Rachele: Beyond Binary

Dec 14, 2016

Binary computer language is often used to describe people. One is either man or woman, black or white, gay or straight, Democrat or Republican, American or un-American, us or them. It’s simple. Right?

Wrong. We can be both simultaneously, and even more than both. It’s called identity freedom.

In Vermont, we’re finally beginning to appreciate non-binary political identities. But nationally and globally, we’re currently experiencing a glitch promoting a new brand of apartheid – that’s Dutch for separateness. And this presents us with a challenge we can and must surmount.

I’m not an optimist. I’m a pragmatist who loves the artful idea of an elegant universe. I love beauty, complexity and balance. As a social scientist, I have a passion for and curiosity about superstring and supersymmetry theories.

And since physicists now think we live in a time-space continuum that has at least 10 dimensions, I have to wonder why we imprison ourselves in identity politics that are strictly binary. Zeros and ones are not exactly the building blocks of an elegant universe.

The tapestry of our human existence is multi-textured and binary language is limiting – even offensively simplistic. So to overcome cultural divisiveness we might be better off trying to understand and apply a unified theory of everything than codifying and enforcing binary based concepts like Equal Employment Opportunity laws.

Recently, I did some research to see if I could find any relationship between theoretical physics, which tells us that we live in multiple dimensions at the same time, and binary code, which breaks our world down to zeros and ones. And what I found was the work of Dr. S. James Gates, a theoretical physicist, in which he reveals a beautifully complex and multi-dimensional world. But there, buried in his theories, were computer codes, like the binary codes in computer browsers – and I was back to zeros and ones.

Apparently there’s no escaping the dualism embedded in our systems for analyzing our world, from computer codes to genetics.

But in his article Binary Thinking in a Digital Age writer Peter Lurie observes that confronting the full spectrum of issues in political science and decision-making today requires a new, multivalent method of analysis in which conflicting perspectives can be rendered capable of producing imaginative solutions rather than deadening, zero-sum compromises.

That is, to achieve effective political diversity, we must learn to think across a continuum.