Is It Tribalism?

As they (the founding fathers of America) conceived of a new society that would protect                 the individual rights of all humanity, they explicitly excluded a second tribe among them: African –American slaves.  Andrew Sullivan *

To be divided is to be separated into parts or pieces; being in a state of disagreement or disunity, Dictionary.  Today in America, over 200 years after it was founded, women and men are divided, blacks and whites are divided, liberals and conservatives, rich and poor, etc., etc. Our democracy is divided by gender, race, politics, income, religion, culture, geography, education, etc. And we now have a president and his followers so badly dividing democracy that it is impossible to ignore. By definition, these divisions could easily qualify as tribes. And their behavior could be described as tribalism. Tribe: group of people sharing a common community of customs, interest, culture or habit: Tribalism: A strong sense of identifying with and being loyal to one’s tribe, group, etc.

 The article by Sullivan, plus the recent interest in the concept of tribes, motivated me to write this blog. Sullivan suggests the pros and cons of tribalism in America: One of the great attractions of tribalism is that you don’t actually have to think very much. All you need to know on any given subject is which side you’re on. When three core components of a tribal identity — race, religion, and geography — define your political parties, you’re in serious trouble.

Remember, the goal of democracy is to have equality, diversity and inclusion. It becomes a problem when we turn rival tribes into enemies. I used to argue that war is inevitable only if we believe it is. Now I am no longer sure. When the conclusion seems to be that war is inevitable, then disagreement, disunity and conflict also seems inevitable. What does that say about humankind’s ability to get along with each other? Could it be that humans aren’t built for democracy?  Sullivan suggests that America wasn’t built for humans.

Overcoming tribalism won’t be easy. Tribalism, it’s always worth remembering, is not one aspect of human experience. It’s the default human experience. It comes more naturally to us than any other way of life. For the overwhelming majority of our time on this planet, the tribe was the only form of human society. The notion of living alongside people who do not look like us and treating them as our fellows was meaningless for most of human history, Sullivan.

But look how far we have come in 200 years. Humanism has been addressing the problem dividing America and learning to live alongside people who do not look like us and treating them as our fellows.  And in America and today it is at its peak. Women are marching, the sports world is talking politics, books are being published, respected journalists are being heard, the internet is beginning to take evasive action, the rest of the world is noticing. Many tribes are beginning to unite. Could this save democracy?

  • Can Our Democracy Survive Tribalism? An article in New York Magazine, Sept. 18 – Oct. 1, 2017. By Andrew Sullivan




Posted in Democracy in Danger | Leave a comment


Unwanted Consequences

 When making a decision, be sure to ask: “What Else Could Happen?”

 When taking medicine, unintended consequences sometimes happen. When making decisions, unintended consequences sometimes happen. Taking medicine produces side effects that can’t always be predicted so we are often told of some possible undesirable consequences. When making decisions, we are almost never told of some possible undesirable consequences. Thinking about possible side effects is up to the decision maker. Its your choice.

Decision making involves: Options and Outcomes. Options are the possible actions you can take; what you might choose to do. Outcomes are what happens as a result of your choice of options. Herein lies the problem. There are unlimited possible options and unlimited possible outcomes. You can’t possibly know them all. This blog is a focus on outcomes (consequences).

One way to improve your decision making, and to avoid some unwanted side effects, is to expand your consideration of possible outcomes/consequences. Not paying attention to these possibilities is a major cause of poor decision making. But remember, good decision making doesn’t guarantee a good outcome. Side effects happen.

Because decision makers can’t consider all of the possible information available about options and outcomes, totally rational decisions are unlikely. But we can improve our choice making. We need to remember that the choice of option is up to us; but not the choice of outcome. We do not choose or control the outcome/ consequence, but good decision making can influence it.

A possible influential decision strategy is what I have called “The Outcomes Window”, (Creative Decision Making, 2003). This emphasizes the possible positive and negative outcomes for both the decision maker and others. Decision outcomes, almost always, effect more that just the decider.

Ask yourself these four basic questions. What are the possible positive outcomes for self? What are the possible negative outcomes for self? What are the possible positive outcomes for others? What are the possible negative outcomes for others?

Some other outcomes questions: Why do some questions have more answers than others? Whom do you consider as others? Is it easier to think of positive or negative outcomes? Which is more important, outcomes to you or to others?

Because failure to consider possible positive and negative consequences for self and other is a major cause of unwanted consequences (outcomes), when making important personal decisions, be sure to think about how you are deciding as well as what you are deciding. The process of deciding determines the goodness of the decision. The goodness of the outcome is influenced, but not determined, by the deciding process. Bad outcomes happen.

The best-laid plans of mice and men are usually about equal. Murphy’s Laws





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Positive Uncertainty

 It may have happened, it may not have happened but it could have happened.                 Mark Twain     

Life is full of possibilities; so is my writing. This blog is the result of my reading the recent book, The Possibility Principle by Mel Swartz. I have adopted his title and made it personal. Because possibility is about something that is possible, but not certain, it is about uncertainty. My writing has been about “Positive Uncertainty” since 1989.

