By Robert A. Vella
The dynamic of cultural polarization transpires in the following manner. A divisive imbalance or imbalances are created in society, typically economic in nature, which initially triggers escalating rancor between established groups and subsequently results in the fragmentation of such groups. The cultural identity which is necessary for functioning nation-states is destroyed, and the people self-segregate into increasingly smaller associations which bicker among themselves over a much wider and less vital range of issues.
In case after case we’ve replaced attachments to large established institutions with commitments to looser and more flexible networks. Levin argues that the Internet did not cause this shift but embodies today’s individualistic, diffuse society.
This shift has created some unpleasant realities. Levin makes a nice distinction between centralization and consolidation. In economic, cultural and social terms, America is less centralized. But people have simultaneously concentrated off on the edges —- separated into areas of, say, concentrated wealth and concentrated poverty. The middle has hollowed out in sphere after sphere. Socially, politically and economically we’re living within “bifurcated concentration.”
Many academics, from across the political spectrum, have cited the precipitous decline in America’s education system as causing the anti-intellectualism and rejection of objective truths which are rising in this era of Postmodernity. But, whether cultural polarization has resulted from the political consequences of poor education, or from the failure of political leaders to prioritize social unity over partisan concerns, seems almost irrelevant now. We are where we are.
And, where America is right now cannot be seen in a very positive light. The political right has been taken over by its ultra-nationalist, quasi-fascist extremists led by the megalomaniac Trump, and the political left has split into various factions preoccupied with their own narrow agendas.
One of those left-wing factions, feminism, provides a current case study of how badly the situation can get. Hard-liners in the #MeToo movement have turned their anger towards more moderate voices in the vain hope of forcing some grand revelation about the nature of human sexuality. This has predictably elicited backlashes from many angles, particularly from men who do not see themselves as sexual criminals. The merits of the following story may or may not be valid but, regardless, help illustrate the point of this post.
California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus who has been at the forefront of the movement against sexual harassment in the state Capitol, has herself become the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct. The Bell Gardens Democrat said she would “participate fully” in an investigation.
Politico reported Thursday that two men said Garcia made improper advances toward them. One, a former legislative staffer, said Garcia groped his back and buttocks and attempted to grab his crotch during a legislative softball game in 2014.
The former staffer, Daniel Fierro, told his former boss, Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) about the incident several weeks ago, his office said. Calderon then reported the incident to the Assembly Rules Committee.
Gloria Jean Watkins (pen name bell hooks) is an American author, feminist, and social activist who wrote about the importance of inclusion, Extrapolating her work to the problem of cultural polarization provides a warning for all such movements which lose track of the larger societal picture. From Wikipedia:
Noting a lack of diverse voices in popular feminist theory, bell hooks published the book Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center in 1984. In this book, she argues that those voices have been marginalized, and states: “To be in the margin is to be part of the whole but outside the main body.” hooks argued that if feminism seeks to make women equal to men, then it is impossible because in Western society, not all men are equal. She claimed, “Women in lower class and poor groups, particularly those who are non-white, would not have defined women’s liberation as women gaining social equality with men since they are continually reminded in their everyday lives that all women do not share a common social status.”
She used the work as a platform to offer a new, more inclusive feminist theory. Her theory encouraged the long-standing idea of sisterhood but advocated for women to acknowledge their differences while still accepting each other. Hooks challenged feminists to consider gender’s relation to race, class, and sex, a concept known as intersectionality. She also argues for the importance of male involvement in the equality movement, stating that, in order for change to occur, men must do their part. Hooks also calls for a restructuring of the cultural framework of power, one that does not find oppression of others necessary.