polarization and intelligence

Tom Atlee’s recent work on polarization is applicable to interpersonal relationships too. The following are excerpts from POLARIZATION AND INTELLIGENCE by Tom Atlee – August 2004.
Intelligence involves understanding what is real — matching our mental models with what is really out there. That is what learning from experience is all about: Something happens that we didn’t expect, so we change our expectations to include it, becoming more aligned with reality in the process. This is what science is all about: Making hypotheses (mental models) about reality and then testing them to find their validity, including their limitations.
The more fully we apply intelligence to any circumstance, the more we become able to align our efforts with the actual realities of the situation and thereby succeed.
In their efforts to understand reality, intelligent people seek to understand similarities and differences. Of course, those similarities and differences should be real and relevant. Getting hung up on imaginary, irrelevant differences and similarities — thinking a handsome candidate is better than a conscientious one, for example, or that everyone who looks like an Arab is a potential enemy — can lead to make stupid mistakes.
Sometimes someone — perhaps an advertiser raving about an expensive product — will insist that we pay attention to fine distinctions, when similarities may be far more obvious and important. Other times people will insist that certain things — such as “all politicians” — are similar despite glaring differences. At such times, we need to dig deeper into what’s going on. Intelligence involves questioning anything that interferes with our ability to seriously consider actual, relevant similarities and differences.
In most cases, polarization undermines intelligence by misleading us in exactly this way. It reduces vast human diversity into categories like Left and Right that are often ambiguous, distracting and even downright irrelevant (see ). Polarized partisans reject any notion that there may be important similarities between people on the Left and Right, or important differences within the ranks of their enemies or allies. Polarization is usually antithetical to intelligence. It is especially antithetical to co-intelligence, the intelligence of the Whole, because it impedes our ability to connect with diverse other people to discover a bigger picture that integrates all our views.

All [criticisms] said, we must acknowledge the powerfully positive role that polarization — and its close cousins, violence and nonviolent confrontation — often play in breaking through denial and life-degrading social arrangements. Although polarization cannot resolve issues well, it contains energy that can force those issues onto the table when most people refuse to attend to them or when people or institutions with undue social power prevent vital issues from being considered.
People whose views and interests are suppressed or oppressed often experience, though that oppression, a sense that they are different from and opposed to the people or systems that are holding them down or threatening what they value. Asserting this difference and opposition is often a necessary part of breaking out of victimhood.

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