Dangers of a reduced, dominant identity – David Brooks in NYT


Dangers of a reduced, dominant identity – David Brooks in NYT

Excerpts of David BROOKS’ article in the NEW YORK TIMES on 14 November 2016, one week after the surprise election of Donald Trump, on the dangers of a reduced, dominant identity

Pollsters reduced complex individuals to a single identity, and are now embarrassed. But pollsters are not the only ones guilty of reductionism. This mode of thinking is one of the biggest problems facing the U.S. today.

Bigots turn multidimensional human beings into one-dimensional creatures….Populists dehumanize complex people into the moronic categories of “the people” and “the elites”. But these days it’s the anti-racists, too, who reduce people to a single identity; to raise money and mobilize people, advocates play up ethnic categories to an extreme degree….A single identity walls off empathy and the imagination.

Unfortunately, if you reduce complex individuals to one thing, you’ll go through life clueless about the world around you. People’s classifications now shape how they see the world. As the philosopher Amyrta Sen has argued, this mentality makes the world more flammable. Crude tribal dividing lines inevitably arouse a besieged, victimized us/them mentality. People with this mentality tolerate dishonesty, misogyny and terrorism on their own side because all morality lays down before the tribal imperative.

Even each identity itself is not one thing but a tradition of debate about the meaning of that identity. Getting out of the mess of reductionism and its consequences, also means accepting the limits of social science: the judgments of actual voters are better captured in the narratives of journalism and historical analysis than in the brutalism of big data.

There has to be a rejection of single-identity thinking and a continual embrace of the reality that each of us is a mansion with many rooms.

COMMENT & QUESTION by publisher : If psychotherapy can increase people’s empathic abilities, especially in Couple Therapy where grasping the complex reality of the partner is one of the main goals, then couldn’t an improvement of people’s empathy contribute greatly to “getting out of this mess” of reductionism that David Brooks describes?

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