5 Reasons Americans Are Becoming So Hostile to Each Other That a Civil War Seems Possible
Everyone reading that title could probably spit out a few reasonably good answers. The media. Schools. Tribalism. Hollywood. Liberalism. It goes on and on. However, all those things have been around for a long time. So, why are all of these institutions going so off-kilter now? Why are people losing faith that their lives are going to be better, that their kids are going to have a better life than they do, or even that we can hold the country together long term? There are some underlying reasons for it many people may not have heard about yet.
1) A Dignity-Based Culture Changed to a Victim-Based Culture: America used to have what’s called a “Dignity Culture.” Here’s a fairly good definition of that:
“It is even commendable to have ‘thick skin’ that allows one to shrug off slights and even serious insults, and in a dignity-based society parents might teach children some version of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” – an idea that would be alien in a culture of honor. People are to avoid insulting others, too, whether intentionally or not, and in general, an ethic of self-restraint prevails.”
Today, most Americans seem to embrace a “Victim Culture.”
“A culture of victimhood is one characterized by concern with status and sensitivity to slight combined with a heavy reliance on third parties. People are intolerant of insults, even if unintentional, and react by bringing them to the attention of authorities or to the public at large. Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization.”
Victim culture is so ingrained at this point, that not only do we have victims, but we have legions of people claiming to be offended on behalf of the victims over the most insignificant trivialities. Instead of being focused on strength, dignity, and what they can accomplish, many people are now determined to portray themselves as weak, sensitive, and barely able to tolerate a dissenting opinion, much less any real challenge. Moreover, this whole process has created a kind of victim Olympics where people try to come up with new ways to be victimized and explain why their victimization is worse than the one suffered by other people. Of course, one of the many problems with all of this is that for someone to be the victim, typically someone else has to be held responsible for victimizing them. So, as the number of supposed victims increases without limit, so do the number of people who are falsely accused of being oppressors.
2) The Liberal March Through Institutions + Conservative Complacency: It’s the nature of liberalism to view everything from schools, to science, to sports, to Christianity through the prism of “How useful or not useful is this to liberalism?” So, when liberals join institutions, they think about how to use it to aid liberalism, and when they gain critical mass, they subvert whatever institution they are part of to make it more useful to their ideology. The first order of a liberal church, school, newspaper, or anything else run by liberals is supporting liberalism and if God gets worshipped, kids get educated, or the public gets the news too, that’s great, but it’s a secondary purpose to them. Because of this, any institution controlled by liberals becomes hostile to people that don’t hold liberal views.
Of course, liberals have ALWAYS been like this, but conservatives didn’t have to let them take over so many crucial parts of society. We could have stopped watching movies or listening to musicians that attacked us. We could have cut off funds to state institutions that moved too far to the Left and stopped sending our kids there. We could have stopped immigration designed to demographically overwhelm us. We could refuse to buy products from companies that hate us. We could simply refuse to go along to get along… but, we didn’t. It’s easy to blame the Country Club Republicans in Washington for our problems, but all of us on the Right deserve a share of the blame. If we’re just going to shrug our shoulders when we’re insulted and our children are taught to hate everything that made us successful, it’s not a surprise that so many of our leaders reflect that attitude in the way they behave.
3) Lack of a Shared Culture: One of the defining characteristics of the modern world is the dizzying number of choices we have in so many areas. There are 12 million products on Amazon, 50 million songs on Spotify, and 1.7 billion websites. There are undoubtedly large numbers of people with millions of followers on social media websites for one reason or another that MOST OF US have never heard of in our lives. The sheer number of choices makes it difficult for us to have shared cultural experiences. It also allows every little weird group of freaks, outcasts, and degenerates on earth to wall themselves off from the mainstream with other like-minded people who encourage them to take their ideas even further instead of helping to usher them back to normalcy. If these groups are large enough, sympathetic enough to the right people, or useful enough to the Left, their weird ideas can be thrust into the public eye and declared mainstream. See Fourth Wave Feminism, ANTIFA, pretending you can change your gender at will and increasingly, pedophilia (“Cuties” on Netflix) as examples of this. On top of all of that, Americans now no longer uniformly agree on much of anything. There are large, often politically influential minorities of the population that don’t see eye-to-eye with traditional American views on capitalism, the Constitution, Christianity, whether the Founding Fathers were heroes, or even whether this is a good country. Without those commonalities to hold us together as a people, nothing is easier than for us to pull apart.
