In times of COVID we are polarizing more than ever: the objectification of those who think differently from us

In times of COVID we are polarizing more than ever: the objectification of those who think differently from us

Tribalism is what fuels the sense, deep and unreasonable, that we ("We") are better than they ("They").

At the end of 2019, 15% of Spaniards were located in extreme positions within the ideological scale , a percentage that doubled that of the beginning of the last decade . Because if Spain was already the most polarized country in Europe, the coronavirus is only widening the gap.

Minimum group paradigm

our brains are wired to skew towards the so-called minimal group paradigm : if two groups are established based on trivial and arbitrary criteria, such as those randomly adjudicated by tossing a coin, people will tend to favor members of their own group versus the opposing group.

As Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff explain in their recent book The Transformation of the Modern Mind:

Tribalism is our evolutionary heritage to band together and prepare for intergroup conflict. When the "tribe switch" is activated, we hold on to the group more closely, assume and defend the moral matrix of the group, and stop thinking for ourselves. A basic tenet of moral psychology is that "morality unites and blinds," which is a useful trick for a group to prepare for a battle between "them" and "us." When we adopt the tribal attitude, we seem to blind ourselves to arguments and information that challenge our team’s narrative.

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If some are bad and others are good, how do you know for sure that you belong to these and not to those? We simply cannot. And that’s why tribalism is so dangerous .

One could object then: If you are one of those who think that you have too many rights and you want to take them away, you are one of the bad guys. If you are one of those who believe that social justice must be increased and take care of social rights, you are one of the good guys.

However, the world is not that simple. Generally, we cannot judge a person by a single idea disconnected from the rest . In fact, ideas are often part of ideologies, which can be considered bad per se. Having an ideology is the best way of not having new ideas, the perfect excuse to stop thinking and an obstacle to introducing ideas or nuances that do not fit into the predefined corpus of ideology. Ideologies, philosophically speaking, are the closest thing to intellectual death and neural pruning. In such a case, these people would not be bad, but victims of ideology. Like those who are victims of a lobotomy.

Second, it is also mandatory to define "good" and "bad" . Those are lysological concepts, they change over time, sometimes they change according to the criteria of each person, etc. That is why calling a group bad is the same as solving all this unilaterally. And mutatis mutandis that group would have the same right to resolve it for their own benefit, blaming your group for being the bad guy.

It could be argued then : if one seeks to limit rights and impose obstacles on the personal and social development of certain social groups, would not it automatically make it "bad"?

First we should consider why it does it, what it is pursuing, under what conditions. Second, it would be necessary to consider if that is something that you understand well, if it is something that they affirm that they want to do or if objectively it is something that happens (for example, there are people who, in order to safeguard the rights of all, are actually limiting rights. … in fact, the greatest atrocities in history have been committed to do "good" or for very high moral reasons).

Good or bad acts cannot be isolated, they form part of and are ingrained with the needs, desires or lacks of other people , and also with their conceptions of what is good or bad, better or worse, acceptable or unacceptable. For example, there are people who prefer to fight for freedom than for prosperity; others are utilitarian and pursue the greatest possible good for the greatest number of people regardless of form; others prefer not to transgress some norms or virtues even if this does not allow helping more people.

There are many types of moral dilemmas that show that (it seems) our worldview determines our morality, our degree of moral utilitarianism, and also our degree of moral virtuosity. It seems that we are born partly determined by it, too (perhaps there are neural structures that favor one worldview over another); Others believe that the environment determines that worldview to a greater extent. Be that as it may, there is diversity . And diversity, it seems to be the best that can exist so that ideas are confronted in the arena: the best will not always win, but at least none will win.

On a practical level

Obviously, these approaches are philosophically interesting, but useless on a practical level. That is why the penal code exists. At an operational level, we have agreed on what is wrong in the sense that we punish it so that it does not reproduce. But even the penal code changes over time, and so do the penalties. And, of course, the penal code is not a book on morals . Morality is much more intricate and it is more difficult to determine if the culprit of a crime is exactly the one who pulls the trigger, or if it is precisely she who is the victim, and that is why she has pulled it.

So on a practical level, let’s use the penal code. On a mundane level, on a day-to-day basis, let’s open our sights more, and let’s not prejudge or morally punish. If someone does something punishable, it is reported.

And of course, the penal code will be continually changing because of the underlying moral debate.

In general, then, those people who demonstrate, who make caceloradas, who ask for some things in front of others, who flatter some administrations and defenestrates others, deep down, are people like us, who also want to be happy, that there is prosperity, that there is work, that the guilty pay … obviously, they may have a wrong idea, or diametrically opposite to ours . In any case, they will not be evil, but foolish: we should invoke, whenever we can, the principle of Hanlon.

And as a cororalio : we have to prefer Evil to uniformity.

Yes : to brand someone as representing Evil, you have to be COMPLETELY sure that you have the truth and the other is wrong. That there is no doubt or possible fissure. That there is no debate. That you reached the maximum knowledge on the subject under discussion and you are sure that nothing, no more data, will make you change your mind. As the British philosopher John Stuart Mill pointed out in his classic On Freedom , that’s downright tricky. Axel Kaiser abounds in this in his book The Neo-Inquisition Persecution, Censorship and Cultural Decadence in the 21st Century :

Mill’s defense of the usefulness of truth and the intellectual humility that should characterize us led him to affirm that, if all humanity except one person agrees on an idea, that does not give humanity any more right to censor the truth. opinion of that person that what this would have to censor the opinion of the whole of humanity.