2 min read

Polarization Creates a Dangerous Illusion that Disconnects Us from Our Shared Humanity

Polarization Creates a Dangerous Illusion that Disconnects Us from Our Shared Humanity
Photo by Rune Haugseng / Unsplash

Both online and in the real world, there is too much emphasis on the need to be right and belong to the politically correct group.

People  go so far to the extreme that they become stuck at the farthest end of the Right or Left Wing. And when too much weight sits on one side of a teeter-totter, it can’t lift off the ground. The other side is stuck in the air — an example of extreme imbalance.

Arguing from extreme polarities only creates further division, further disconnection, and further imbalance.

The tragedy is that there is no “right side” of the equation to be on.

This is the illusion of polarization.

We cannot survive at the extremes.

We must continuously seek balance, which is constantly changing and never static.

Balance is ephemeral because it is an action. It requires effort and practice to maintain the middle ground — the space between polarities in which all possibilities exist.

Imagine a lifeboat with six people rocking violently from side to side in high waves at sea.

The three on the left are determined to rock the boat to their side.

Frantic, the other three fight to oppose them, rocking in the opposite direction to their right.

Neither side is working together to balance the boat safely.

And yet, with each wave that crashes into the lifeboat and each group violently rocking the boat to their respective side, the boat crests upon balance for the briefest of moments. However, because each group is solely focused on their side, they don’t see how they could cooperate to stabilize their boat and safeguard their lives. They fail to see the moment when the boat is safely balanced between the polarization of their actions — they fail to witness the possibility of safety between the extremes.

Like the crew of six in the lifeboat, we will not survive long if the extremes of prejudice, hatred, polarization, fascism, and war continue unabated.

The picture I chose for this article contains a hidden meaning.

The 4-person crew is working together, strategically, and to counterbalance the unpredictable and dynamic force of the rapids. It is only because they trust in each other and as a team that they can work together and overcome extreme imbalance.

We will only thrive and survive if we lean into the act of balance.

This means learning and practicing how to pull ourselves back from the extremes, and minimizing contributing to polarizing arguments and violence.

The urgent question is, what action can you take today — privately, publicly, and as a group — that will increase awareness and help reduce polarization?

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