This is the second of an 18-part series that explores our deep cultural divide and offers 10 suggestions about how we can contribute to bridging the divide.
By Dr. Denise R. Ames
Suggestion #1: Understanding Others, pt. 1
Understanding worldviews is a resource for empathy and analyzing conflicts when fundamental differences divide groups of people. I put this as the number one way in which we can bridge the cultural divide and this blog series is dedicated to that goal. It is fundamental to have a deep and personal understanding of others before progress can be made. However, it is difficult.
Our innate behaviors make it easy for us to communicate and connect with others in our immediate group, but when we talk with those outside our comfort group we may be on guard or uneasy about the situation. Practicing the 10 suggestions in this blog series may help us feel more comfortable and capable as we navigate bridging the cultural divide.
What kind of dog do you want or own? If you are on the liberal end of the political spectrum you are more apt to like dogs that are gentle and caring while conservatives like dogs that are loyal and obedient. This makes sense, since liberals score high on the caring foundation and conservatives score high on loyalty. This is just one example of understanding differences. The world would indeed be dismal if everyone owned the same kind of dog.
Other differences abound as well. Liberals are more open to new experiences—people, food, music, travel, education—while conservatives prefer things that are more familiar to them. Jonathan Haidt notes in his book The Righteous Mind, “Liberal professors give a narrower range of grades whereas conservative professors accept inequality, and give high grades to good students and flunk the worst.” He has also found that conservative and liberal traits are inherited: “About half the variation in this trait is heritable in men and somewhat less in women.”
Professor Haidt and his colleagues gleaned much of their research materials from their website, YourMorals.org. Website visitors answer questions about their moral foundations preferences from which Haidt has found that “conservatives understand the morals of liberals, but liberals do not understand those of conservatives. When conservatives are asked to answer questionnaires as if they were liberals, they generally get the motives right. But when liberals pretend to be conservatives, they attribute incorrect, evil motives. This is not surprising; liberals think conservatives are not just wrong; they are moral inferiors.”
This is not a very empathetic attitude to have if one’s goal is to bridge the cultural divide!
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences—scholarly research, teaching, reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development trainings, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, developing globally-focused books and educational resources. She has written seven books, blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units for the non-profit and clients.
Dr. Ames is now developing a program called Turn—transformative understanding and reflection network—that encourages life-long learners to see things with new eyes, shift perspectives, and understand the balance in all things. She teaches classes and writes about cross-cultural awareness, indigenous wisdom, a transformative worldview, learning from the past, a mythic journey, and transforming travel.
Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.
It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.
Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books