Binary Thinking is the Root of All Conflict

in #freewriters3 years ago


Black and blue
And who knows which is which and who is who
Up and down
And in the end it's only round and round and round and round

Us and Them - Pink Floyd

Binary thinking is so pervasive in our modern society, it is the rule to any debate, not the exception. Binary thinking is an black/white view of the world. It categorizes one side as right, moral, and just and the other side as wrong, immoral, and evil. It leaves no room for debate, no space for context, no place for nuance. It is the death of debate, the anti-thesis of civility, the end of rationality.

There are 330 million individuals in America, and somehow we are made to think there are only two sides to every issue. This oversimplification is convenient, intellectually dishonest, and subverts individual thought in the name of picking an ideological team to align one’s self with.

It takes a world full of diverse perspectives and turns it into a simplistic, either/or equation. In the binary language of programming, it is a one or a zero. It turns our national conversation into the civics version of grade school kickball. If you don’t pick a side, you can’t play the game and you’ll be shunned and mocked on the sidelines for not joining one team or the other.

This can be witnessed in practically any area of society. Either you think capitalism is good or you’re a staunch socialist. Either you support the reds or you’re a diehard blue. Either you join the movement for racial justice or you’re part of the white supremacist machine. Either you support all coronavirus lockdown measures or you’re a bioterrorist killing grandma.

Try to bring nuance into the conversation and you’re accused of empowering “the other side.”

You can believe the police and justice system needs to be reformed while also condemning looting, rioting, and other forms of violence in the name of the cause.

You can acknowledge coronavirus is real and degrees of safety should be taken without believing all draconian measures are necessary.

You can believe corporate America has been empowered by the state and has created an oligopoly for many industries while also supporting entrepreneurship and the concept of free exchange.

You can be in favor of a woman’s right to choose while also acknowledging in a compassionate, non-judgmental way that abortion is not an ideal outcome.

Binary thinking leads to the most extreme voices rising to the top and silences the moderate majority in the process because one doesn’t want to be viewed as the opposition.

Presently, we can see this when supporters of the protests find themselves justifying, rationalizing, or shielding blame when violence occurs. Any criticism that isn’t directed at the “other side” is harmful and unproductive in the fight for justice, they claim. This incredibly troubling perspective has grown into a mainstream belief among many on the “left” side of the equation, with the “People over Property” (a false dichotomy) meme taking off.

Binary thinking makes conflict inevitable.


Taken to its extreme conclusion, binary thinking leads to violence, murder, war, and eventually genocide. It strips one side of its humanity while also shielding the other side of its responsibility. Any means necessary becomes a mantra, a mindset that promotes violence as a necessary reaction to perceived injustices.

Every movement in history that eventually commits mass violence believed its cause was just, that the means would eventually produce a different, more harmonious and peaceful end. Do you believe any group of people actually believe themselves to be evil when they commit acts of violence?

Without facing the monster within, as Jordan Peterson often speaks about, we are able to ignore our capacity for evil. We believe ourselves to be moral based on our ideology, not on our individual actions. Conflating morality with belief allows one to justify the actions of their untamed monster.

Martin Luther King Jr. stated that we should judge others on the content of their character, not on the color of their skin. The same can be said for political ideology, a fact many would like to forget.

Let me be clear: If your reaction to another’s violence is dependent on what is written on their protest sign, you have sacrificed morality in the name of ideology.


Rule by force is the disease, who and how are symptoms.

This post has been selected for curation by @msp-curation by @clayboyn and has been upvoted and will be featured in the weekly philosophy curation post. It will also be considered for the official @minnowsupport curation post and if selected will be resteemed from the main account. Feel free to join us on Discord!

Wanted to upvote but too late so I.m upvoting like this :)