As I contemplate the deep divide between the American people and how to re-unite the country – or Britain, for that matter, after the divisive Brexit vote – I think of the work of Don Beck. A former professor of social psychology at University of North Texas, Beck, a florid 75-year-old Texan, is most known for a system he has developed called Spiral Dynamics, which identifies the fine gradations of belief systems and their level of complexity of any given society.
As a political consultant on resolving societal conflict, Beck calls himself a human “heat-seeking missile,” drawn to the world’s hot spots: South Africa, Palestine, Afghanistan, Israel. His current work attempts to break up the thinking that fuels us-versus-them prejudice by showing people on one side that those on the other side are not all the same.
In Beck’s experience, what often polarizes people or pulls societies apart is a simple lack of appreciation of the spectrum of different beliefs that exist in cultures outside their own.
“We don’t have the language of difference, so we tend to stereotype,” he says.