Questions About Booking a
LAVIN Keynote Speaker?
1 800 265 4870
The Lavin Blog
Us vs. Them: Jonathan Haidt On Morality & Contentious Culture [VIDEO]
Politics | February 20, 2013

Us vs. Them: Jonathan Haidt On Morality & Contentious Culture [VIDEO]

We're stuck in a tribal us-versus-them type of mentality, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt tells Bill Moyers. As he explains in a recent one-on-one interview, we have the tendency to "bind together into teams that can cooperate in order to compete with other teams." Sometimes, as in the case of a foreign attack like 9/11 or a college football game, that mindset can be beneficial. "Conversely," Haidt argues, "when there are moral divisions within the group, and no external attack, the tribalism can ramp up, and reach really pathological proportions. And that's where we are now."

In his keynotes and his book, The Righteous Mind, Haidt has argued that "tribal groupishness" has torn apart our Congress to the point where it no longer functions. The problem isn't necessarily that we naturally bond together in groups to compete against opposing groups. In fact, he says it's often the case that this kind of competition actually brings people closer together. It even promotes camaraderie between opposing sides, to a degree. However, there is a certain point when a switch is flipped and the other side is no longer our opponent, but rather, they're "evil".
"And once you think they're evil, then the ends justify the means," Haidt says. "And you can break laws, and you can do anything, because it's in the service of fighting evil."

So what happened to bring the government to such a contentious state? According to Haidt, the opposing political parties have become so divided by their moral beliefs, that comprimise for the sake of progress has all but halted. There are no more liberal Republicans, or conservative Democrats. Both parties are totally separate, and thus, have no one that can see both sides of the spectrum and try to find some middle ground. Haidt says it is essential—now more than ever—that we find a way to put our morals aside and really hear what our opponents are saying. As he explains in the interview (and in his energetic talks) our group mentality can be extremely beneficial—we just have to avoid drawing enemy lines so sharply that we miss out on the good things our opponents have to offer.
Sign up for our e-newsletter * Required
First Name *
Last Name *
Email *
I'm Interested In *