 Think of uncertainty as the wind in our sails.                                                                   Uncertainty is where new possibilities lies. Mel Schwartz

 Possibility and uncertainty are two sides of the same coin. Together they represent the prerequisite and the product of an open mind. Possibility and uncertainty open the mind to decision making questions like: “What else could I do?”  What else could happen”?

 You and I know that possibilities exist. But do we pay attention when making decisions? “Don’t confuse me with possibilities, my mind is already made up.” Possibilities are not facts, but they are possible actions and possible outcomes. Today it is well accepted that we cannot possibly know all the possibilities when making decisions. But we need to realize they exist. This is why it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to make totally rational decisions.

By definition, possibility is a thing that may be chosen or done, out of several possible alternative choices. That sounds like a definition of decision making. Adding a possibility principle to my decision making repertoire seems very appropriate.  Of course, I am encouraging others to adopt the possibility principle and a positive uncertainty strategy.

Possibility invites and requires our participation. To envision and actualize the future         we long for, we must view uncertainty as our ally.   Mel Swartz

To view uncertainty is an ally is crucial; but most people prefer certainty. Certainty and dogma don’t give you many decision making options. Since beliefs become behavior and can be self-fulfilling prophecies, beliefs may well determine possibilities. Do you know what you believe about uncertainty and possibilities?  What you believe will determine how you decide what to do.

I am neither an optimist nor pessimist, but a possibilist. – Max Lerner





Posted in Books I'm Reading | 3 Comments


How Do You See Your Future?

Without language we would have remained animals.                                                          Without metaphors we would still be savages. E. O. Wilson

 Metaphor combines thinking and feeling and creates a readiness for change. It detracts the left brain but doesn’t eliminate it. Why is metaphor so helpful in our thinking? It is easier to think about something while thinking about something else, than it is to think about a thing when trying to think about it. Erasmus G. Addle

You probably know I love metaphor because it has been a major part of my writing for years. Many years ago, during my decision making workshops I conducted an exercise, Four Future Metaphors, adapted from Draper Kaufmann’s 1976 book, Teaching The Future, as a way of looking at how you think about the future and how you get there.

Because I have never posted this metaphor activity, I decided to share it with you not knowing how interested you will be. Metaphors can generate creative ways of thinking. I suggest you use metaphor as a method for understanding your control of your thinking and believing and your influencing your future life.

Four Future Metaphors                                                                                                      Read the four metaphors and decide which comes closest to your belief about your influence over the direction of the future. It may not be exactly right, but it is better than the others.

  1. Roller Coaster

The future is a great roller coaster. It twists ahead of us in the dark, although we can only see each part as we come to it. We can sometimes see around the bend but the future is fixed and determined. We are locked in our seats and nothing we may know or do will change the course that is laid out for us.

2. Mighty River

The future is a mighty river. The great force of history flows along, carrying us with it. Its course can be changed but only by natural disasters, like earthquakes and landslides, or by massive concerted human efforts on a similar scale. However, we are free as individuals to adapt to the course of history, either well or poorly. By looking ahead, we can avoid sandbars and whirlpools and pick the best path through any rapids.

3. Great Ocean

The future is a great ocean. There are many possible destinations, and many different paths to each destination. By taking advantage of the main currents of change, keeping a sharp lookout posted, and moving carefully in uncharted waters, a good navigator can get safely to the charted destination, barring a typhoon or other disaster that cannot be predicted or avoided.

  1. Colossal Dice Game

The future is entirely random, a colossal dice game. Every second things happen that could have happened another way to produce another future. Since everything is chance, all we can do is play the game, pray to the gods of fortune and enjoy what good luck comes our way.

Which metaphor most closely resembles your future vision? Why did you choose your preferred metaphor? What did you like or not like about your choice? What did you like or not like about the others? Discussing your answers with someone else, or better yet, with a group, can improve the illuminating process.

If your choice is not an accurate indication of your view of your influence over the future, what is?  Create your own more accurate metaphor. Here are some examples of personal future metaphors. Mountain climbing; gardening, vacation, cooking, golf, software; dancing; salad; a banquet; computer; orchestra; cabaret; maze; chess game.

If you see this as a useful exercise to think about your future, I would enjoy reading your reaction. Please share your metaphor.








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Mindful Of HOW You See

Objectivity is the subject’s delusion that observing can be done without him.                       Heinz von Forester

 The observer is always part of what is observed. You can’t take you out of what you see; your perception is created by subjective you. Whatever you see is what you see. What you see is not what everyone else sees; and it is not all there is. To be a self-aware observer is to be mindful of how you see what you see. Mindful is defined as heedful, attentive, careful, “cautiously attentive”. Not just being attentive, being cautiously attentive. This blog is a reminder.

