In last month’s post discussed how the election of Donald Trump is part of a larger historical cycle describing when, out of a sense of insecurity and fear, people’s focus turns toward national self-interest; likewise, when they feel confident and expansive, it is expressed in a greater willingness to reach out and cooperate. The article concluded that we are at the beginning of a cycle where national self-interest is the focus. In this post we will explore the question where Transitionalism is in all of this.
Where We Are At
The Pew Research Center conducted a series of surveys in the two weeks leading up to the presidential election: Election 2016: A Divided and Pessimistic Electorate that reveals what is already known – we are facing a complex situation.
Scrolling to the mid portion of the survey, the graph titled “Wide Gap in Shares of Trump, Clinton Voters Who Said They Were Traditional” highlights the gulf in how individuals from the two voting blocks describe themselves. Those who self-identify as ‘traditional’ reflect the rule of thirds, where about a third of the population tend to be more closed and pessimistic, a third self-identifying as ‘open-minded’ are more open and optimistic, with the remaining third being a relative mix of the two. The value of the Rule of Thirds is that it says it does not matter what the society or historical period, as this will apply because people’s individual take on issues emerge from genetically endowed behavioral predispositions whose expression are then framed by the overall social context. This is reflected in a table at the start of the article titled “Clinton, Trump Voters Sharply Diverged on Seriousness of an Array of Problems”, where Trump supporters believe issues they perceive to be immediate threats to be more important than Clinton supporters who believe the environment and quality of life as more important. Fear of immigrants, minorities, China, off-shoring of jobs, terrorism, crime, restriction of religious freedom, and of gun ownership are drivers of the conservative base. As human beings we are more motivated by fears of threat and loss than by gain and reward, with those who self-identify as conservative being more sensitive to perceptions of injury; whether physical or to sense of identity.
Feelings of apprehension and fear are not limited to Trump supporters, however. Fundamentally, the domestic policy platforms of both parties were a wistful stroll down memory lane. If the campaign of Hillary Clinton were to remind American voters of the heady days of economic growth during the 1990’s, the Trump and Sander campaigns waxed nostalgically picturing a return to the 1960’s when America was at its zenith domestically and internationally. More generally, feeling the underpinnings of our social reality to be growing increasingly uncertain leads people across the spectrum scrambling to hold on to what they know. Yet, while the forces imposing this uncertainty lie outside the electoral process people have few options in being able to express their anxiety and fears other than in the political arena, which has deteriorated into a winner take all contest as documented in the second half of another Pew Center survey, Election 2016: As Election Nears, Voters Divided Over Democracy and ‘Respect’ . Continuing on the path we are on now, we can only expect the situation to fracture and degrade further as new technologies continue to erode conventional values and assumptions, so more starkly defining progress’s winners and losers.
Given that our individual realities are largely shaped by our biological predispositions, it should be no surprise why it is we feel fully justified in believing what we think and feel, as well as mystified, if not outright hostile, to those who have different perspectives. It is for this reason coming to a consensus is not simply a matter of presenting the ‘right facts’. Before a consensus can be established a level of trust needs to be obtained by accepting and respecting others as human beings with their own perspectives.
Program for Change
The principles underpinning such a program would be the following;
- Humanity is one – nothing exists that truly distinguishes one person or group from another.
- Everything is connected in a network of cause and effect – all actions have consequences.
- Acceptance of difference – be it accepting differences in other people or changes to one’s own life’s conditions.
- Reciprocation and Cooperation – competition plays a supporting role, but reciprocation and cooperation is primary to a successful present and future life.
- Ongoing betterment of one’s self, society, and environment – commitment to a positive path of development.
- Decentralization – making our social system more efficient and less costly, while offering greater control over one’s life and community.
- Segregation of incompatible forms of life – Improve quality of life by recognizing that values and practices appropriate in one sphere of social life may not be beneficial, even harmful when applied to another, i.e., marketplace values and practices applied to personal relationships.
Transitionalism does not see individuals and society to be distinct, but rather two aspects of a single whole. Change needs to happen concurrently in both individuals and society as mutually reinforcing, to unfold in the most positive way. On the individual level such changes are effected through the practice of self-actualization, which directly addresses the challenges of our biological heritage and current value framework. Social self-actualization is where society pursues its own path of betterment as well as the commitment to facilitate and reinforce the individual’s progress. At the same time, it is the individual’s responsibility to reciprocate or pay back for what they have received from society in order to continue helping others.
The practice of social self-actualization would be different during a time when Transitionalism is seeking acceptance as opposed to how it would function in a formal institutional sense. In seeking acceptance, the practice of social self-actualization assumes a social activist agenda comprised of two mutually reinforcing components. The first is to support, then advocate and work towards bringing together individuals and already existing social change groups in alignment with a specific strategy to focus their efforts and resources on communal clearly quantifiable goals. Central to this program would be the support of a Universal Income as a cheaper and more reasoned alternative to the present social welfare system and growing underemployment as a consequence of the adoption of automation technology.
To summarize, the Transitionalist agenda it is to break down barriers and build trust between people, then improve their lives, all the while working towards the betterment of society.
Please let me know what you think and of any suggestions you might have. I look forward to your comments.