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A New Idea for a Divided World.

The 'Companion Flag' is a symbol of all that human beings have in common in spite of our many differences. It's meant to be displayed below the other flags of the world on the same pole, never alone. (Thus, the name). Together, these flags signify:

"Here we are proud of our differences, our diversity, and our special affiliations, but we are mindful, too, of our essential humanity and all that we share in common with people everywhere."

What are some things that we all have in common? Consider:

the love of children • the desire for health and knowledge • our susceptibilities to pain and pleasure, illness and injury • concern for the safety and happiness of loved ones •  our shared range of emotions • the experiences of birth, aging, and death •  the desire to be accepted for who we are, and treated with fairness and honesty • our reliance on the fundamentals of human logic and rationality • our creation and use of tools • the love of music and stories • the desire to understand others and be understood by them when communicating • our vulnerabilities to mishaps and unforeseen circumstances • our reliance on plants and animals • symbolic thinking • the need for food, water, and clean air • an awareness of our imperfection • the need for sleep • our instinct for survival • the desire for friendship and affiliation • a sense of wonder at the mysteries and vastness of the universe ….

But why use a companion flag? Won't that distract from the other flags?

Let’s call the flag on top ‘the host flag’ for ease of reference. You’re asking, “Won’t the Companion Flag distract from its host flag?”

No. Pointing out the reality that ‘People are in some important ways different, and in other important ways the same’ doesn’t distracts from the fact first raised in that sentence: that we are in some important ways different. The counterparts here – human differences and samenesses – are complementary and reciprocal, not contradictory. Each is subsumed within (and constitutive of) the whole of our natures.

What is challenged and negated over time by flying the Companion Flag is a false and misleading inference that (I fear) arises automatically in the minds of very young children today when they see their parents and other adults focusing solemn attention and admiration again and again on flags that divide-off and celebrate a set of human differences only. “Only” being the key word.

The unintended implication that very young children “read into” this highly public, worldwide symbolic practice is the following: that in the social world of adults, adolescents, and older children which they will join in a few years, how people differ from each other not only matters a great deal, it’s all that matters, period! And this can only mean one thing: that our human samenesses – many of which, I’m convinced, young child take note of by age two or three – these are to be ignored or treated as trifles, unworthy of mention.

The Companion Flag changes that perception, of course, and is designed to do so. As a child comes to understand its meaning, he or she will be dissuaded from drawing the false and misleading inference that only our differences matter.

Adding the Companion Flag points toward a different, previously unnoticed path forward; one that is consistent with our species' true capacity for coherent MORAL ACTIONS. Whether to take the new path is a matter left to each person's best judgment.

How? Not just by negating an incorrect and misleading childhood inference about what it is that gives our lives meaning, but by focusing our attention on something else, as well. An historical error of enormous breadth and consequence –  one that originated thousands of years ago with our earliest ancestors; has passed unnoticed (and unremarked) from generation to generation since; and would still be unnoticed and undetectable today but for a series of jaw-dropping discoveries about how the human brain works in the run-up to our individual and interpersonal decisions and behaviors. We have the worlds neuroscientists, cognitive and developmental psychologists, and philosophers, to thank.

What is this error? It’s difficult to encapsulate in a few words, for it’s buried deep in our species’ collective unconscious.

 

Perhaps the best way to gesture at it is to look at how it shows up in our day-to-day lives. It shows up as an unthought, unreflective (autopilot) presupposition of fact (or ‘given’) that we (again, non-consciously but invariably) take for granted as part of the causal scaffolding and justification behind every instance of one particular human behavior: that is, our intentional actions performed with knowledge that they are likely to impact the well-being of another person or group of people, for either good or ill.

A presupposition telling us – what exactly?  The the logical coherence of intentional actions performed by one person (say, Person A) with knowledge that her behavior is likely to impact the well-being of another person (say, Person B) can be determined on the basis of A’s awareness of one or more of B’s ‘human differences’ only – that is, without adding to the content of her awareness of B in the run-up to her behavior an awareness of one or more of B’s ‘human samenesses,’ as well.

Thanks to the explosion of scientific discoveries just mentioned, and especially those revealing for the first time the surprising role that our brain’s unconscious “affective” impulses play in pre-directing and -shaping our intentional behaviors, it’s now clear that this ancient, conventional presupposition of fact is (and has been from the beginning) false. We can now see that for an actor to base any ‘moral action’ (see Glossary, below) on ‘difference awareness only’ is logically incoherent from the start and therefore no longer intelligible anywhere in the world.

The error is correctable. Adopting and displaying the Companion Flag is a step in that direction.

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