“Grass-roots hatred is a much greater threat than it used to be”

There are some odd parallels between here in Northern Ireland where we have two parties who seem not to be able to agree the slightest matter of political substance, and the US Congress where nothing is agreed ever unless they cannot avoid it. The result in both places is, as they say in the jargon, somewhat sub-optimal.

In his sign-off at the Atlantic Magazine Robert Wright shares some useful thoughts:

[1] The world’s biggest single problem is the failure of people or groups to look at things from the point of view of other people or groups–i.e. to put themselves in the shoes of “the other.” I’m not talking about empathy in the sense of literally sharing people’s emotions–feeling their pain, etc. I’m just talking about the ability to comprehend and appreciate the perspective of the other. So, for Americans, that might mean grasping that if you lived in a country occupied by American troops, or visited by American drone strikes, you might not share the assumption of many Americans that these deployments of force are well-intentioned and for the greater good. You might even get bitterly resentful. You might even start hating America.

[2] Grass-roots hatred is a much greater threat to the United States–and to nations in general, and hence to world peace and stability–than it used to be. The reasons are in large part technological, and there are two main manifestations: (1) technology has made it easier for grass-roots hatred to morph into the organized deployment (by non-state actors) of massively lethal force; (2) technology has eroded authoritarian power, rendering governments more responsive to popular will, hence making their policies more reflective of grass roots sentiment in their countries. The upshot of these two factors is that public sentiment toward America abroad matters much more (to America’s national security) than it did a few decades ago. [Emphasis added]

On his second point it’s worth picking up my piece from the Monday on the Internet, and the importance of facing fears

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