This is the eighth 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 #5: We Aren’t All Weird
Many Weird (Western, Educated, Individualized, Rich, and Democratic) people, especially progressives, believe people in the United States and throughout the world share their values. Weird societies think of humans as autonomous atoms, whose morality can be reduced to avoiding harm. Morality in the contemporary West—at least among the educated—tends to be centered on individuals in which anything that does not hurt someone else is acceptable.
Other people have moral codes that groups, relationships, institutions, and traditions are more important than individuals, and anything that gives priority to the individual is considered dangerous. But not all Western people are Weird.
Non-Weird morality thrives among many less-educated people, poor whites, and some African-Americans in the U.S., recent immigrants to the West, and those living in Eastern Europe, who are less likely to have lost racial or ethnic consciousness. Haidt notes, “They are more likely to think that certain things—homosexuality, incest, blasphemy, drug-taking, miscegenation, and prostitution, for example—are inherently bad whether they hurt anyone or not.”
It is ironic that many on the left who value multiculturalism and diversity are blind in many ways to the insularity of their own group consciousness. The progressive worldview is mostly based on Weird values, which often clash with the groups they believe are oppressed or who they are trying to “help.” In general, conservatives have a broader set of moral foundations than progressives.
Although conservatives care about individuals and subscribe to fairness, they also value the authority, loyalty, and sense of sanctity that groups need. For many traditionalists, their greatest gratifications come from losing their individual identity and cooperating full tilt with the team, platoon, congregation, dance group, or choir. Altruism, devotion, and heroism cannot exist without groups.
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.
Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released! $14.95
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