Skip to content

What Dr. Seuss Can Teach Us About Our Polarized Times

Who is making us more polarized?

We definitely live in an increasingly polarized world today whether it’s red or blue or it’s chocolate or vanilla, or just look at our computers.  They’re binary, ones and zeros.  It can be one.  It can be zero.  It can’t be anything in between.  If you look at the history of computing there was something called ternary logic, which could be one, zero or don’t care.  It never really set into culture or technology, but it was always there.  Why is this important?

It’s important because once we are polarized it’s hard to break out.  And what do we learn from Dr. Seuss?  The story of the Star-Bellied Sneetches is the best story on this question of red or blue, black of white.

The story goes something like this: these Sneetches have stars on their bellies, and there are those who don’t have stars who feel like “I’m like not as good.” And one day someone shows up with this big machine and says “You with no stars, I will add a star to your belly if you pay me.” So, of course, they start putting stars on their bellies, and feel “Ah, I have one now, this is great.”  Those with stars are like “Wait a second, I was elite, what happened to this?”

The guy shows up with a machine and says “You know what? I will take that star off of you for money as well.”  So meanwhile this guy is making so much money dividing everyone, star or not star.  The story ends when everyone realizes “Who cares if I have a star?”  

I love this story because it shows that there is someone controlling whether or not you’re starred or not starred.  That’s a question I have for any kind of polarization.  Who is making us more polarized?

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


Up Next