by James Wallace Harris, Saturday, November 4, 2016
Should we divide America into two countries as a social experiment? If we allowed liberals and conservatives to have complete control over their own nation, would that produce two happier populations? Would the citizens of each nation end up mostly agreeing on how to govern themselves? Would the majority in each culture be calmer and more satisfied? I’m wondering if Americans aren’t really two distinct species:
- Homo sapiens liberals
- Homo sapiens conservatives
The extreme polar views expressed in the 2016 U.S. presidential election convinces me they are. I was just reading “Why Republicans Still Reject the Science of Global Warming,” and its stark description of political differences only reinforces such speculation. Science often describes two species of animals that to my eye look the same, but have adapted to the environment differently. When I listen to my Fox News loving friends, I feel they are a completely different kind of people. They are so passionately confident about being absolutely right. Then again, I feel the same way about my liberal views. Are we both seeing the same reality dramatically different because we’re different creatures that only look similar on the outside?
What would happen if we separated these two species? What would happen if all the conservatives move west of the Mississippi, and all the the liberals to the east? So each would create a government government according to their philosophies. In the west they’d form a free market nation, with a small government based on The Bible, and in the east they’d build a secular nation, with a big socialist government. Would the citizens in each new nation then be happy?
Would these two nations then evolve dramatically differently? Would the mating of conservatives with conservatives, and liberals with liberals, further enhance their distinct differences? In thousands of years, would the citizens of each country look physically different? I know this is an impossible experiment to perform, but it sure would be fun to see the results.
I might have an idea for a science fiction novel here.
Would the western states pursue an anti-science legal system, moving away from urban society, back towards small town rural living? Would easterners pursue science, becoming cyborgs, and create high-tech super cities? Would westerners allow diversity? Or would they move towards a conformity of looks and culture? Would easterners mutate into even newer forms of post-humans, genetically enhancing themselves even more? Would westerners become like the Amish, and halt the acceptance of technology? Would easterners run their nation on renewable energy and give up fossil fuels? Would the western states build a giant wall around their country, and reject globalism? Would they still build a large world-spanning military?
I could imagine the westerns states slowing their pace of living as they settled on a ideal conservative lifestyle, whereas easterners would embrace everything new and diverse, enjoying rapid change.
I can envision the westerners creating a Christian theocracy, although it would be a strange one where everyone would carry a gun. And eastern Americans would build a non-religious culture that oddly enough would appear like the meek had inherited the Earth.
And you know what’s funny. If conservatives created their own nation, I can’t imagine them ever electing Donald Trump as their leader. He neither acts, nor looks like someone that would fit in the west (or the east).
28 thoughts on “Are Americans Two Distinct Species?”
Actually they are increasingly separated. Look up “the big sort.”
Thanks. I had not heard of that book before, but I want to track down a copy now that I read about it here: http://www.thebigsort.com/home.php
Certainly within the bounds of possibility.
Holy Cow, Batman!
I just read a long excerpt of “The Big Sort” at the NPR website and it scared the you-know-what out of me. I think I’ll have to read the book too, although I’m not sure I really want to know more. And as for your idea for a novel JW, I’ll just say “TBS” could add a lot of color to it. Red and Blue at the very least.
What about Americans who’re in between?
Marshall, that’s a good question. I wonder what percent of America feels they aren’t in either camp? The country feels so polarized that it’s hard to imagine that some folks aren’t conservative or liberal. Although if you just take this election, I can easily understand there’s are millions that like neither of the two candidates.
I’ve been reading some websites run by radical feminists and they’re critical of both liberals and conservatives.
I can understand that Marshall. Neither party is working to solve our real problems. I can even understand why the conservatives hate Washington. But there is no going back. Free market capitalism is no more practical than communism. We have way too many people to downsize the government. And even though we’ve made grade strides towards equality, we’re a long way from true equality.
You might want to read “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” It is an essay by American historian Richard J. Hofstadter that explains part of the reason the American electoral is so polarized.
I’ll check into it. I did find the original essay: http://harpers.org/archive/1964/11/the-paranoid-style-in-american-politics/
And quite an essay it is. I guess I wasn’t reading about that stuff in ’64 at the age of 11. I do remember much of the then news and recent history such as Commies, Domino Theory, Bomb Shelters, Joe McCarthy and HUAC, etc. Not to mention the assassination of JFK. Putting together what is in Hofstadter’s essay and in the excerpt of The Big Sort is unsettling. It makes me think of, to borrow a title from RAH, “If This Goes On…”. Not the story, just the title. It also makes me wonder if the “united” will have to be removed from USA so it can be changed to the BSA. No, not boy scouts but the Balkanized States of America. And Golly Gosh, just how many will there be?
Maybe I WAS thinking of the story line as well.
Sorry JW if I keep straying away from a strict application of the theme of this blog article.
Hi James. Peoples opinions lie along a continuum. Polls are, well, crap. The dichotomy you’re pointing to is the result of our two-party system. It’s Democrat vs Republican, not Liberal vs Conservative.
Oh I agree John, few things in reality are digital, and most things are on a spectrum. Would we be better of with a multi-party system? There’s a vast population in the middle of our political spectrum that feel disenfranchised. On Tuesday night there will be tens of millions of Americans who are very unhappy with the election, no matter which side wins. We need to find ways to work together. Maybe we should give up on human politicians and elect artificial intelligences that are programmed to actually make the country a better place and sustainable. I think we should have more referendums to side-step politicians. I also think Congress should only vote on one law at a time, and quit bundling massive bills together. That lets them hide their shenanigans.
