A Disturbing Thought

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A short piece with a possible reason terrorist type killings are increasing.

Submitted: November 07, 2017

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Submitted: November 07, 2017





I have had a disturbing thought.

I read an article the other day that was, and still is, very intriguing to me.  It concerned psychologists and sociologists being intolerant to ambiguity.  As an example of this intolerance, the article cited a study which had been done in Australia concerning a national referendum from 1967.  This discussion is a bit complex, so let's first discuss the referendum.

The Australian referendum of 1967 was a nation-wide vote concerning two issues: whether to allow the government to make laws concerning the Australian aboriginal peoples (blacks to the locals), and whether to include the blacks in the  national census.  At the time of the referendum, the blacks had already both attained citizenship in Australia and had been granted voting rights.  Proponents of the referendum, however, insinuated that these two rights were somehow connected to this new referendum and a vote for the referendum was a vote for voting rights and citizenship.  Therefore, we may consider that a vote for the referendum was a vote for voting rights and citizenship for the blacks.

The referendum passed by a 2 to 1 margin, indicating the majority of the population were not the feared "racists" that would raise political anxieties.  But, wait...that means that 1 in 3 voted against the referendum.

Bear in mind, standard sociological "contact-conflict" theory states that the more a people get acquainted  with peoples of different cultures (or ethnicities, or religions, or races, etc.) the more understanding they would become of one another and the more they would treat each other with respect.

In 1968, a sociologist by the name of Ian S. Mitchell initiated a study of this 1967 referendum to determine where the no (i.e. "racist") votes came from.  His findings fly in the face of standard thinking.  The vast majority of no votes came from areas with a relatively high aboriginal population or, in other words, those areas where there was more contact between whites and blacks.  This indicates that the more contact whites had with blacks, the more "prejudiced" they were. 

While many sociological and psychological laboratory studies contradict Mitchell's findings, these three irrefutable issues stand firm:

1.  These results were from real-life, not a laboratory study

2.  The study was not of a small sample of people, it was nation-wide

3.  The individual decisions were made in the privacy of a voting booth not

subjected to perusal by a laboratory scientist.

These three items lend a solid substantiation to the resultant findings.  However, the standard contact-conflict theory persists quite possibly (according to the article) due to the intolerance of ambiguity on part of the social scientists (the ambiguity being what social scientists want to think, and what , in reality, is the truth).What human being wants to think that our species has an inborn, innate problem (prejudice) that can't be resolved?  It just doesn't sit well with civilized peoples' mindsets of how things should be.  It makes all sense, on the other hand ,that the more contact one culture has with another, the more mutual understanding and respect for each other will occur.  Unfortunately, according to Mitchell's study, exactly the opposite occurs.  Perhaps the ambiguity is caused because there is a difference between mutual understanding and respect, and acceptance - but we really don't know this

Now, interaction of cultural differences were at one time separated from one another by days or even months.  In today's instantaneously communicative technology, this "time buffer" has shrunk to minutes or even seconds.  The world's cultures have not only been thrown together on a communicative basis, but also on a physical basis as world upheavals, ease of travel, and mass exoduses of peoples intermingle many quite different cultures.

Ironically, we again find ambiguity rearing its ugly head, only in a different manner.  The "world view" (how one sees oneself, who we are, why we're here, the reason for our existence, etc.) of various peoples is being challenged by radically different ways of looking at the world.  Ambiguity, like every other concept, runs the gamut from being completely tolerated to being completely intolerated.

Those intolerant of ambiguity tend to be at the far ends of the political and/or religious spectrums.  If one has difficulty allowing ideas that interrupt one's world view, then it would be easy to understand why I am having disturbing thoughts.  The present time has caused extremely divergent views of the world to clash head-on in an instantaneously communicative world.  Those zealous for their political or religious views now find themselves effectively living and standing next to someone who believes exactly the opposite.  This is, to say the least, unsettling to one's psyche; and at most, causes great stress to someone whose intolerance of ambiguity rejects ideas which oppose their world view. As a result, instead of foreign countries separated by time and language and world views coming to blows after years of mistrust, we now have the rise of various hate and terrorist groups who perceive that their very being for existence is called into question on a minute-by-minute basis.

I ask the serious question: can there be any other reason why someone would commit suicide for a cause?

"Man does not live by bread alone".  This is a well-worn, but time-tested passage.The resolution of ambiguity is a major driving force in human beings.  There is even evidence that it may be a "hard-wired", evolutionary survival tactic.  If this is so, and if the results of Mitchell's study of the Australian Referendum of 1967 can be taken at face value,  then we are in for some big trouble in the future decades.  Terrorist activity for the sake of one's world view is a recent phenomenon and seems to parallel the rise of instantaneous communication. What may be unfolding before our very eyes is uncontrollable, endemic acts of terror caused by a presumed attack upon one's reason for existence.

That's a disturbing thought.

© Copyright 2018 Thomas A. Roll. All rights reserved.

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