American social culture there is a focus on right and wrong. What direction does the moral compass
point? Where is the line between hate
speech, freedom of speech, and censorship?
Our community leaders are tasked with creating laws and policy that
allow for independent freedom without infringing on the rights of others, and
lately that includes more and more social consideration than in previous
have extreme beliefs of right and wrong.
While it is great to know exactly where you stand on certain issues,
sometimes that stance can blind you to the issues on the other side of the
argument. This leads to divisiveness and
arguing about who is right and who is wrong instead of focusing on the
solutions which are somewhere in the middle.
people have viewed social dilemmas as linear, right on one end of the spectrum,
wrong on the other end of the spectrum, and a line in between which divides the
criminal wrong from the legally acceptable.
still works for some issues, such as taking another human’s life. On one extreme end of the spectrum is the
person who believes it is ok to kill anyone, anywhere, for any reason. On the other end of the spectrum is the
person who believes it is never ok to kill another, even in self defense or
during war. In the middle, or the gray
area, are the people who believe it is ok to kill someone under specific
conditions: death penalty for criminals, self defense, during battle, etc. When creating laws and policies regarding
murder, manslaughter, accidental death, death penalty, and war time casualties;
leaders must decide where the red line is that indicates when taking a life
this model does not work for some issues that have no concrete right and wrong
such as abortion or gay rights. A
different linear model can be used for these types of issues.
rights as an example, there are those on one extreme who believe homosexuality is
wrong. At the far extreme they cross
that red line into criminal when they go so far as to abuse, refuse to hire, or
otherwise deny basic human rights to those in the gay community. On the other end of the spectrum are people
who believe homosexuality is perfectly natural, but at the far extreme there
are those who believe everyone should be gay and try to convert heterosexuals
into homosexuals. In this model, the two
extremes are wrong, and the solution to social dilemmas are somewhere in the
gray area in the middle. If you imagine
the spectrum bent into a circle, it is easy to see how the criminal areas meet
up, and even though the beliefs are polar opposites, both sides are equally
with using a traditional linear model to resolve social issues is that the
issues in today’s social culture are not clearly right and clearly wrong. It takes a shift in thinking to evaluate
complex issues. This trend shows up in
all aspects of our lives, as well. From
political issues such as the examples above, but also issues in corporations,
hospitals, educational institutions, churches, in traditional media as well as
social media. When people focus on the
extremities of issues instead of finding a space in the gray area where the
solution lies, the discussions become unproductive arguments, and the focus
shifts from what the true issue is to attacking those with differing views, and
this leads to abusive language and bullying.
The successful resolutions will be found when all parties are able to
step away from their personal beliefs far enough to find the common ground and
be willing to have those difficult and productive discussions separate from
their personal feelings.
difficult to step into a new paradigm of thinking, but it is essential if we
want to have progress as a social culture.
If we continue to nit-pick each other on minor differences with the goal
of persuading one end of the spectrum to change their minds, we will simply
spend the rest of our lives arguing about problems instead of solving