(Navigate to other parts in this series via the links above.)
Do opposites attract?
This week, I’ve been reflecting on Andy Hoffman’s trenchant observations of Bright Greens and Dark Greens while I’ve been writing my chapter for the new Handbook of Morality. I didn’t plan it that way, but it’s a lucky coincidence. (If you care to go back and read Andy’s entire series this week—here are links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
The theme of my chapter is “dualistic thinking”—the human tendency to divide the world into polar opposites. Think, for example, of the sacred and the profane, or of red states versus blue states. Anthropologists have noted this tendency in societies around the world—dualistic thinking is a social invention that gets reinvented again and again.
Of course, the world is not neatly divided into twos. There are no red states, no blue states—only shades of purple. And, the shades of Green are infinite—only we divide it into the categories of Bright Green and Dark Green.
Making categories is something we humans are really good at. The world is, as William James said, a “big blooming buzzing confusion.” But we make it orderly—and manageable—by the convenient device of dividing it into neat categories.
Andy has shown us, with great clarity, the role of dualistic thinking in the environmental movement. Like other dualities, Bright Greens and Dark Greens need one another. The energy of the movement springs from their mutual opposition.
The risk is that Brights and Darks will get too far apart, each demonizing the other and making reconciliation impossible. The promise is that we will find a way to rise about the dichotomy, manage the contradiction, and find a synthesis of opposites.
Is such integration possible? I agree with Andy’s conclusion yesterday: “Only an appeal to deeply held morals and values—either to recover them or perhaps to reform some of them—can move us where we truly need to go.”
Thank you, Andy, for your valuable contribution to OurValues.org! You have made a difference.
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