Social Habits: As a solution to reduce Polarization.
English Composition 101-415
Dr. Nandini Chowdhury
8th March 2018
Our world is now divided by social status, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, appearance. Kwame Appiah, a philosopher in his book “Making Conversation”, gives a clear idea about the polarization and its impact on the global picture. While Charles Duhigg, another writer, reshaped the perception of the strong ties and weak ties in his book, “From Civil Rights to Megachurches” showing how weak ties can be even more stronger than the strong ties for triggering a movement, making it successful or getting new job. This social habit can be very effective reducing the polarization.
If we go back and look at all of the mass movement that brought massive change to a community, a society or, in a large scale, a country, we can find a common pattern that actually triggered the movements; social habits-in a form of strong and weak ties and peer pressure. Whenever someone tries to go beyond the system and bring a change in a society and wants to be successful, it’s necessary that he gets the proper support within his community. If he is fighting for a noble cause, and needs support, surely his firsthand relationships-his friends and family will be there with him. But to bring a change it’s equally important to get the support of the majority of the people of his community. That can be possible if the person holds a week-tie with the other peoples of the society also. In Charles Duhigg’s “From Civil Rights to Megachurches”, we get to see a movement against segregation triggered when an affectionate lady named Rosa Park was arrested while breaking the segregation law. That lady had been member of several clubs, churches, organization, groups and by doing that she made a good relationship with a large number of people. The power of those relations showed up when she landed on jail. But which helped to trigger the movement was the week ties of Rosa Park. Charles Duhigg says, “Friends of friends-people who were neither strangers nor closer. Granovetter called those connections ‘weak ties’, because they represented the links that connect people who have acquaintances in common, who share membership in social networks, but aren’t directly connected by strong ties of friendship themselves.” (Duhigg 91). Granovetter wanted to explain the importance of the tie that are not that close to us yet help us to enhance our networks. It’s a network of social interaction between people and organization describing action and behavior of a group. These week ties offer the connection into the network of opportunities and ideas. When the people of both strong and weak ties start interacting, group starts getting larger and it gets easier to get your job done. If you want to bring change in a society, those weak ties will provide you the support you actually needed. This week ties helps to expand the movement from group of people to a broad movement. Instead of convincing person to person to pursue a goal or to perform a boycott, even when a group people don’t want to participate in the movement, the obligation of neighborhoods or communities pressurize them, the pressure that’s called peer pressure. Charles Duhigg says, “If you ignore the social obligations of your neighborhood, if you shrug off the expected patterns of your community, you risk of losing your social standing.” (Duhigg 92). He made the point very clear that peer pressure is something that kind of force us to do what our community is doing. If they’re raising funds, volunteering for supporting a disaster or collapse, fighting for a cause and I really don’t participate in there, it might affect my reputation and create a bad impression of not being a team member. This Peer pressure helps a great extent to trigger a movement. I can talk about one movement happened in Bangladesh back in 2013. There was a movement going on to ensure the capital punishment of the war criminals. People were getting interested in that movement, started joining the movement and suddenly it became a patriotic issue. That patriotic point of view driven people from different places of Bangladesh gathering in a place, with all those banners, festoons, slogans and staying there for days. People who weren’t supporting the movement, had been considered as the supporters of war criminals. Persons who were known as against the war criminals in their society, couldn’t sit back at home. If two friends of a group were interested in joining the movement, they took other members of the group with them too. That turned out to be one of the biggest mass-movement in the history of Bangladesh, that ended up successfully.
