Scottie Hart: Why we hate each other
For several years now, I have been dismayed by our deep inability as a nation to “get” each other.
Across an ever-widening chasm, liberals and conservatives have poured their energy into screaming, “It’s your fault.” I have been appalled, and have worried that the polarization is far more dangerous to us as a nation and as people than the obvious divergence of our visions.
What, I have wondered is going on?
A credible explanation has come from an unlikely source. It’s startling to me (a lifelong liberal in liberal California), but in his book “Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal,” Senator Ben Sasse (deeply conservative, from deeply conservative Nebraska) offers an explanation that makes sense.
This is not a political book. Based on solid research by respected sociologists, he points out the decades-long trends that are driving our frantic struggle with each other. Educated as a sociologist, I have read some of his major source documents. I think he’s put his finger on something most of us have missed, something both unsettling and hopeful.
For example: You may have hundreds of Facebook friends. You may even have millions of Twitter followers. But careful research reveals that the overwhelming majority of us have dramatically fewer non-virtual relationships now than we did 50 or even 20 years ago. Face-to-face friendships and participation in daily work, leisure and neighborhood associations have all eroded precipitously. Well before the pandemic arrived, we were isolated from our tribe-mates in a way our species was not designed to handle well. A wide array of prominent health organizations now recognize deep, pervasive loneliness as a major public health issue, eroding our lives and often prematurely ending them.
Sasse cites many, many other examples of how, even before COVID-19, long-term trends have changed, and will continue to change our lives. As we negotiate the enormous shift from an industrial, manufacturing world to a near-virtual, technological world, it is no wonder we feel disoriented and vulnerable.
This is not opinion.
This reflects the assessment of many, many respected mainstream studies. In his short book, Sasse does a stellar job of outlining multiple sources of our malaise, our fear, our anger. He demonstrates how our lack of genuine connection has made us vulnerable to exploitation by venal click-baiters and angry factions.
Those angry factions (anti-tribes, in his lingo) are the result of deeply unsettling cultural shifts we are all trying desperately to cope with.
If you are reading this, you are undoubtedly a member of the dwindling number of people who read on a regular basis, who find it interesting, useful and fun to explore the world through print. The ideas in “Them” will intrigue you, and you will appreciate Sasse’s eminently-readable, down-to-earth style. This short book will help make sense of a world gone nuts. The solutions it suggests are worth pondering.
If you consider yourself a liberal, read it in spite of your misgivings about the author’s politics. If you are a conservative, read it to stay abreast of the best of conservative thinking. Either way, Sasse has condensed mountains of reliable evidence into an explanation of our confusing world, and offers intriguing ideas about what we can do to find stability in our rapidly evolving culture.
If you read “Them,” you will find common sense and data-driven analysis that can fuel productive strategies to address our widespread frustration and anger.
Scottie Hart lives in Grass Valley.
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