First, let’s get one thing straight: Penguins do not live in the arctic. That makes this picture scientifically accurate even if it’s not drawn to scale. It’s just not very realistic. That’s because Santa’s mythical (sorry, kids) and penguins can’t talk. As a result, they can’t communicate in the slightest. Yet here I have them depicted as the most important beings on Earth. You can’t even see the other people living between the poles or hear what they’re saying. This, unfortunately, is the state of our society. Santa and the penguins. I actually have a call to action at the end which may as well represent global warming.
So the analogy may be a bit of a creative stretch, but here’s why I did it. Earlier this week I watched a TED Talk by Adam Davidson on what we can learn from the US fiscal cliff. It was, in my opinion, a reasonably balanced discussion of the government’s spending and income. There were roughly the same number of moments that would make someone say “Now THAT’S what I’m talking about” or “Seriously? Really?” regardless of your ideology. And there were very few of those moments. One of the bright spots to me was the observation that while there is much pundit talk at either polar end (Santa and the penguins duking it out), most individuals are flexible on individual issues. They’re willing to actually look at an unbiased statement and see both sides of the issue. They’d go down a ballot and check boxes on both sides.
I posted it on Facebook and tweeted the link since I’m no longer on a self-imposed social media lockdown. I described it as a fair discussion that everybody could learn from. Oddly enough, it didn’t get many clicks or comments. We’re so attuned to extremism that we tune out these middle voices who are either overshadowed by Santa and the penguins or we don’t want to speak up and get on Santa’s bad list or… avoid whatever a mad penguin would do (work with me here). So later in the day I reposted the video a few times with some statements all in caps and obviously worded to make people fired up. That got more interest. That’s why I named this post what I did and drew the crazy picture.
And this is the problem with our society as a whole and our government in particular. Those of us who don’t live at the poles aren’t heard or served. We post biased and slanted statements and don’t look for middle ground that actually works. Congress refuses to do its job and even start a discourse. Each election we have votes out the ineffectual group and brings in a fresh set that assumes it has a mandate to do the opposite of their predecessors. That gets us nowhere and continues to polarize the country as the people who defended/slammed Bush now slam/defend Obama. It seems as if the poles are actually growing larger and that’s counter productive. If they meet at the equator then we will have an ice age of frosted-over ideas.
It’s my hope that we will show enough dissatisfaction with the status quo and that the cycle will somehow break. Spread some global warming. Not actually by damaging the environment, but by warming to other ideas and not being glacially locked into your own point of view. We don’t need this kind of polarization. Stop making inflammatory posts on social media that you’d be embarrassed to say in a crowd of unknown people. Don’t unwaveringly stand for an extreme which will never happen or would force the rest of the world to bend to your will. Don’t ignore blatant scientific fact or mathematical truisms in order to spread a bias or an agenda.
Do start listening.