Most of us are aware that what we see is not all there is. But this awareness gets lost in most of our observations. We usually see what we want to see and don’t see what we don’t want to see and ignore what we can’t see. And what we see is the tip of the iceberg. How you see is explained:

In all visual things, there is a hidden wholeness. Thomas Merton

Perceptions are portraits not photographs.  Daniel Gilbert

 We are seeing only snapshots, not the whole picture. Self-awareness may be an oxymoron. To be totally self aware, you need to be aware of your unconscious mind and know all of your cognitive biases. Paying attention intentionally to your unconscious mind and cognitive biases may be too much to expect. Total mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. I wonder if that is possible.

What is possible is being aware that your perceptions are not photographs. You are not only the one taking the picture, you are also the camera. Portraits might be a useful metaphor for self-awareness. As an observer of my life, I am also the camera taking the snapshots. Even with a wide-angle lens, I am not seeing the whole picture.

To portray as a portrait is to depict or represent pictorially; make a picture of. My observation is making a picture of reality; it represents reality to me. My “portrait map” is not the territory. This is obvious when you realize that everyone else has their own map of the same territory. Their observation depicts a different picture of reality. And no one sees the hidden wholeness.

Subjectivity is the cause of our restricted self-awareness. Subjective is defined as: proceeding from or taking place within a person’s mind such as to be unaffected by the external world. We see with our minds, not with our eyes. Therefore, being a self-aware observer is being aware of what is taking place in our minds.

We tend to see more through thoughts and opinions than through our eyes.                       Jon Kabat-Zinn



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 Hope Won’t Work

 The future depends on what we do today.  Mahatma Gandhi      

 Hope is not a method; it needs to be turned into action. Today the majority of the population believe that America is in a crisis. The crisis is the direction the government is heading — away from American values of equality, diversity, inclusiveness and the practice of democracy. Today, fear and anger, like hope, won’t solve the crisis. What is needed now is defiance, bold resistance. You don’t just sit there; you DO something.

The good news: The future depends on what we DO today. The bad news: The future depends on what we DO today. It is bad news because people usually prefer hope, fear and anger to action. This blog is a call for more action.

The United States of America, a country of the people, by the people and for the people, is starting to take shape, and take action. They talk, write, march, gather in protest; they let it be known that they disagree. If ever there was a time when the people need to act, this is the time. People in this country and around the world are beginning to do something.

It is helpful that politicians running the country today are saying and doing things that just beg for negative reaction. It’s very hard to just sit there and take it. I know my blog is not bold resistance, but it is what I feel able to do, and makes me feel I might be contributing. Each of us has our special way to do something. Since the election, every day you can count the many ways people are taking action. Even some republican members of congress are beginning to do something, or at least say something.

The politics of today is heading in the direction away from established American values, policies and practices and is cause for alarm. Standing by and watching our current government lead us in this direction, won’t work. If we can imagine, or even visualize, the future our government is heading to, we are likely to want to do act.

Today many people are taking non-violent, peaceful action to protest the direction America is currently heading. What we do today will determine our future direction.

Apathy, like hope, fear, and anger won’t work. To have a country of diversity, equality and inclusiveness will require the people taking action to create it. Today.

The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating.                                 John Schaar, Futurist

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.                                                                          C.J. Jung



Posted in Democracy in Danger | 1 Comment


To Rescue The Future

 Critical thinking is the ability and willingness to assess claims and make objective judgments on the basis of well-supported reasons. It is the ability to look for flaws in arguments and resist claims that have no supporting evidence. *

Could it be that what this world needs now, in addition to love, is critical thinking? Critical thinking is what we have too little of. Try this fantasy visualization: What if in America today, the president of the United States, the majority of the voters, and most of the politicians were critical thinkers? Would the future of America be different? The future doesn’t exist; it needs to be created. So our mindful future thinking will be crucial to creating a positive future. “It is going to be our minds (cultural evolution) not our genes (biological evolution) that creates or destroys our positive future.”  Peter Russell

Critical thinking is cultivated in our minds. I believe the teaching and learning of critical thinking could be a major factor in changing the direction our nation is heading. Although I am not optimistic about this belief, there is some evidence that teaching critical thinking is increasing in high schools and colleges, although probably not required. One problem with teaching critical thinking is in its definition.

Critical thinking definitions include such terms as objective, reason, skeptical, unbiased, rational, and factual evidence. The adult human mind is so full of cognitive biases and cultural indoctrination that being rational and objective is almost impossible. Some have suggested we teach critical thinking in elementary school, because children may not yet have well developed cognitive biases. But scientist believe the young brain may not be ready.

It seems obvious that today’s president, voters and politicians are not good candidates to learn critical thinking. I am aware that some voters and politicians today are already good critical thinkers. We know that many people, maybe a majority, are not happy with the direction this nation is heading. Is there some way to organize the current critical thinkers and the unhappy voters into a force to create a new future direction? Maybe a new kind of positive conspiracy?

When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: Those who make it happen. Those who let it happen. Those who wonder what happened. John M. Richardson Jr.

Other definitions:                                                                                                                    (critical thinking is a complicated mental process with several definitions)                             * includes the rationalskepticalunbiased analysis or evaluation of factual evidence.          * the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.                             * a mental process of reviewing clear, rational thoughts based on evidence to reach a             conclusion.

Posted in Future Sense | 2 Comments