Some years ago my sons suggested that government and society should be driven by science, technology and fact-based decision making. They are physics and computer science majors coming from the world of STEM (science, tech, engineneerig, math). As a political science major and history buff, I chaffed at this sterile notion of deciding everything free of the mushiness of emotion.
Over the years with increasing levels of polarization, fake news and the sheer idiocy and vulgarity demonstrated by our “leaders”, I have joined the thought camp of my sons.
A recent conversation in the gym locker room solidified my decision. It was not really a conversation. As I was changing and the tv was documenting the events of Trump turning himself in to be arrested (sort of a reverse slow speed chase reminiscent of the O.J. Simpson white bronco episode), I sensed that a young guy near me was itching to engage in disourse about the decline of America and what he though was the persecution of Trump. He appeared to be an angry young guy, clean cut, buffed and disolusioned with America with an axe to grind about liberals, progressives, the media and “the powers that be”.
Based on past experiences, I focused on changing my clothes since I knew that there was no hope of changing his ideas or his perspectives, at least not directly.
That’s when I floated the aforementioned notion of creating an entirely new approach to society in general and politics/government in particular. I suggested to this angry/disgruntled guy, the idea that maybe we should make decisions and set policies based entirely upon facts. Maybe government and policy making could be limited to a world where there is a clear distnction between right and wrong. I didn’t delve into an example such as “the global warming/climate change” topic since I did not want to get bogged down in that turf war. However, that would be a prime example of how fact driven, evidence based could drive decision making.
I further suggested that government and politics stay out of all the gray areas and emotional mine fields. I suggested that there seem to be plenty of laws on the books to address most infractions concerning….the basic human rights, the bill of rights….civil rights…. etc. He seemed to connect with my transitioning the conversation to a more libertarian, live and let live zone of thinking.
That’s when I realized that moving conversations to a “higher ground” and finding a “common ground” without touching the 3rd rail of political lables was the best strategy for exiting that jungle of animosity that envelops most conversations today whenever those conversations expand beyond traffic and weather conditions.
When I noticed that my young, angry, buffed friend was not fully grasping my tilt in the conversation and he still seemed hung up on retribution, recrimination and polarization, I offered the following analogy.
I asked him if he followed the Star Trek series. He said yes, “it was cool”.
I asked him if he liked the Spock character and he said “yes”.
I reminded him of how cool and emotionless Spock was in the face of impending disasters and how his ability to tackle everything in an analytical, methodical manor got them out of jams.
This he liked.
I also appealed to his good old fashioned support of capitalism and the private sector. I noted how businesses are driven by profit and loss not emotions and fanciful notions.
This he also liked.
I thought about mentioning to my young friend the Invisible Hand of economic theory and how this is the force behind all that happens. I thought about explaining this notion of “the force” as the ingredient that makes everything else (government, politics, current events and the latest gossip and drama) inconsequential. I thought about connecting the Invisible Hand theory of capitalism to Star Wars since I had good luck connecting to Star Trek. Then I thought better of it, fearing that I might be overloading this young padwan.
So I left him with the concept that maybe government could be limited to functioning in a strictly evidence-based, big-picture, long term planning mode and leave the passion driven endeavors up to the individuals (as long as those passions did not violate the aforementioned rights/liberties of others).
The conversational mission was accomplished (maybe) since a polarizing conversation was avoided. An outside-the-box concept was floated and no political names or lables soiled the interaction.
This conversation reminded me of other interactions I had where a balance of tough-love, consequences-compassion gets infused with the discourse thereby avoiding the train wreck that invariably results from the “my way or the highway” conversation.
Another advantage to this “higher ground”, blue-sky approach to potentially hostile conversations is the fact that if the conversant keeps referting to their hot topic concern of the day, then it’s a signal for me to give up on any big-thinking. At that point, I know I’m conversing with a fixated person whose opinions are set in stone. An example of this might be the person who can not get over the fact that Collin Kapernack took a knee during the national anthem despite the fact that I explained that it was a symbolic gesture of protest over something he felt strongly about (i.e., police brutality). Fixated thinking will not allow insights concerning the arc of history and visionary thinking. If we consider every surge of innovation and advancement in world history, it’s been when the exploratory thinking (i.e, the Renaissance, Reformation, Age of Reason) replaced the mundane thinking (Dark Ages of years past and the book banning of today).
Maybe I will deploy this diversionary, higher ground tactic as I move forward with other conversations, especially as the 2024 election approaches. I’m looking forward to your thoughts/suggestions (and check out this outside-the-box approach that’s baked into my novel Mall Child and my blogs).