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COoperation

COnflict

MAchismo

These themes are driving the public debate, whether we know it or not.

 


Cooperation: The guiding agency of civilization is cooperation. Cooperation is how we built the pyramids and Stonehenge and the skyscrapers and bridges that populate our cities (there was and a little coercion too)… Masses and masses of people cooperate through shared narratives. Cooperation requires effort because it undermines selfish impulses. Society depends on cooperation: laws, ethics, manners are all expressions of cooperation. Cooperation is possible when we acknowledge our commonality, the similarities between ourselves. This in turn breeds empathy, and the impulse for people to unite in a common purpose.

Conflict: But conflict is also part of our narrative. All of our media and stories are based on conflict. In movies and literature we expect conflict, so that the hero can overcome it. The rivalry between political parties, sports teams, super heroes and their villains, the shows on TV about cooking, fashion, modeling, dancing, nature, all our game shows—are contests. Capitalism is based on conflict. This impulse is ingrained in our psyche. It is our natural state. A majority of institutions have been built around conflict because it gets tongues wagging, the pulse accelerated, the blood boiling.  The idea of cooperation seems bland in comparison. This is why abrasive talk in politics appears strong, and conciliatory talk seems weak.

Machismo: America suffers from a crisis of masculinity. As we move from physical work to virtual work, we are stuck in front of screens instead of in the fields, in the mines, on the factory floor, on the roads, rails, or the high seas. This is degrading to the male psyche and the pent up rage that comes with it leads to a backlash against minorities and against women. The effete specificity of our Starbucks coffee order has become our expression of personal identity. In modern cars we don’t even have to close the door for ourselves, just push the button. Soon the cars will drive themselves. Our autonomy has been replaced by "conveniences" we never knew we wanted. In response to this emasculation, there is a rage against The Nanny State, which plays out as a revolt against government over-reach and regulation associated with the Democratic party.

Meanwhile, the Republican brand, that used to stand for tradition, rules of conduct, order and discipline, can’t stand regulation or any limits to behavior whatsoever, be it sensible gun laws, appropriate environmental regulation, or limits to corporate and Wall Street malfeasance. The party that believed in personal responsibility promotes no responsibility at all in the public sector. Coal-rolling, Trolling, Jack-ass behavior, violent lashing out and Opioid addiction are the last gasps of a culture obsessed with its own victimhood at the hands of phantom boogey men: fey liberals and threatening minorities.

While this train wreck is occurring, the democratic party presents itself with a tone of sustained hysteria characterized by an endless parade of hair-on-fire wailing e-mails proclaiming “Catastrophe” “Disaster” “Disgusting” “Insulted” “I am pleading” “Do Not Delete” “No One Saw This Coming” “We’re panicking” "Massive Loss" "Crushing Loss" "State of Emergency" "All hope Lost" "Kiss all Hope Goodbye" "pack up. go home. it’s done." "nothing left. give up." and on and on before asking for your money. There needs to be a new tone in the Democratic rebuttal to the Republican desecration of our national institutions.

Take the melodrama out of the fight and demand sound, reality-based and moral solutions to our national problems. Let's get real people.