CULTURAL OVERVIEW: A HOUSE DIVIDED
Competing aphorisms and advice abound regarding the uncertainties, unpredictability, probabilities, risks, opportunities, and appropriate viewpoints and methods in marketplaces such as stocks, interest rates, currencies, commodities, and real estate. Political stages also fill with diverse adages, slogans, perspectives, approaches, insights, foresights, predictions, and explanations.
The American cultural scenes (economic, political, and social) and opinions regarding them interrelate, and these entangle relatively closely with numerous foreign ones in a globalized world. This reflects and encourages wide ranges in outlook and recommendations for behavior.
American history reflects and describes a generally-shared culture, which the American Dream concept significantly reflects. However, over the span of about four centuries (and even in recent decades) that culture and interpretations of it have not been unchanging. The degree of consensus has varied. Moreover, not all groups have been equally able to participate in the economic, political, and social benefits (promises; valued “good” aspects) of the American Dream.
Thus America, even when united, always has had some internal differences in viewpoint (including opinions on the proper applications of a generally shared cultural theory) and thus assorted episodes and varying degrees of conflict. Let’s concentrate on today’s political panorama, which reflects (is permeated by) economic phenomena and interests. Admittedly, we’re not dwelling in the Civil War era of the mid-19th century. And the present-day United States political landscape (its ideological and structural parameters) is not anarchic. Nevertheless, the nation’s current political situation displays extensive divisions across numerous fields. The number and sharpness of these splits arguably have been increasing over the past few decades, as well as increasing (or at least becoming more evident) since President Trump’s 2016 election campaign and triumph.
A rapid survey of the United States unveils a country significantly divided across belief (doctrinal) dimensions as well as group membership categories. Subjective views occur on a continuum. For example, not all so-called “conservative” opinions are identical. Or, a given “liberal” (or progressive or globalist) may support some “nationalist” policies. Of course not all members of a given racial (ethnic), sex, or age category embrace the same opinion on a given policy or set of them. Consequently, beliefs, groups, and individuals do not necessarily or inevitably all end up on the same side of a ledger. Moreover, definitions and applications of political and other cultural labels can and do change. How should we define and measure liberty, freedom, and equality?
Anyway, numerous divisions apparently exist. These reflect values, visions for what is “good”, “bad”, and “neutral”. Cultural values inescapably involve emotions, not just reasoning; and emotions permeate the reasoning.
Look not only at (and within) the leading political parties, the Democrats (blue) and Republicans (red). The political spectrum reveals a range of opinions from left-wing to right-wing. Populists (which include left and right sides in orientation) battle against the “establishment” and associated elites (“the Man”; an entrenched political/economic/social power structure). Nationalists (“Make America Great Again!” is one mantra) fight against globalists (and multiculturalists); conservatives (or alleged reactionaries) combat liberals (perhaps some of these are progressives) and socialists (radicals; anarchists). Assorted political and economic “haves” fight in assorted ways with “have-nots”. Ardent debates rage about economic inequality and opportunity as well as social mobility. Allegiance to “capitalism” and the “free market” (however defined) varies in scope and intensity. Other contentious issues include abortion, the environment (including climate change), health care, immigration, race relations, gun control, and international trade. Such viewpoints incorporate values and result in propaganda battles to advance aims and defeat foes.
Within American political life and its communities, note the language (metaphors) of war, battle, and violence. Also examine wordplay of love and friendship. For example, people may love (or hate) a political candidate or party and its policies.
Rather lofty US government deficit spending has become entrenched. And sometimes, like nowadays in the coronavirus era (which involves a war against the disease), most Americans appreciate a generous helping hand and support a large (expensive) economic rescue package. However, significant disagreement remains regarding the role and extent of the federal government in our lives. Fervent quarrels burst into the open as to the appropriateness of, relative importance of, and actual expenditure on specific programs.
What generic cultural classifications to which individuals belong nowadays reflect (and offer opportunities for and encourage) partisanship and rhetorical conflict? These are numerous. The body politic is fractured. Noteworthy divides exist on the basis of race/ethnic, sex/gender and sexuality, age/generation, geographical location (region of the country; urban/suburban/rural), religion/faith, and level of wealth/income.
In politics, economics, and elsewhere in culture, although a subjective consensus sometimes develops and persists, participants also can and do disagree on what information (facts, evidence, factors, data, statistics) is relevant and on the relative importance of such variables, as well as on the proper means of organizing and evaluating such phenomena. Where widespread cultural divisions exist, as in America nowadays, such diverse debates (dissonance) relating to “the facts” at times can severely challenge the abilities of even knowledgeable and experienced forecasters to predict a particular outcome, such as the 2020 American Presidential election battle between Trump and Biden, with a high degree of confidence.
Moreover, to the extent that citizens have diminished faith in political institutions and leaders, this increases (encourages) the potential for cultural splits and wars. Arguments from authority may become less compelling to the “average citizen”; many disagreements tend to become harder to resolve. It’s often difficult for enemies to make peace. This situation can boost the amount and loudness of divisive rhetoric and thus make it significantly harder to predict some outcomes.
History shows that a willingness to compromise, listen closely to and respect opposing views and values, and practice substantial civility ebbs and flows on political stages, even when differences between rivals are substantial. However, the American political scene during the Trump regime generally manifests a weakening inclination to do so by many participants. This increases the rhetorical racket.
The information revolution obviously is a complex topic. Nevertheless, the voices unleashed nowadays in cultural domains via mass communication media create and sustain Towers of Babel. And the internet in particular enables a “democratic” explosion of voices seeking to achieve some form of power, to become or remain relevant and influential. The massive amount of allegedly relevant information potentially important to “appropriate” cultural decision-making and the proliferation of supposedly satisfactory gurus and guides (opinion-makers) thereby at times can exacerbate the difficulty of predicting political and economic outcomes.
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US Election 2020- Politics, Pandemic, and Marketplaces (6-3-20)