Everyone loves controversy. We flock to it like moths to a flame or like Donald Trump to Twitter – we just can’t seem to help ourselves.
If you were to ASK a person how important peace and conflict resolution is, virtually everyone would agree these are fundamental cornerstones to a self-sustaining society. However, when this philosophy is put into motion, rarely do our actions align with what we claim to want.
To be an outside observer looking in, one would probably conclude we are a society that thrives on discord and chaos. We continually participate in fiery debates and disrespectful actions, to the point it would appear we collectively just don’t want to coexist with one another.
This is in part because we “get off” on drama. When conflict occurs, our flight-or-fight response goes into overdrive, pumping adrenaline and cortisone through our bodies. This results in a rush that we end up getting addicted to, not unlike a person with an affinity for cocaine or gambling. It’s the same reason so many people stay in torrid relationships or love watching horror movies – that constant suspense becomes habit forming.
The other explanation is that we’ve been taught by larger forces that one’s morale, political standing, and socioeconomic identity demands passion and devotion. One cannot find compromise or resolution with a person of differing opinion or political position. To do so would be to show weakness; to show that you don’t really care about yourself, your family, your community, your party, or your country.
Right after 9/11, then-President George W. Bush made a famous speech that stated:
“You are either for us or against us.”
It was in reference to waging war on terrorism and it was great sentiment. It played on the heartstrings of American citizens who were already going through emotional upheaval. It was the sort of speech that evokes a “superman” ideology and, more importantly, a sense of community and togetherness.
The “us vs. them” ideology is great for unifying like-minded people but it’s absolutely detrimental when it comes to living in a society where people fundamentally don’t agree on issues. Which is ironic because the ENTIRE POINT of governing a large body of people is trying to get everyone to peacefully coexist.
This divisive attitude plays a role in just about every aspect of our lives and, while it’s actually a disservice to us as citizens, it’s incredibly profitable and self-serving to politicians, lobbyists, advertisers, and the media.
A sense of community has always been an intrinsic backbone of self-identity. We naturally gravitate toward people that have similar outlooks on life and feel embraced once we’ve found them. And that’s great until it morphs into a hatred of people outside that community. And that’s what is occurring in America right now. It’s also what emboldens leaders of these subgroups.
It’s the reason we have political parties and the reason it’s been ingrained in us that – to not align completely with your party’s platform – is to be a traitor to your party.
This philosophy breeds drama and conflict and continues to be the reason bipartisanship is viewed as a weakness, not a strength. While this insidious need to point fingers at one another is detrimental to the fabric of society, it is great for governing forces. Drama keeps this well-oiled machine working because it’s profitable.
This divisive rhetoric is what keeps a two-party democracy empowered. It’s what drives news networks to put their partisan “spin” on stories instead of just sticking with facts. It’s what advertisers piggyback off of to keep people flocking to social media. Its why issues that really are non-issues frequently surface, keeping us focused on things that don’t matter to distract us from things that actually do. It’s why really pressing issues like gun reform, police brutality, human trafficking, and healthcare will NEVER be resolved.
In short, we use emotion over rational to make decisions because we have been taught that’s what you do.
And until we wake up and realize that the politicians nor the media nor private conglomerates have our best interest in mind, we will continue focusing our misguided anger at one other. We will continue to be divided as a Nation and that’s EXACTLY where the higher-ups want us. Because, so long as the country’s narrative continues to be based on emotion, drama, and divisiveness, the winners will continue to be everyone BUT us citizens.