John R is quite right. As a libertarian, I often feel disenfranchised by the political system, as it’s rare that I can actually vote Libertarian. Many European countries have proportional representation instead of a winner-takes-all system, and this seems to allow for a broader spectrum of political ideologies to be active in government. While there are things that can be done to improve government ( I agree about getting rid of omnibus bills), ultimately, we have to ask not only what we want government to do, but what government is actually capable of doing. The only real, great “power” that government has seems to be the legal authority to initiate force on their citizens, which makes me doubt its ability to solve complex problems like climate change, or to do things better than they could be done without government, for example, education.
If only that were so. And trust me (?) I really do hope so.
Apologies if you meant the other James.
There’s an excellent TED talk on the subject by Jonathan Haidt, called ‘On the moral roots of liberals and conservatives’. Eye-opening stuff.
Where can I petition to have the west coast exempted from your east-west divide?
Don’t worry Cynthia, Americans could never agree enough to decide on how to divide the country. But look at this article that was in the NY Times the other day. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/04/us/politics/growing-divide-between-red-and-blue-america.html?_r=0 – it seems the country is divvying itself up.
I think you should write the novel!
That’s a very interesting concept!
Seems even truer today.
“Oh, my!” as Sulu said. There are now (as there has been for a while) Two Americas (OK, sorry, two American notso-United States) and we are either in one part or another. Urban USA is largely Democratic (aka we hire you folks to do the job of running the country the way we want you to do) and the rest of America – sub-urban and country-fied America that is mostly non-urban and Republican and demands that we stick to the historic understanding of the Union (aka Christian, including non-urban Catholics), and still focused on family life and the traditional beliefs that were the bedrock of this nation. And that was a long time ago.
Well, that bedrock is old and about to lose it’s ass. Not because it is wrong or no longer important. But because in a few years, unless things change dramatically they will no longer count. Even if the current Government and it’s appointees reign for the next 8 years, the backlash in that election will forever end their participation and impact. Regardless of how the Congressional districts are drawn (and that is another big story) the increasing urbanization of America will relegate the low population states to a secondary position. The wildest possible re-districting of Congressional voters cannot stop the increasing populations of cities from eventually dominating the electorate.
And that will truly divide this nation. Unless of course you all believe that Facebook and Twitter will bring us together.
If you do believe that, then I have some property in the desert I can sell you – 30 acres with a functional well. I can’t promise you’ll get any signal there, but you could pay for satellite access.
I’ve thought of writing a science fiction novel based on that idea, with “new people” using all the scientific resources evolving in the urban areas, and the “old people” staying natural in the rural areas living by anti-science beliefs.
That could be quite an interesting project. Research could get you out among the older and younger folks who are currently doing what the “old people” in the novel would be doing: living off the land. That assumes they would be living with minimal high-tech goodies, lots of heirloom plants and crops, livestock, and hunting and fishing to supplement proteins. Throw in some classical homemade medical supplies (and of course some homemade brew) and you’ve got a farming village.
You can even have lots of fun with plot/story lines regarding the distribution of resources between the two societies.
Put it on your list!
I pictured the old people going back to the land and the new people becoming transhuman in the cities. I think conservatives already reject where humans are going. My story would involve urban areas having liberal laws and rural areas having conservative laws, with buffer zones between the two that have a mix of laws. Part of our polarized politics is due to people thinking everyone should follow the same laws. We hate the people that want to make laws we don’t want to live under. What if we could choose to live where the laws matched out beliefs?
Just thinking about that boggles the mind. Cyborgs (or Bio-borgs if organic computing gets there), AI-assisted ‘umans, lots of fun with that. Unless you foster a breakthrough in one of the above, the scenario looks like a ways away in the future to me. Perhaps after one or several major events that further polarizes things? Rebuilding/generating new cultural
“civilizations” after this one suffers a non-fatal “train-wreck”?
You could spend an afternoon with a few friends and come up with one heckuva large spread sheet just to posit all of the variations in morals and beliefs. Once you winnow that down some the task will be to come up with the dominant forms who will band together to make the “olds” and the “news”. And then think of the fun of inventing the “buffer zones”!
And that’s just thinking about the northern half of this continent.
Now, for a plot…
I have the whole plot for my novel and thought of many wonderful science fictional ideas to throw into the story. My problem is writing fiction. I’m not particularly good at it. I’ve had a bunch of writing courses from an MFA program and even attended Clarion West in 2002, but I’m just not much of a storyteller. I’ve cranked out a couple novels and written about three dozen short stories, and what I learned from all my efforts is I lack a sense of drama. You have to make the reader feel emotions. If you can’t make them cry, you’ve got to make them laugh. I haven’t learned that skill.
I’ve been listening to the short stories of Philip K. Dick lately, and I marvel at how effective he was at dramatizing a situation. And I’m talking about his third-rate pulp stories that appeared in the early 1950s. I can’t even do that.
Think up ideas for science fiction novels is fun and easy. Actually writing a novel is something else altogether. But I sure wish I could, because I’ve got lots of ideas.
Well, may I suggest another time travel trip to look at a few others? Perhaps James Blish and Clifford D. Simak? They have completely different styles, and yet they gripped me back then – and still do now. I’ve started retracing my steps (more like bouncing around) through the authors that I read first in Astounding, SF&F, and their heirs from the 50’s-70’s. While some of their works are still available, the so-called “lesser” works frequently are not. Or at least not easily found. Some new small houses are putting out anthologies that I am glad to have found.
Unfortunately, there appears to be an art to writing stories that people cannot put down until they’ve finished. I certainly don’t know how that works, although I can tell when it has infected me. And frankly, SF of any kind other than “blockbusters” has a limited audience, and the way folks today approach a “book” is probably far different than I do.
Personally, I tend to bore my friends when I tell them stories (that are interesting to me) but then again I usually provide the refreshments so the quid more or less equals the quo. I suspect that is not a marketing approach that publishers would be willing to endorse.