Thursday, January 1, 2015

Toward Less Polarization

The events of 2014 clarified the extent to which we are polarized in the US. In the face of controversy we too often slid into our default positions and engaged in overly-simplistic framing such as police versus citizens or Republicans versus Democrats, with the clear burden of blame always residing with those whose biases run counter to our own.

The mother of all dualisms is good versus evil. So if we want to deal with our polarizing instincts, it makes sense to deal with that. Writing in Living As Learning: John Dewey in the 21st Century, Daisaku Ikeda clarified the best way to comprehend these concepts: "Even the worst person is not unconnected to good, nor is the best person unconnected to evil," he said. "Accepting this as a premise makes it impossible to claim that one side is always good, and everything opposed to it is always bad." He reflected further on good and evil, saying: "Anger, for instance, works for good if directed against whatever threatens human worth and dignity. If it is purely ego-driven, however, it works for evil. Thus good and evil are not fixed substances but are constantly changing and manifesting themselves in relation to the environment and one’s mental attitude."

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