Progress has been hampered by Binary Thinking. Binary thinking does not move outside the box. The box consists of two solutions to every problem. Heads or tails, my way or the highway. The box says there is only one answer. There is no synthesis between the sides. Even worse, there is no way outside. None of an infinite number of third options can even be considered.

Progress is reduced to this simplistic way. The media gets on board. It is a most convenient formula. We create a binary drama, deadlines are put in place, we make up fights, give enemies platforms.

It all boils down to a battle royale. Society is inured to this. It’s almost ritual.

Beyond the box

The fate of the TV drama “Madame Secretary” illustrates in an almost eerie way the political and social dilemma we face. It languishes in the same way our political majority does. It is rated somewhere above 50 percent but not high enough to be a runaway hit. It is a quiet winner to those who like it.

Clearly, we can see with the failed elections of this century in the United States the triumph of the binary. Al Gore would have won had we had the patience for an honest Florida recount.

We might have gotten that but for one vote on the Supreme Court.

Kerry and Obama

John Kerry might have ascended to the White House according to observers who contend that the 2004 election results were tampered with. Barack Obama made it fair and square but the poster child for binary, our GOP, ensured his presidency would be neutered and the rest is our current history.

So much for beyond the box. So much for a society willing to give serious thought to the issues that are currently being denied and ignored by what can barely be dignified with the word thought.

Can we agree on guiding values?

Moving forward, as we inevitably do, can we be guided by values on which all sides can agree? Can tolerance rise any higher than the acceptance levels than “Madame Secretary”?

Can helpfulness be esteemed at a winning level by both Democrats and Republicans? Can democracy in all its salient aspects be equally praised by all?

I think an honest answer to whether we are universal in approving Universal Values is not quite.

The nitty gritty

If anything, this brief excursion takes us to what may actually divide us. I may look on my universal values as self-evident. But there are many who see tolerance as having severe limits. There are many who see helpfulness as going thus far and no farther. There is clearly a substantial number who feel that democracy is more deserved by some than by others.

We have taken a somewhat circuitous route to the nitty-gritty. Values and how we define them will determine progress.