Cultural Silos

We find an American society today wherein people live not just separate lives, but in separate cultural enclaves. We have evolved into a social order that, in perception and in reality, isolates relationships. There is assimilation of individuals and the masses, primarily through education. Yet ethnically, socio-economically, politically and religiously, we are now largely divided into silos defined by our cultural diversity.

Ethnic groups tend to congregate and convene geographically within a city or rural area based upon the context of our historical precedents. Not all do, but many. Elements of the socio-economic strata have resulted in a different destination for urban and suburban development. Congressional redistricting has given us districts where a large majority of the population agrees on all political issues, galvanizing the citizens of that electorate on political ideology. Church denominations in principle adhere to the core concepts of religious belief. But in the application of those beliefs to current events, church leadership is more fractured than ever, leaving congregations and parishes more structured. Immigration has not yielded a blended network. It’s as if America today is a mixture as opposed to a solution. In a mixture, the resident parts remain distinct, as in mixing oil and water. In a solution, the component parts become a new entity, as in mixing sugar and water to make syrup. The syrup represents a blending of society that reflects a new whole, strengthening and supporting the parts.

New York is holding its Presidential primary today. This Presidential season has exposed dramatically the divisions in America.  Senator Bernie Sanders flew to the Vatican last week to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis. It wasn’t to ingratiate himself to Catholics, even though Catholics are per capita strongest in the northeast. It was to legitimize his pursuit of a “moral economy.”  This is the concept that the rich have more than their fair share, that the system is rigged against the average person, and that only socialism can distribute wealth fairly. This rhetoric further exacerbates the mindset of the people that they can’t escape their silo without limiting someone else’s. Since Bernie returned from Rome, he has drawn record crowds in Brooklyn. Yes, he was born there, but the message resonating with those constituents is that income redistribution is not only needed, but is a right of the people, and, in this sense, a definition of a “moral economy.”

Every other candidate running for office is in some way reinforcing the concept that social silos are real and that you have a right to maintain yours, even if it means taking from someone else’s.

We give a pass to professional athletes and entertainers. The prosperous world in which they live is acceptable. The silo they enjoy is derived primarily from an athletic or creative talent that lifts our spirits. In the past, competitive sports united us by cities. In the early 1900s through 1974, baseball was America’s favorite pastime. People related to teams city-by-city. Everyone in that city, regardless of ethnicity or economic status, supported their team. This unifying factor still exists today, but less so. The National Basketball Association may now be more representative of this support.

We should not seek to go back to the 30s, 40s or 50s.  Those were not great times for some segments of society. Prejudice did exist. Gender and wage inequality was real. But the point is this. Then, more so than now, we lived outside of our personal silos in a community silo.  There were joint interests, joint pursuits, and joint progress. Believe it or not, as a country, we even had joint dreams about a better future.

President John F. Kennedy’s often repeated famous inaugural quote is, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” What we could paraphrase today is, “Ask not what you want for yourself; as what you want for your fellow citizen.”

Following the New York primary today, the immediate debate will be whether or not Donald Trump can win the Republican nomination on the first ballot at the convention, and whether or not Bernie Sanders has a path for the Democratic nomination. The pundits and the talking heads will opine on how to align the silos. There will be little or no discussion about blending the silos into a common purpose society. It’s as if we can only envision a world where the fabric of society is a mixture of distinct parts rather than a free-flowing solution of a new common substance. To be bound by common purpose requires a commitment to common principles – principles that lead to a better life for ourselves and the next generation, regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic status, political ideology or religious beliefs.

What the country needs is a national convention that pursues the discussion of binding principles. Leaders should not be afraid to engage the public in honest dialogue that explores the true needs of society, its priorities, and acceptable solutions.

We may have inherited silos based upon historical events, past prejudices, dysfunctional families, or a privileged heritage. There will always be differences. God loves diversity. But diversity and difference of opinion does not mean that we can’t live together in common purpose.

What is important for the future is not just to know what we need, or to conclude what we think we deserve, but to know what we desire for each other. It requires compassion. It requires an understanding that diversity can be a positive attribute. It requires agreement that different talents leveraged benefit the collective.

It requires commitment to principles greater than ourselves.

My name is Marc Nuttle and this is what I believe.

What do you believe?