Binary Thinking

[Back to Improving Ourselves]


This is a common theme running through many of the issues we face: it is very easy to see the world as a set of binary choices - either this is true, or that is.  Climate change is either man-made, or it is not; euthanasia is either a good thing or a bad thing; we have to support global capitalism or reject it.

In real life, some of our choices really are binary: either I apply for this job, or I don't.  But even then, other possibilities might exist: perhaps I could apply and ask about the possibility of a job share, or part-time work, being based in a different office or working from home for part of the week?

But, even if our choices are sometimes binary, the issues we face rarely are.  Supporters of each side may like to present us with a binary choice, and paint the opposition in the worst possible light, but very often both truth and goodness can be found in both camps if we look hard enough.

Tribal Thinking

Linked with the temptation of binary thinking, we have the reality that we belong to various kinds of tribes, and these tribes are frequently in conflict with one another - and even when we don't belong to a tribe, we often feel the need to identify with or support them.  So, while people in the UK are unlikely to be citizens of Israel or Palestinian, many people in the UK are very clear that they support one side or the other.  And, if you express any support for people on one side, you are automatically assumed to be against the other side.



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