Mark B. Baer, Esq.

Empathy and Relationships

Charlottesville and Self-Segregation

Charlottesville Is a Symptom of Chronic Conflict Caused by Self-Segregation

Posted Aug 13, 2017

What occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend is the most recent result of chronic conflicts we've been experiencing in the United States throughout its existence.

Renowned peacemakers, Kenneth Cloke and his wife, Joan Goldsmith, define chronic conflicts as follows:

"Chronic conflicts are those that nations, societies, organization or individuals

* Have not fully resolved

* Need to resolve in order to grow and evolve

* Are capable of resolving

* Can only resolve by abandoning old approaches and adopting new ones

* Are resistant to resolving because they are frightened, dissatisfied, insecure, uncertain, angry, or unwilling to change."

In their article titled Diversity at Work, which was published by the BCG Henderson Institute on July 20, 2017, Miki Tsusaka, Martin Reeves, Stephanie Hurder, and Johann Harnoss stated in pertinent part the following:

"Diversity builds resilience. An effective way to bring down a system is to narrow how it responds to change....

Diversity is the basis of adaptiveness. Diversity of problem-solving heuristics and behavior permits a system to evolve and learn from experience....

Inherent in our view of diversity is a paradox: equality of opportunity is necessary for diversity, but it takes hard-nosed judgment to choose the best ideas that come out of a diverse group to solve a particular challenge. To support a culture of diversity, people are often coached to be collaborative and noncritical rather than discerning. The hard truth is that they need to be both. We have shown that ambidextrous organizations—those that can explore new opportunities and exploit existing ones—are more successful in the long term. They combine both qualities.

How can organizations resolve this tension? They must be inclusive enough to attain a sufficiently diverse composition, but they must also establish processes and procedures to select the best ideas. This requires a delicate balance: people must trust one another enough to work together, but they must not allow groupthink to undermine adaptation and learning."

As anyone paying attention to the composition of the so-called "white nationalist" protesters can clearly see, they are -- well -- white. Here's what writer and pastor John Pavolvitz noted in his article titled Yes, This is Racism:

"What we’ve watched unfolding in Charlottesville, with hundreds of white people bearing torches and chanting about the value of white lives and shouting slurs, is not a 'far Right' protest. When you move that far right, past humanity, past decency, past goodness—you’re something else. 

You’re not a supremacist, you’re not a nationalist, and you’re not alt-Right. 

This is racism.
This is domestic terrorism.
This is religious extremism.
This is bigotry.
It is blind hatred of the most vile kind.
It doesn’t represent America.
It doesn’t represent Jesus.
It doesn’t speak for the majority of white Americans.
It’s a cancerous, terrible, putrid sickness that represents the absolute worst of who we are."

Among other things, they were protesting against Jews, gays, and black people. In fact, they were protesting against pretty much every group of people other than themselves, and they were primarily straight white Christian males.

As CNN pointed out, the protesters were stereotyping people who differed from themselves, just as the Nazi's had done. In fact, some of the slogans they used came directly from the Nazi playbook. 

Ken Cloke explains "How to Stereotype" as follows:

"1. Pick a characteristic

2. Blow it completely out of proportion

3. Collapse the whole person into the characteristic

4. Ignore individual differences and variations

5. Ignore subtletites and complexities

6. Ignore our common humanity

7. Make it match your own worst fears

8. Make it cruel."

Based in part on the work by Kurt R. and Kati Spillman, he also explains the Elements of Demonization as:

"* Assumption of Injurious Intentions - they intended to cuase the harm we experienced

* Distrust - every idea or statement made by them is wrong or proposed for dishonest reasons

* Externalization of Guilt - everything bad or wrong is their fault

* Attribution of Evil - they want to destroy us and what we value most, and therefore must be destroyed themselves

* Zero-Sum Interests - everything that benefits them harms us, and vice versa

* Paranoia and Preoccupation with Disloyalty - any criticism of us or praise of them is disloyal and treasonous

* Prejudgment - everyone in the enemy group is an enemy

* Collapse of Neutrality and Independence into Opposition - anyone who is not with us is against us

* Suppression of Empathy - we have nothing in common and considering them human is dangerous

* Isolation and Impasse - we cannot dialogue, negotiate, cooperate, or resolve conflicts with them

* Self-Fulfilling Prophecy - their evil makes it permissible for us to act in a hostile way toward them, and vice versa."

I'm afraid that the solution to these chronic conflicts must involve not only diversity, but also integration and assimilation for the reasons stated by Miki Tsusaka, Martin Reeves, Stephanie Hurder, and Johann Harnoss in Diversity at Work.

Unfortunately, I don't see that happening anytime soon because the source of the chronic conflict tends to self-segregate, which is the premise behind the demand for "religious freedom / liberty." 

Meanwhile, unless conflicts are small enough to be swept under the rug, they tend to fester, which is what's been occurring.  

Next year, the United States Supreme Court will be deciding the extent to which they can legally self-segregage even further, under the guise of "religious freedom / liberty." Depending upon the composition of the United States Supreme Court at the time that case is heard, they may or may not be granted such a right. No doubt, Neil Gorsuch, Trump's appointment, will help them in that regard. 

If they prevail in their efforts, it will only worsen these chronic conflicts because they will further self-segregate. And, if they lose, it's not as though they won't continue self-segregating, as they have in the past.

While one result will worsen the problem, neither result will solve it because win/lose games aren't about problem-solving - they're about playing to win. This is exactly why Congress has a historically low approval rating and why the public's perception of attorneys is so incredibly poor. 

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