“It’s useful being top banana in the shock department.”

 — Holly Golightly, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Interesting piece that attemps to explain the extremism coming out of McCain/Palin rallies as of late, which, base on studies, concludes that:

Like-minded people in a group grow more extreme in the way they are like-minded.

Homogeneity creates extremityor, in the news of the day, a McCain rally.

The article suggests that simply blaming the candidates, though they’ve not done much to help the situation, misses the point.

Social scientists have proposed several reasons for why like-minded groups tend to polarize. Two have survived scrutiny. The first is that homogenous groups are privy to a large pool of ideas and arguments supporting the group’s dominant position. Everybody hears the arguments in favor of the group’s belief, and as they’re discussed, people grow stouter in their beliefs.

The second reason like-minded groups polarize has more to do with how we see ourselves. We are constantly comparing our beliefs and opinions to those of the group. There are advantages to being slightly more extreme than the group average. It’s a way to stand out, to ensure others will see us as righteous group members.

If this is true then:

The lesson is pretty clear. Mixed company moderates; like-minded company polarizes. Heterogeneous communities restrain individual excesses. Homogeneous communities march toward the extremes.

But in order for that to happen people from both parties, especially those at the extremes need to be willing to come togther, work together, and exist together, but consider that:

For the past 30 years, Americans have been sorting themselves into politically like-minded neighborhoods, churches, and clubs. Matching like with like has been often been entirely intentional. Ministers have been taught to attract new members according to the “homogenous unit principle” of church growth. (One book in the church growth literature is titled Our Kind of People.) Subdivisions have designed for certain cultural typesa Christian school in one section, a Montessori school in another.

Of course, that is a trend of mainly older generations, leaving it to younger generation, Generation X and, even more so I think, Millennials, to help reverse this compartmentalizing of our society.

2 responses to ““It’s useful being top banana in the shock department.”

  1. Wow. This is a great post. I love stuff that makes me think. Lately, I’ve been wondering why stay-at-home moms are so mean to working moms. I worked for 20 years and now I’m home – doing my virtual PR shop. I never remember being righteous about working. I never remember criticizing stay-at-home moms for their choices. Applying what you’ve written here to the extreme positions some stay-at-home moms take — helps me understand the rabid, biting positions better.

    I do think Gen X, with disdain for dogmatism and phoniness, will continue to shy away from radicalism.

  2. I wonder about that too, the tension between some stay-at-home moms and working moms. Because of seen it in action, since my daughter started school.

    My wife is a working mom and she regularly had to deal with these passive-aggressive emails from certain stay-at-home mom’s that run things like Brownies etc. You know, planning events without considering working schedules etc.

    You know, I had this obviously naive notion that I would not have to deal this sort of thing as an adult. But clearly some people bring their petty adolescent attitudes from high school right into the adult world. Sheesh!

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