Monday, November 27, 2017
Triangulation and Space Alienation
Achieving world peace requires only one simple event:
A global attack by aliens from outer space!
Nations as clash-prone as the Russians and the Americans, the Chinese and the Japanese, and the Saudis and the Iranians would join forces to battle the alien invaders.
Because of triangulation.
The aliens presence would dissolve the rigid oppositional tensions funneling complex frustrations into focused projections onto whoever the “other” might be. These conflicts convert complexity into simplicity.
For example, rather than carefully consider and address the various reasons these nations quarrel, their citizens stereotype the opposing nation, think concretely about it, and project onto it. They blame the other nation for every form of their unhappiness; they attribute many of their own, internally-caused difficulties to this evil other.
Triangulation diverts conflicts.
Therefore, if we ever see alien space ships hovering above major international population centers, we would likely witness an unprecedented level of cooperation. Projections of awfulness between traditionally antagonistic nations would cease. Nations across the world would triangulate to unite against the new common enemy.
Triangulation occurs on a macrocosmic scale. Now that ISIS comes closer to ceasing to exist as a rogue state, for example, many nations in the middle east will resume prior rivalries. These conflicts went dormant while the shared, triangulated enemy, ISIS, persisted.
At the height of the ISIS caliphate, Kurds were allied with American forces and Europeans to dismantle it. As the third part of the triangle ends, Kurds have, as anticipated, turned against Turkey and Iran—seeking their independence.
The loss of an obvious, triangulated enemy also leaves the Syrian situation more precarious. Quite possibly, the civil war will either become more horribly intense, or a resolution will be found, because the distraction of fighting a common enemy, namely ISIS, is ending.
Triangulation also occurs in the microcosm. For example, it disrupts romantic relationships. Love brings hatred with it, part and parcel, and it’s difficult to integrate the two emotions.
If you are in a partnership, you know how tensions can build. You harbor simmering irritations; you feel ambivalent towards your partner; he or she annoys you in some other way.
If you can find no way out of these conflicts, you may turn to love triangles to avoid dealing with them. These may take the form of excessive overwork, extreme devotion to recreation like golfing or mountain biking, or (worst case) romantic involvement with a third party.
Whether involving nations or persons, these solutions share a common theme:
Involvement in triangles sidesteps conflict.
It’s a simple, common solution.
But it’s a problematic one because it oversimplifies.
Consider the example of the romantic couple:
Addressing the irritations, discussing the ambivalence, or expressing the annoyance will necessarily cause pain. Dialogue will be complex as well as painful. No wonder people retreat into their work, their hobbies, or their brothers-in-law.
Despite their delicious appeal, triangles cause endless problems in the micro- and the macrocosm.
Firstly, they promote indirect communication.
Secondly, they directly harm the party with whom the conflict exists.
Thirdly, they ignore the real problem by applying a salve rather than a solution.
A real solution, but one requiring maturity and patience, is captured by one simple word:
For all of the reasons just noted, dialogue is extremely difficult.
Moreover, our tendency to create splits, to nurture disputes, to project our badness onto others might be built into our DNA. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker once did a study in which he randomly assigned human subjects to two different groups. They quickly formed group identities and dissed the other group!
Like many other features of our biology, i.e. the problem of testosterone dominating the media of late, such projection processes must not necessarily become our destiny.
We could and should fight against such projection and oversimplification.
Despite the awful modeling provider by Trump—the king of projection (multiple levels of irony there)—we would be well served by encouraging dialogue between warring nations.
It would also behoove us to turn to our partners, express our irritations, listen to theirs, and engage in a detailed, laborious, extensive discussion.
Meanwhile, and if you enjoy avoidance, keep looking upwards.
Perhaps the space aliens are on their way.
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Alan Karbelnig, PhD, ABPP