Chapter 3 of Lukianoff and Haidt’s The Coddling of the American Mind (2018) gives us the third Great Untruth: The Untruth of Us versus Them: Life is a Battle Between Good People and Evil People. It is perhaps the most sinister untruth because ethical dualism (imputing evil entirely to one group of people, while denying one’s own capacity for evil) is polarizing, destructive and just plain wrong.
Humans have evolved extremely tribal behavioral, rhetorical and cognitive tendencies. And our political economy reflects that – with shocking intensity these days. The authors point out two types of identity politics. Common-humanity identity politics, which is ennobling; and common-enemy identity politics, which is moral warfare for power (us vs. them).
There’s a lot of high- brow intellectual theorizing on campuses today that frames the world in dimensions of oppression and power relationships. Intersectionality, Marxism and the ideas of Herbert Marcuse attempt to justify physical and economic violence against a targeted group of humans cast as evil oppressors, simply because they are, for example, successful, healthy, white heterosexual males. The basis for doing this seems to be an attempt to “even the score” or make up for past bad treatment towards minorities or others who are deemed oppressed by academia. But two wrongs don’t make a right and at its core, attacking groups based on their physical attributes is immoral, no matter how clever the means used by intellectuals to rationalize it.
Politics is the “systematic organization of hatred”. Well, this holiday season, maybe there could be just a little less hate from everyone. Christmas is a time of hope, joy and good will…haters everywhere have the capacity to change. Rocky Balboa lights the way as we recall his speech following the big boxing match in the movie Rocky IV. He was booed and jeered by a hostile Russian crowd and after a long epic battle; he addresses the audience, having won them over with his tenacity in the ring against a bigger stronger opponent (read this in the voice of Sylvester Stallone):
I came here tonight… and I didn’t know what to expect.
I’ve seen a lot of people hating me… and I didn’t know…
what to feel about that, so… I guess I didn’t like you much either.
During this fight… I seen a lot of changing: the way you felt about me
and the way I felt about you. In here… there were two guys guys…
killing each other. But I guess that’s better than million.
What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change…
everybody can change! I just want to say one thing to my kid…
who should be home sleeping.
Merry Christmas, kid! I love you