Thursday, April 24, 2014

No Enemies

Following the advice of the two Joshua's - Foer and Waitzkin, I have been re-reading some of my favourite books. The argument being that we have sacrificed depth in our attempt to cover as much ground as possible in the 'infinite library'. An infinite library because it is only possible for us to read a small fraction of what has ever been written, and more and more content is being generated every day.

One of those books is 'The Happiness Hypothesis' by Jonathan Haidt which had a profound impact on me when I first read it. The book is an attempt by Haidt as a moral psychologist to summarise the core themes in the many streams of ancient philosophical and religious attempts to lead the way to enlightenment/happiness/contentment/salvation/[pick a word of your choice].

One point that resonates strongly with me is the idea that we as people strongly identify with narratives. In a complex world, we like to create simple plots with simple allies and enemies. We like pure evil because it gives us a moral mission to right the injustice. We thrive off righteous indignation and band together in our contempt for those who don't see the truth.

Maybe we are slowly moving away from this. It means our Bond movies are becoming more complex and our TV series (e.g. The Wire) are becoming more grey. In a cosmopolitan world, many of our friends come from other groups so it becomes harder and harder to define others as evil. With many of our heroes falling (Hansie Cronje, Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius) we feel less comfortable in being able to identify pure evil. It feels good to identify pure evil because we can say we aren't evil.

Exciting (but more complex) times
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