Centers vs Borders
Martin Gurri's The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium (2018 edition) is the textbook for explaining the discombobulation that we peoples of the world feel today. We want discord to go away; he says it can't. Here's why.
Gurri divides the world into two: a Center made of elites (gov’t, media, academia, corporations) directing their decrees and products at the Border, which is made up of all others. In the past, Border people tended to accept what was pushed at them -- limited policy options, limited news, limited job possibilities -- so much so that they became to be known as the Silent Generation. Then technology came along.
Technology allows the Border to think and act and produce independently of the Center. The Center is furious at its diminished power, and so we hear it lashing out, accusing us of being fascists, bitter clingers, deniers, and deplorables. In turn, the Border sees the Center as inept, thieving, self-obsessed, unaccountable, and hypocritical.
A second key to understanding the split is that it is not between left and right; we see the Border and the Center on all sides of political thought. In the USA, for instance, we have seen Socialists fighting their Democratic party and Tea Partiers fighting their Republican party. My wife notes that Trump may well have came to power by taking advantage of the Center-Border divide: he is a Center person who made his appeal to people living on the Border. It explains Brexit, which was not so much a desire to leave the ultra-Center EU but a revolt against the Center in England.
Gurri’s further point is that even though the Border now has power, it is unable to replace the Center, because only the Center is organized enough to run things, no matter how ineptly. As for the Border, it is too diffuse to develop and implement policy with sufficiently broad appeal. Both need each other, even as they despise each other.
The lack of cohesion is due also the the inability of the Center to receive feedback from the Border. Even when it does, the near-unlimited variety of demands made by the Border overwhelms the ability of the Center to respond.
Closer to home, this explains why large CAD vendors are tone-deaf to the concerns of users, whether the Revit-Autodesk conflict or the Solidworks-Dassault disconnect.
The solution? There is none. Gurri thinks the current discontent is unresolvable, and may well carry on for decades. There is no unity to be had. He hopes that a new form of democracy will eventually emerge, but he (like me) says we can never predict the future, not even tomorrow.
Women vs. Government
An excellent Border vs. Center example took place this week. The political and medical elite of the Center in Canada's province of British Columbia announced that 55-65 year-olds could get the AstraZenica vaccine from local pharmacies. My wife and her friends in the age range were conflicted, because other elites at the Center (primarily from Europe) has been declaring AZ ineffective, dangerous, age-restricted, and the cause of blood clots.
It was the death-by-blood-clot that concerned the women the most, as women are affected by them more often than men. Their conflicted choice was between suffering from coronavirus or from a blood clot. So these people on the Border used technology to confer through their smartphones and texting apps to make a consensus decision, independent of the Center.
(In the end, they decided that it was more likely for them to catch the virus than a clot. With the decision made, they then learned that just 13,000 doses were available for the 490,000 persons who are in their age group.)