Tribal psychology influences the way we think and feel and make judgement and thus leads into polarization. A tribe is a group of people that feel connected to each other in a meaningful way. They share something common that matters to them. That connection can be based on ideology, ethnicity, nationality, language or religion. That connection binds individuals into a group that allows them to make judgements about us; the member of the group and them; those who are not the member of the group. We use the us-them mentality defined by the tribal boundaries to make judgements about something like we’re good, they’re bad, we’re right, they’re wrong. According to Appiah, “there has been a lot of fretful discussion about the divide between “us” and “them.” What’s often taken for granted is a picture of a world in which conflicts arise, ultimately, from conflicts between values. This is what we take to be good: that is what they take to be good.” (Appiah 49). Appiah also, in a global frame, agreed on the us vs them judgements within the nationality. This judgement supports the behavior about how we act, how we say, how we respond. Our judgement about what is reasonable or unreasonable to believe, what sources are trustworthy. The dangers of tribalism are driven by polarization. Polarization is the measure of differences between groups. These differences can be anything, physical traits, sociological traits, attitudes and behaviors. Polarization measures how strong those differences are. Two groups can actually be more similar than they think, but if they perceive each other as more different, that can be enough to drive the attitudes the behaviors that characterize tribalism. There’s is obvious dark side of polarization. It’s not hard to see how increasing polarization can lead to serious social, political problems. Appiah says, “By the end, I hope to make it harder to think of the world as divided between the West and the Rest; between locals and moderns; between a bloodless ethnic of profit and a bloody ethic of identity.” (Appiah 50) Two groups can disagree on some fundamental principles like liberal and conservatives, vegetarians and non-veg, it actually doesn’t matter. What matter is the character of disagreement. In the lower level of polarization, there is more tolerance of disagreement, share a common ground. They can live and work together peacefully, their differences don’t prevent them to be respectful to one another. I see you as holding differences in some issue, I may disagree with your reasons, but I never question your point of view of reason. With increasing polarization, we end up disagreeing on more thing and we disagree more strongly. We care more about the issues that we disagree. As polarization increases, common ground decreases. Then we hit a point, where we feel an urge to separate. Our peaceful coexistence becomes impossible. Prejudice, discrimination, violence, even if our laws are strong enough to prevent that, we still left where our in group and outgroup relationship are dominated by suspicion, hostility and fear. Low to moderate level of polarization can be very good for us, but the real problem is the forces that drive us to the higher level of polarization. Our tribal psychology is part of the problem. Because, some of the forces that drive polarization have the root in tribalism. So, it is better to think about the ways of reducing tribalism and polarization.
Weak ties and peer pressure can come into play as far as reducing tribalism is concerned. For example, I have a friend of my same race who is very close to me, we hang out every weekend, celebrate all the function together. He also has a friend at his work of different ethnicity. When I go to his workplace, I see that guy or girl from the different group, sometimes talk. As, he/she is a friend of my friend, I hold a week tie with them and that creates an obligation towards them, more tolerance of disagreement. The more we start thinking beyond the boundaries, we start thinking about responsibilities towards them, the more it’s better to reduce tribalism. That’s the power of weak ties of friendship that creates a network beyond the group and gives us the sense of obligation for the other nationality. As Duhigg says, “There’s a natural instinct embedded in friendship, a sympathy that makes us willing to fight for someone we like when they’re treated unjustly.” (Duhigg 90). He said the sense of obligation towards those ties drive us even standing for rights, to fight, but in a good cause. We will be more considerate about other’s belief without questioning their point of view. I can take the role of weak ties in reducing ‘us vs them’ in a big picture. All the countries of the world possess several strong and weak ties among them to protect themselves. The more connections a country has, the more it’s better for them. For example, Saudi Arabia and USA maintains a good connection. As by the day progresses and connections between Saudi Arabia and USA getting stronger, it’s getting tough for the UK government to interfere on Saudi Arabia’s internal matter. The same case with Myanmar and Pakistan also. Regarding the Rohingya issue, when everyone from the subcontinent thought that Pakistan will start interfering in Myanmar’s politics, surprisingly they remain silent. Because Myanmar has built a strong relation with China over the years and Pakistan is vastly dependent on China. That prevent Pakistan to interfering in Myanmar’s issue. So, those social habits can reduce the us vs them mentality to a great extent.
If we connect the Kwame Appiah’s Cosmopolitan theory and Charles Duhigg’s power of social habit, we can see that both can be applied to reduce the tribalism. Though the strong and weak ties may not be best solution, still it can reduce the competition among the tribal groups and promote diversity.
Barrios, Barclay. Emerging: Contemporary Readings for Writers. Bedford/St.