks and go out and figure out who you are in REAL LIFE. I think you weill be amazed what you find and what you are able to open yourself up to. Our online world need only be a small representation of what is real and a small step to learning about the people around you. Hiding behind a computer screen is a sad existance. beleive me your disco, coffee shop, playing feild, book club, bath house, PTA meeting, AA group, study session.... NEEDS YOU.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 6:40 PM GMT
    XRuggerATX saidHow else did I get on 100 hotlists in six months without going shirtless or pantsless?


    Because yer cute.

    Which brings up some obvious thread topics:

    Cute or not cute...which are you into?
    Shirtless pics or pantsless pics...which do you hotlist first?
    Ruggers...cute or pantsless more appealing?
  • Posted by a hidden member.
    Log in to view his profile

    Apr 22, 2008 6:44 PM GMT
    DJBens77 said

    Online interaction will never replace in-person interaction. There is so much more nuamce and subtlty and random COMPATIBILITY that can be discovered with in meeting someone for 10 second than can be compiled in thread after thread of surveys and classifications. So, I say get out of your rooms and from behind your desks and go out and figure out who you are in REAL LIFE. I think you will be amazed what you find and what you are able to open yourself up to. Our online world need only be a small representation of what is real and a small step to learning about the people around you. Hiding behind a computer screen is a sad existence. believe me, your disco, coffee shop, playing field, book club, bath house, PTA meeting, AA group, study session.... NEEDS YOU.



    Oooo damn this part makes me wanna make out with you.
    icon_wink.gif

    And wasn't that a song, "Your Disco Needs You"?
  • Squarejaw

    Posts: 1035

    Apr 22, 2008 6:44 PM GMT
    So would you classify yourself as 100% in favor of classification threads, or 100% opposed?


    (Or, as a college friend uttered while stoned, "There are two types of people in the world...people who think there are two types of people, and people who don't.")