“We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity; more than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.”Charlie Chaplin, 1889-1977
The 117th United States Congress is the current meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. At the national level, the “Give No Ground” strategy of the Indivisible movement (here) will focus on just ten seats. It is worth your time to discover how and why these campaigns developed since the rise of “…immoral crusades designed to sow division.”
If the above is the current “condition of political speech” in America, we suggest a different path. Have all political representatives publish their test results in a manner that sustains transparency and honesty.
Implicit Association Test
Would you take a test to discover the arrangement of biases you may maintain? In high school, I asked my father about race and why people protested for equal rights. A four-word response ended the conversation when he said, “They are not ready!” The interventions to produce readiness continue to this day. The actions necessary to break down thousands of layers of bias implied in his words remain continuous. Still, the effort to do so is a law leveled as us all in the U.S. Constitution. Because of this nation’s founding document, testing the attitudes and beliefs of people that are harmful to others reveals the actions necessary to reduce or eliminate that damage. However, the Constitution cannot stand alone in responding to the call for justice. New methods other than the law will be required. The following will explore strategies and techniques that can reveal the personal and interpersonal structures of bias, beginning with the individual and then to the millions of groups that form a diverse nation.
Scientists from the University of Washington introduced the scientific community to the Implicit Association Test (IAT) in 1998. With over 25 million tests and hundreds of peer review papers, it offers insight into how groups of people perceive the world. The IAT assesses the strength of mental associations stored in memory by measuring how quickly a person can categorize and associate specific stimuli. (here).
The Implicit Association Test (IAT) design reveals “the attitudes and beliefs people may be unwilling or unable to report.” One objective of the IAT is to assess whether one can learn and unlearn implicit attitudes. If that becomes a fact in science, then we are beyond doubt capable of examining the unconscious roots of thinking “right out loud” and our feelings “deep inside.” The website is old code, but numerous scholarly articles are available to sidestep personal experience.
Given this capacity to continuously learn, the next question becomes, how can that level of practice in self-awareness occur and recur in building a nation? Click the image below, explore the idea, and take the test. See how it works and comment on the experience.
The authors encourage participation in the test by saying, “The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about.” In addition, the difference between not knowing and being unable to learn is crucial to ending a relapse. It is more so if the recurrence damages others. Proof of control over a process is the ability to produce repetition, but if the action occurs due to an unknown source and is detrimental, how is an intervention possible?
Today, selecting participation in a group has fewer resource implications that affect the individual or the group. One can be a nonmaterial participant with basic expressions of loyalty. Services in exchange for these expressions may range from subsistence aid to offers of great wealth. In other settings, participants may seek full-blown forms of self-actualization. These services are provided by social entities such as governments, university societies, and religious organizations.
These institutions can be a physical presence in a community or, more recently, in digital space isolation. The underlying implicit associations in these digital environments have a massive data stream capable of establishing proof. Data looks into the past. First, it reveals the facts about post-trauma damage and leads to questions such as, “how did we get this condition?” Then, “what are we doing to remove harmful impacts?” and “where can solutions be demonstrated?” After that, the queries on “who” and “why” lead to actions that produce the political resources needed to deliver tangible change.
In The People’s Constitution: 200 Years, 27 Amendments, and the Promise of a More Perfect Union (here) by John F. Kowal and Wilfred U. Codrington III, we read all the changes from the initial document produced over the last 230+ years. To sustain it as a living document capable of recognizing new challenges, the authors present all of the flaws and extraordinary power of the founders’ dream to create a system of governance that is incapable of accepting authoritarian concepts of power. It is a story of system change from Prohibition (18th Amendment, 1919) to its repeal (21st Amendment, 1933) that recognizes the limits of power to the ongoing rise of the Equal Rights Amendment (27th Amendment) ratified by 38 States but well after Congress’ deadline of June 30, 1982. In January 2020, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the ERA leading to legal challenges. The authors eagerly criticize the idea of Constitutional originalism in recounting many accounts of the grand American experiment.
New methods are needed to reveal the implicit associations established in the desire to strive for controls that would inhibit the ambitions of kings and their makers. But, of course, the advancement of zealots, liars, and racists are free to exhibit and promote behaviors capable of destroying Democracy as ideologues. The American assumption is they remain at the outer boundaries of political discourse until the events leading up to the attack on the Capital provided proof that authoritarian power can be marshaled from the fringe into the action of a mob within weeks.
Consent of the Governed (as an “all of us”)
The ease with which the few govern appears surprising to those seeking change. The President, Vice-President, 435 Representatives, and 100 Senators are the few. Yet, they expect the public to absorb their attitudes, policies, and sentiments. Government work at all service levels in America represents about 15% of the labor force (20 million). We believe a new approach is needed if the electorate remains independent of the manners particular to these leaders and workers.
First, voting will become a mandatory box checked for every federal, state, and citywide election. This requirement can include abstention. See the discussion (here Brookings), (here ASH) (here IDEA), and (here Standford).
Second, use the Charlie Chaplin request (quoted above) if you worked through a couple of Implicit Attitude Tests. Not only can a person improve their “read” of character, but it can also be done with an improved “both sides” bias detector. Suddenly, a long list of choices becomes available to challenge or correct errors. Examples could be the presumed unchangeable structure of the Supreme Court, the antiquity and usefulness of the Electoral College, and the thousands of painful micro-failures and malfunctions possible during periods of rapid change. Exciting and interesting times indeed, but many curses to be cauterized nonetheless.
Third, you must pick one of these significant issues and work it out in every way you can imagine. Thanks in advance for sharing your ideas, actions, and choices. We would have never imagined thirty percent of them submitted to date. Wow. You are a clever bunch.
Adam said it best among the hundreds of writers like David Pepper working to discover a “fix” to our fear of a problem getting out of control.