One of the most destructive things that’s happening in modern society is that we are losing our sense of the bonds that bind people together – which can lead to nightmares of social collapse. … Alexander McCall Smith
Why can’t we just get along? This is a question that I have been working on in my new book, Divided: Colliding Ways We See the World. In the next several posts in this blog series I am looking at the Modern Worldview. I would like to share with you some ideas that I have been exploring.
This is the last blog in the series exploring the ideological, philosophical, scientific, religious, political, environmental and economic characteristics of the modern worldview.
Weirdness in the West
Do you think you are weird? You probably want to know the definition before answering this question. In 2010, three cultural psychologists published an important article titled “The Weirdest People in the World?” The authors showed that nearly all research in psychology is conducted on a very small subset of the human population: people from cultures who are Western educated, industrialized (individualistic), rich (by world standards), and democratic—in other words, Weird.
In their review of studies they found that Weird people are statistical outliers; they are the least representative group of people to study if you want to make generalizations about human nature. Americans are more extreme outliers than Europeans, and within the U.S., the educated upper middle class is the most extreme of all! In other words, if you are reading this blog, you are probably Weird.
A Weird person would follow the modern worldview. They would see a world full of separate objects, rather than relationships. While non-modern people think holistically, as Jonathan Haidt explains “seeing the whole context of the relationships among parts, Weird people think more analytically, detaching the focal object from its context, assigning it to a category and then assuming what’s true about the category is true about the object.” Modern philosophers since Emmanuel Kant and Karl Marx, continues Haidt, “have mostly generated moral systems that are individualistic, rule-based, and universalistic. That’s the morality you need to govern a society of autonomous individuals.”
If Weird people think and see the world differently from non-modern people, then it is assumed that they’d have different moral concerns. If you see a world of individuals, then you’ll devise a morality that protects those individuals and their individual rights. Concerns about harm and fairness for individuals will be emphasized. On the other hand, if you live in a non-modern society in which people focus more on relationships, groups, and institutions, protecting individuals will not be your primary focus. The morality will be more socio-centric, which means that the needs of the group and institutions come before the needs of the individual. But if you have a socio-centric morality, then morality will likely be based on more than just the concerns of harm and fairness. Additional virtues are required to bind people together.
Although the modern worldview continues to be fervently held by many people, it is not the only worldview at the present time. Aside from the indigenous worldview which has continued for millennia, in this time of tumultuous change, four distinct, coherent worldviews have developed that have grown out of or even reject the modern worldview. The next series of blogs will discuss these five worldviews.
About the Author
Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator, grade 7-university, author of seven books, and president of an educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. CGA provides books, resources, and services with a holistic, global- focused, and perspective-taking approach for their three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, books and resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a self-organizing study and conversation program for adults focusing on seeing different perspectives of pressing global issues; and their most recent program Turn, Transformative Understanding and Reflection Network, which encourages lifelong and transformative learning to help us arrive at a place of personal and global well-being using a seven “path” approach.
For more about worldviews see Dr. Ames’ book Five Worldviews: How We See the World. $9.95
 Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, New York: Vintage Books, 2012, 113.
 Haidt, Righteous Mind, 114.
 Haidt, Righteous Mind, 114.