Each election cycle, I become more dismayed by the state of public discourse. This time around is the worst I’ve ever seen it, though. Our two choices are more stark than ever before, and I believe they represent two diametrically opposed worldviews.
One view is that we are all in this together. That view perceives our resources as abundant and believes it is possible for everyone to have enough. But to make that happen, we have to work together; we have to cooperate.
The other view is a sense of everyone for him- or herself. That view perceives our resources as scarce. The sense is that if someone has more, than you automatically have less, because we are playing a zero-sum game. Life is, at its essence, a competition.
There is no way of quantifying which worldview is correct. It’s possible that even though they are opposites, they can both be correct. Our own perceptions may shape the world each one of us lives in. Even our physical brains may consign us to the conservative or the liberal camp.
What is in question is whether these two worldviews can possibly co-exist. Currently, the rhetoric frames this clash as a war, in which one side will win and the other will lose. Taken to extremes, neither view is desirable. The competitive view posits a world that perpetuates fear and suffering; it is 1984. The cooperative view offers contentment and satisfaction, but at the expense of individualism; it is Brave New World.
What we need is a coherent vision of what we all want our society to be, a balance between our fears and our desires. We create what we visualize. We need to resist hyperbole, radicalism and apocalyptic visions, or that is the world we will make. If we can come up with a shared vision, we can devise policies to move us toward that vision. But as long as we’re demonizing the “other,” as long as we’re unwilling to even consider the other view as legitimate, we’ll never be able to even talk long enough to find out what kind of world we can make together.