To my mind, the most valuable part of Ezra Klein’s Why We’re Polarized is the section “Depolarizing Ourselves.” Ezra writes:
We, as individuals,… are also being changed by it (the political system). The primary way the system gets its hooks into us is by threatening or otherwise activating our political identities and using the catalytic energy to (manipulate),… being used for the political purposes of others….
(Our identity) is deeper than conscious thought….The millisecond it takes to take an identity to activate isn’t something we can simply slough off. But… we can harness it….
There is a massive apparatus for defining, policing, and activating (identities). If you want to get out of that superstructure, it takes work…. We can become intentional about which identities we work to activate…. Trying to be aware of how politics makes us feel, of what happens when our identities are activated, or otherwise inflamed, is a necessary first step to gaining some control of the process.
Sometimes (the context) is changeable. Our informational environments are one of those things…. Once we recognize that we exist amid an omnipresent conspiracy to manipulate our identities, we can begin the hard work of fashioning our environment to shape and strengthen the identities we want to inhabit.
One of those identities, arguably the most important, is our membership in the human family. Our basic humanity is fundamental. I am a human being. You are a human being. The more we remember that reality, the easier it is to affirm everyone’s essential equality — each individual’s infinite value. This awareness nurtures mutual respect and a commitment to democratic participation in collective affairs.
The “omnipresent conspiracy” to which Ezra refers is more than “political” as narrowly defined. Our entire society, our institutions, our culture, and ourselves as individuals are woven together into a self-perpetuating social system — the System. This system encourages everyone to climb social ladders, look up to and resent those above, and look down on and dominate those below. The best term for this system may be “meritocracy.”
If we establish a new central purpose for our society — such as “to serve humanity, the environment, and life itself” — we can move toward transforming our nation into a compassionate community. If we cultivate a commitment to mutual support for self-improvement (with each individual defining their own goals), we can better move in that direction. And an important source of mutual support is face-to-face community with others who share core values. In this way, we can depolarize ourselves and strengthen our humanity.
Originally posted here.