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Control Culture vs. Connecting Culture



Philip Slater

Political analysts have been impressed lately by the polarization of the American public between "reds" and "blues". Eighty percent of our population has declared itself impervious to persuasion. Why has this happened? Why have political positions hardened while the pragmatic center has shrunk?

While the media speak of the new importance of 'moral values', as if this were some recent fashion trend that had just burst upon the scene, this 'red/blue' division is rooted in major historical changes--changes that are welcomed by half of our nation, appalling to the other half. Furthermore, this division is not simply an American phenomenon, but a global one, rooted in the most revolutionary cultural shift in the history of our species.

Consider these seemingly unrelated events:

 In 1996 business writer E. E. Lawler found that 80% of all the companies he studied had some form of participatory management.

 In 1996, for the first time, there were more visits by Americans to alternative practitioners than to traditional Western physicians.

 In 2001 scientists began to consider the possibility that the "laws" of nature might not be immutable.

 In 2002 lawyers argued that chimpanzees should be accorded legal status as persons.

 In 2004, for the first time, more women than men applied to medical school, while women made up a majority of first-year law students and outnumbered male college students 56% to 44%.

 In 2004, gay marriages became legal in Massachusetts.

 All of these events would have been inconceivable fifty years ago. During this time we've seen social change taking place at a rate unprecedented in the history of the planet. And while many of the changes have had widespread popular support, they have also--especially when combined with the unrelenting pace of technological innovation--stressed our adaptive capacities. We've not only had to adjust to computers and email and cell phones, but also to the changing roles of women and minorities, the "sexual revolution", the decline of the nuclear family, the growth of the global economy, the ecological movement, and so on.

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