Monday, July 26, 2010

quote for the day

"The very power of strongly held beliefs - their stickiness, as complexity researchers say - is what keeps the system pegged in place even during times of extreme political unrest. Indeed, as emotions rise and voices are raised, democracies are frequently less likely to descend into turmoil than to move into stalemate - very much like the left-right rift that opened up during the Vietnam era, or the partisan gridlock that has gripped the United States since the 1990s. Things became even more mired when the issues being debated turn on religion or ethnicity.
[Princeton University biologist] Levin observes that the more threatened a group that defines itself by race or spiritual belief feels, the more it will raise its threshold for tolerating new ideas, actually moving away from the compromise the circumstances call for and towards absolutism. This serves nobody's long term interests, but it does help ensure the purity of the groups members and reduces the likelihood of assimilation..."

Jeffery Kluger, writing in Simplexity, which is turning out to be one of the most interesting (and relevant) books I've read this year. A few pages later, he says this on the same subject:

"The complexities of moderation - a place where compromises are crafted and deals get struck - is cast aside for the simplicity of extremism, where nothing at all gets done."

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