A House Divided
a book by Mark Gerzon
(our site's book review)
Gerzon’s thesis is that America is fragmented into many different factions all fighting for the soul of America. Almost any issue can be flash points for bitterness, anger, hatred and violence. “The range and intensity of these disputes has become almost overwhelming.” And there is little constructive debate. Mostly there is propaganda, exaggerations, divisive sound bites and demagoguery. “The media, the courts, the political campaigns—all have become gladiators’ arenas. Trust between citizens has been replaced by fear.” The problem is no longer the Soviets’ “evil empire.” It is now us. “We have met the enemy and he is us,” as Pogo said.
American political campaigns are nothing but distracting gladiator contests
What is the mission, both overt and covert, of the mainstream press members? The overt mission is making a buck by giving the public the latest news. The covert mission, if you dig into how the corporatocracy actually functions, seems to be a combination of infotainment to grease their popularity wheels, and aiding the powers-that-be in pacifying the public and keeping them ignorant about some areas the powers-that-be do not want them to think about, while they provide distractions and perform a sleight-of-hand trick (Democrats and Republicans pulling in opposite directions so nothing ever changes—which is what the corporatocracy insists upon) so the public has too much to think about to dwell on the areas covered by alternative media like AlterNet who—though marginalized—cover the REAL issues and the REAL truth about them, for the most part. (So the X-Files show was right: "The truth is out there"—but only if you know where to look: AlterNet and The Big Answer.)
Metaphor for political sleight-of-hand: the pushmi-pullyu
He also has a warning for the apathetic and disaffected: “In a democracy whose vitality depends upon participatory self-governance, passivity is a political act.”
The author advises us to: “. . . face our differences, respect them, and learn from them. Only by doing so can Americans reunite our divided house and save America’s soul.” This was written in 1995, but refers to the “A house divided against itself cannot stand” comments of Abraham Lincoln from 1858.
As a publisher, family therapist, activist, and president of a small film company, Gerzon gathered credentials and experience relevant to the writing of this book. He also launched a successful Entertainment Summit between U.S. and U.S.S.R. film studios in the mid-80s which helped set the mood for the end of the Cold War. And he was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation in the late 80s to address questions about establishing a new world order and establish new strategies for approaching complex international problems. Later this same foundation had Gerzon and his colleagues embark on community building via The Common Enterprise project, to help reconnect diverse groups of Americans who were often in conflict with each other and assist them in finding common enterprises in which they could join hands.
Amidst all the polarizing forces in this country, Gerzon stands as a strong force for unity. And there’s a movement for revitalizing America that stands with him. It’s happening at the local level—in our communities. (Frances Moore Lappé is another person trying to help us unite for the sake of democracy and community. The Communitarian Network is another. Don Eberly is another. There are plenty of others.)
Culture Wars degenerate into civil wars, as historians know. If nothing prevents it, this will happen with the American Culture War as well. Gerzon says we need to quit trying to get others to adopt our beliefs and, instead, try to find common ground. The six main belief systems vying for America’s soul are, in Gerzon-think:
- PATRIA: The Religious State. Its gift for America is its faith. The danger of this state is its dogmatism.
- CORPORATIA: The Capitalist State. Its gift for America is its ingenuity. The danger of this state is its materialism.
- DISIA: The Disempowered State. Its gift for America is its conscience. The danger of this state is its defeatism.
- MEDIA: The Superstate. Its gift for America is its communication. The danger of this state is its sensationalism.
- GAIA: The Transformation State. Its gift for America is its vision. The danger of this state is its elitism.
- OFFICIA: The Governing State. Its gift for America is its leadership. The danger of this state is its divisiveness.
This is a relief from the moronic oversimplifications of the right-left and conservative-liberal dichotomies. But can this reconceptualization help us to transform the Divided States of America (the 6 above) into a new United States of America? (See Bold New World: The Essential Road Map to the 21st Century for a more comprehensive look at the Divided States of America.) Paradoxically, the only thing uniting these states at this time is their feelings of isolation. Gerzon feels that the main isolating factor is the division into the various belief systems (“states”) above, and the main cure is common ground. (To us, the unifying force of reconnection most likely to successfully dispel the isolation, fear and suspicion, for dozens of reasons you probably know by now, is the MC movement. Without that, finding common ground can be predicted to prove inadequate.)
In their masterful Wave thesis, the Tofflers found that beyond just beliefs, it is the civilization category (First Wave agriculture, Second Wave industry, Third Wave information age) differences of people, areas, and nations that divide them so dangerously, and the solution is for everyone to realize these truths, learn how to create 21st century democracy that reflects Third Wave realities, cease pushing to avoid change or return to the past and begin accommodating needed changes maturely, find peace-forms to deal with the international realities of omnipresent war-forms, utilize socially necessary order as opposed to surplus order, adopt the new ecological-holistic paradigm to balance the old mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm, and attempt to transcend the lower quality sources of power—force and wealth—by the constructive application of the highest quality power: knowledge.
(MCs, often in the form of expanded electronic families, are the highest known manifestation of all of these ideas at the local, family, individual and neighborhood level, and MCs’ “close encounters of the third kind” (extending MCs into the nation and world as people desire it) are the foundation for dealing with the needed unity and peace-forms and conversion to highest quality power at the macro, nonlocal level. See Why Register for an MC?.)
Registering for MC search and match
Electronic cottage of expanded electronic families
Gerzon wants us to become “new patriots” who transcend conflicts over beliefs and accommodate all six “states,” in an ecological-holistic, systems perspective that strives to represent the whole. New patriotism is rooted in love, not hate; positive power, not negative power; learning, not dogmatism; happiness and the hope of it, not pain and the threat of it; reconnection, not divisive rhetoric; and accommodation, not estrangement. It’s about uniting these Divided States of America. It’s about understanding, not dogma. It’s about democratic principles applied, not accusations by authoritarian moralists.