Dichotomies are Dumbing Us Down as They Drive Us Apart

Why multiple perspectives, identities, and stories are worth fighting for

Jodi Barnes, PhD
5 min readJan 3, 2020


As I tuned into a podcast conversation between Elif Shafak and Chris Anderson, founder of TED, I was admittedly distracted.

Until I tuned in.

After some years of studying, teaching, and working on ways to live with and learn from conflict (“handling” or “managing” conflict isn’t helpful because conflict is inevitable and most of it necessary for human development) I fell in love with Shafak’s eloquent ideas, all of which can be implemented by me. And you. Not our tribes or political identities.

A Clash Between Two Certainties

Whether it’s politics, religion or any perspective we tend to call a belief, the ability to dismiss other beliefs is now easier and achieved more expeditiously than ever before.

As both social scientist and novelist, Shafak begins with a powerful assertion:

We either want to get rid of faith or doubt, yet “we learn from both.”

To paraphrase Shafak’s intro,

faith is far too important to leave to the religious

doubt is way too important to leave to atheists

patriotism is too valuable to leave in the hands of nationalists

politics too dear to leave in the hands of politicians

identity politics is not simple or fixed

We are losing the emphasis on multiplicity.

What some of us think of as intersectionality, Shafak calls multiplicity. She reminds us that the white, male Walt Whitman penned, “I contain multitudes”. She asks us to recall the intersectionality of Audre Lorde, black, lesbian, civil rights activist, feminist, poet.



Jodi Barnes, PhD

Writer and Collaborator-in-Chief of https://www.14wordsforlove.com where small acts of writing, art and conversation create multicultural connections for good.