We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Less Educated People are Nicer

A move to thought in shades of gray from dualistic black and white thought may be more correct but decreases person's ability to be as nice as before

When reporters visit Tea Party protests, they often remark on just how warm, pleasant, and down to earth the individual protesters are. That is until the focus is switched to the two minutes of hate at hand (we've had plenty of good coverage concerning the sheer ugliness). Meanwhile, the college schooled urban dwellers seem incapable of showing strong emotional passion in either direction. What's the deal?

We've heard how less educated and religious states tend to be more charitable on per capita basis. This is not an article about that (for more on disentangling the dynamics of domestic humanitarian aid here). Neither is it about higher population densities creating dislike of fellow people or less emotional types perhaps being more likely to get higher education. Lets talk about averages.

Binary thinking is very clear cut and begins to be ingrained in childhood. The more one's inner mental universe is split into good and evil dynamic, the easier it is to go full throttle in one direction and against another. This is due to the simple reason of insufficient choices within the inner mental world when it comes to explanatory and descriptive constructs.

The more educated one becomes the more perceptive choices and shades of gray the mind has to work with. Instead of having intense biblical A and B, the person can now choose E or F as perceptions of reality and corresponding action (be it intellectual or emotional). A and B are not only used less but may now be increasingly seen as undesirable to be used at all (due to their intensity and exaggeration to the point of being incorrect).

This is an obvious observation but this dynamic may cause serious problems for society. If A is absolute good and B is absolute evil (as is often the case in many countries), then reluctance of an educated mind to see something in black and white can create paralysis when it comes to effective political action. In the face of a real tangible enemy, threat, or grave injustice, the highly educated populace may resort to halfhearted measures, compromises, and insufficiently intense emotional communication.

A less educated person on the other hand will be compelled to self righteous thoughts and deeds which can result in rapid positive and humanitarian breakthroughs for society. The negative flipside of this is self explanatory and we see it within certain crypto-fascist factions of the Tea Party movement. Like a childlike Lennie from Mice and Men, a rigidly dualistic person is capable of incredible niceness as well as hideous viciousness. The more educated one becomes the more neutered in demonstrating the outreaches of wholesome humanistic helpfulness.

Now if one's consciousness is expanded through education in societies that are

1) sparsely populated
2) ethnically collectivist and homogeneous (think Scandinavian countries) 
3) augmented by strong welfare supports on top of expanding economic pie

then the atrophying capacity for dualistic thought and action is neutralized.

This is not the case in large pluralistic Western societies today. Education can therefore not only stifle fullhearted activism but create contempt for those who do practice fullhearted activism.

I have written on the need for Tea Party and Progressive movements to join forces against the financial oligarchy. Educated urban dwellers need to get over their distaste and contempt of dualistic rural Tea Party expressions. They need to attempt to redirect factions within TP towards doing things they themselves don't have the heart for. Many in the TP will be loyal allies once the corporately funded blinders are taken off their faces. Black and white thinking can be a useful tool when applied properly.

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