Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Slater: Why America is Polarized

Recently Wildwest recommended that I read a blog entry at I am a Christian Too, specifically, Slater: Why America is Polarized. I finally took him up on it and read it over the weekend. Today, I looked back at IAACT and found this reply from Wildwest to the comment I left there:

"Jacke, I enjoyed reading your comments about Slater’s article. Iwould encourage you to send your comments to Philip Slater. His e-mail address is on his home page."

So, I took him up on that recommendation, as well.

Following is the email I sent to Dr. Philip Slater:

Dear Dr. Slater,

I recently posted a comment about your thesis "Why America is Polarized" at
I am a Christian Too » Slater: Why America is Polarized. A friend suggested that I should send you the comments, so I am taking him up on it.

I found many, many things I could comment upon in reading Philip Slater’s “Why America is Polarized,” but I think I can sum it up this way. America has always been in the process of accepting change and America has always experienced different levels of polarization in the process. I disagree with many of Dr. Slater’s hypothesis, primarily having to do with “human nature.” He appears to suggest that culture dictates human nature, this simply is not true, culture does not dictate human nature. Human nature is not dictated by external circumstances and exterior action. Human nature is more about internal motivations — things that are common among ALL men, regardless of where they live, regardless of custom or culture. Human nature is instinctual and fixed, attitudes may change, human nature remains the same.

As far as breaking down our society into a “Control Culture” vs a “Connecting Culture” both “cultures” communicate and both “cultures” cooperate. I disagree with the idea that our society can be placed into these two little boxes so neatly, just as I have always disagreed that we can generalize too broadly about “progressivity” or “conservatism.” Both Dr. Slater’s “Control” and “Connecting” Cultures seek the same goal. We are all controllers, we just use different means of reaching our goal.

Slater uses the example of “breaking” a horse in the traditional “broncobuster” manner as opposed to the “horse whisperer” method. In the end both the broncobuster and the horse whisperer seek and achieve the same goal, control over the horse, use of the horse and dominance of the horse. Both are controllers using different methods. People cooperate and communicate generally to get what they want, to win the argument, to win the battle, to fix a belief already held or to change to another fixed belief. People are just not that malleable and to suggest that the “Connecting Culture” attitude is completely free of the want or will to become the “Controlling Culture” is just simply dishonest.

Slater says: “The only thing that can be expanded indefinitely is communication—relationships, linkages. And that’s what Connecting Culture is all about.” I beg to differ. That is what LIFE is all about and always has been.

Under the caption of “The Legacy of the Sixties,” Slater writes: “Few people recognized the common denominator to these movements, and the various groups involved—hippies, anti-war protesters, civil rights activists, feminists—engaged in loud and bitter arguments about priorities. But the significance of the period should not be underestimated. For the first time every assumption of Control Culture was being called into question by a substantial segment of society.” The reason for these loud and bitter arguments was to exert CONTROL in an effort to move our society in a different direction. Connecting and Controlling are the same, again, they only use different tactics to gain control.

Slater says “it would be nice if some sort of compromise were possible.” There will be compromise. That’s how change occurs and it is inevitable. There is a center, it simply remains unrecognized right now, it is there, just as always. If, as Slater seems to be suggesting, the Controlling Culture is on it’s way out to be replaced by the Connecting Culture at the point that it is accepted, the Connecting Culture BECOMES the Controlling Culture. Further, he claims that basic values or fundamental principles will smother themselves out…I disagree. I believe that, since, unlike Chinese communism of Mao Zedong, America has lived under a system of Democracy and Capitalism, that the smothering will come from an overload of debauchery in our case and that debauchery will smother itself out rather than the opposite, as Slater suggests. That’s human nature, human nature will return to a state of support for basic values and fundamental principles. We will not continue to spiral into chaotic oblivion wherein Slater seems to think that communication and simple cooperation are the end goal of the Connecting Culture, that is merely the means to their goal. The goal is and always has been about control.

For these reasons I feel that Slater’s paper is an exercise in futility. As hard as we try to pretend we are living in unique and incomparable times that is simply untrue. It is just as Richard L. (another commenter at IAACT) said “No delusion of a New Day or New Rules will allow us to escape the consequences of our actions. What has gone before will be repeated once again. There is nothing new under the Sun.”

Comment by Jacke — 3/11/2006 @ 10:17 am

To read Slater's blog entry, yourself, click on this link: Philip Slater: Author and Playwright


wildwest said...

I hope you get a reply.

Jacke M. said...

That'd be interesting, but I won't be holding my breath! ;)