4) Geographic Sorting: As Americans have become wealthier and more informed, we have increasingly sorted ourselves into like-minded communities. Bill Bishop explained why this is a problem in his superb book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart:
…In the 1970s, there was little difference between Democrats and Republicans on issues such as abortion, school prayer, and women’s rights, according to Thomas Carsey and Geoffrey Layman, the two political scientists who have done the most work in this area. Now the two parties differ on everything—not only abortion and school prayer but also the war in Iraq, who should be on the Supreme Court, even Wal-Mart’s business practices.
…This process of self-segregation would be inconsequential if only a few Americans lived in politically homogeneous counties. But the numbers, we learned, aren’t small. In 2004, one-third of U.S. voters lived in counties that had remained unchanged in their presidential party preference since 1968. Just under half lived in counties that hadn’t changed since 1980, 60 percent lived in counties that hadn’t changed since 1988, and nearly 73 percent lived in counties that hadn’t changed since 1992, voting consistently Democratic or Republican for four presidential elections in a row.
…The lesson for politics and culture is pretty clear: It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re a frat boy, a French high school student, a petty criminal, or a federal appeals court judge. Mixed company moderates; like-minded company polarizes. Heterogeneous communities restrain group excesses; homogeneous communities march toward the extremes.
…“It’s calcifying our politics,” Democratic pollster Paul Maslin told me. “Where is the common ground if I as a Republican legislator in the Central Valley of California never have to worry one damn bit about ever losing an election to a Democrat?” The same is true for a Democrat in Los Angeles, of course, and so both steer to the extremes, conceded Maslin, who was Howard Dean’s pollster in 2004, and joined Bill Richardson’s campaign in 2007. “So now if you have legislative bodies that can’t act anymore, they either go lurching from one side to another, which means we have no continuity, or they are immobilized. If they are immobilized, that breeds cynicism: “I hate the politicians.”
5) Social Media: I have long been an advocate of splitting up social media monopolies. However, the damage that has been done by Google, Twitter, and Facebook is so large that a rational argument could even be made that we should make their businesses illegal for the good of the country, just as we do with illegal drugs and machine guns. Society would certainly be better off if none of those companies existed – and that’s not just because of the censorship, the spread of “fake news,” and the frightening level of control that they have over what people read. The way these services work is designed to take advantage of the weaknesses of human beings. For example, have you ever noticed that the media spends an awful lot of time looking for a slant on a story that will make you outraged? That’s because outrage is the best way to drive social media traffic and everyone in the media is reliant on it to survive. If you want to know why some small-town Karen doing something annoying, a police shooting in Kenosha, or some nobody saying something racist in the middle of nowhere can turn into a national news story, it’s because outrage sells, and real, honest to goodness news doesn’t necessarily do the same if there’s not a way to spin the story to make people emotional.
Perhaps even worse, social media encourages people to segregate themselves off from differing opinions. Most people start by following people that they agree with and then are given the option to mute or block anyone who says anything they don’t agree with about a subject. As a practical matter, what ends up happening is that most people are constantly exposed to the opinions of like-minded people. Then when they do hear a differing opinion, it seems particularly outrageous because they would never hear that from the people they choose to follow. It’s also nearly impossible to have a rational discussion on a platform like Twitter because of the sheer number of trolls. Any response to them is just an invitation for abuse, which makes the problem even worse. Not only do most people start by listening to people that already agree with them, if they hear counter-opinions at all, those opinions are often insulting with no reasoning to back them up. How do you fix social media to keep it from being such a detriment to society? The sad truth is that you probably don’t, or they would have already done it.