He listed some of the reasons centrifugal forces may now exceed centripetal: the loss of the common enemies we had in World War II and the Cold War, an increasingly fragmented media, the radicalization of the Republican Party, and a new form of identity politics, especially on campus.
.. Martin Luther King described segregation and injustice as forces tearing us apart. He appealed to universal principles and our common humanity as ways to heal prejudice and unite the nation. He appealed to common religious principles, the creed of our founding fathers and a common language of love to drive out prejudice.
.. From an identity politics that emphasized our common humanity, we’ve gone to an identity politics that emphasizes having a common enemy. On campus these days, current events are often depicted as pure power struggles — oppressors acting to preserve their privilege over the virtuous oppressed.
.. “A funny thing happens,” Haidt said, “when you take young human beings, whose minds evolved for tribal warfare and us/them thinking, and you fill those minds full of binary dimensions. You tell them that one side in each binary is good and the other is bad. You turn on their ancient tribal circuits, preparing them for battle. Many students find it thrilling; it floods them with a sense of meaning and purpose.”
.. Parties, too, are no longer bound together by creeds but by enemies... King was operating when there was high social trust. He could draw on a biblical metaphysic debated over 3,000 years. He could draw on an American civil religion that had been refined over 300 years.
.. excessive individualism and bad schooling have corroded both of those sources of cohesion.
.. In 1995, the French intellectual Pascal Bruckner published “The Temptation of Innocence,” in which he argued that excessive individualism paradoxically leads to in-group/out-group tribalism.
.. societies like ours, individuals are responsible for their own identity, happiness and success. “Everyone must sell himself as a person in order to be accepted,”
.. The easiest way to do that is to tell a tribal oppressor/oppressed story and build your own innocence on your status as victim. Just about everybody can find a personal victim story. Once you’ve identified your herd’s oppressor — the neoliberal order, the media elite, white males, whatever — your goodness is secure. You have virtue without obligation. Nothing is your fault.
.. “I suffer, therefore I am worthy. … Suffering is analogous to baptism, a dubbing that inducts us into the order of a higher humanity, hoisting us above our peers.”
.. we’ve regressed from a sophisticated moral ethos to a primitive one.