The collective bias that protects us from death

Future of Being

Lately, I’ve been ruminating on our obsession with “oneness”. It’s everywhere. It surfaces as the teacher’s expectation for the child to choose one thing lest they be neglected by the system; it manifests as encouragement (read: coercion) from the labour market to narrow down and specialise to the nth degree; it smirks at us, mockingly, as we suddenly question our final vote down at the polling station. You’ll have realised by now that I’m not talking about oneness in the philosophical sense. Rather, I’m thinking about oneness in a more literal sense: as a collective bias to one.

Where does this bias originate? Did it emerge from our desire for security, stability and survival? After all, it’s much easier to trust in one belief than to be uncertain about many. Does it reflect the repercussions of widespread monotheism? Or is it all a hangover from a less globalised world in which we were all born into geographic and psychological monocultures that flattened our diverse worldviews into a singular narrative? Most likely, it emerged from a combination of all of the above, and more.

What startles me most is that our current dominant monoculture–one shaped by rational economic assumptions and values–has clouded our vision to such a degree that we no longer realise how our bias to one is threatening the very foundation of what makes us human: each other.

This continuous pursuit of oneness seeds a deep suspicion of anyone who utters a word to the contrary of their hyperpartisan political affiliation. They must be traitors. Or liars. But they are never just human. The reality, of course, is that to subscribe to every single policy and value spouted by one political party is to stifle or deny at least one part of your natural multifaceted self. This tragic sacrifice of the self is seen as a prerequisite to leading an uncontroversial life, where those around us can’t question who we are or why we do what we do. In this way, we avoid the risk of being ousted. Our collective bias to one protects us from our greatest collective fear: being alone.

February 23, 2024