The “Versus” Mentality of Our Times: Twenty-Five Conflicts


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

Tony MarsellaIn This Moment: Endless Conflict and Contention

31 Jul 2016 – Our nation and the world watched the Presidential Campaigns of the United States of America with great interest and hope. Would the campaigns yield new and innovative ideas and policies to resolve the growing flood of national and international conflicts, contentions, and competition, many assuming violent proportion?

A new reality was upon us! Yet the origins and consequences of the unfolding events, forces, and persons remained bewildering to many clinging to past beliefs and assumptions. A friend stated: “This is not my world! This isn’t the world I grew up in?” Another friend stated: “I feel like a stranger. I don’t belong here.”  It was that profound! The demands of the new reality exceeded the skills, talents, and habits honed in prior decades and generations. The changes were too many and too complex.

“Hegemonic globalization” (i.e., “globalization” dominated by major Western economic, political, and military sources) had created complex interdependencies without considering the profound implications “hegemonic globalization” would have for our individual and collective lives (see Marsella, 2008, 2012, in press).

Although one presidential candidate (i.e., Bernie Sanders) raised concerns about the new challenges of our times, the winning candidates relied on appeals to their distinct individual character virtues and acquired skills. They avoided specific replies in favor of broad platitudes designed to appeal to immediate emotional needs, but not substantive replies regarding pervasive conflicts. And when the candidates did venture into specific conflicts the result was often an inadequate solution (e.g., health care, tuition, privacy, race relations)

It is tragic! The final nomination conventions of the Democratic and Republic parties could best be described as theatrical gatherings devoid of substance. It is claimed one party paid $50.00 for actors to fill seats and clap on command.  These were media spectacles! Vacuous speeches, waving arms, and expected hugs and kisses mimicking a religious “adorational” celebration became the standard image. It is time to do away with this charade. Rethink the process and outcomes.

It is fake! Staged! No longer relevant to our times, a vestige of an idealized past, which itself was filled with corruption, cronyism, and criminal actions eluding pubic awareness by deft use and control of propaganda. Off stage, power brokers shaped images and garnered votes.  It is estimated this election will cost more than five billion dollars for election costs, much of it going for media coverage. And yet, as surveys indicate, neither candidate is welcomed by the public. This is the wealthiest and most power military nation in the history of humanity. “Who is in charge here?”  It is estimated there are 20 lobbyists for every congressional member. And we can no longer doubt the wealthiest people control the candidates? A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon it adds up.

Survival, Adaptation, Adjustment:

We are mired in endless conflicts of global proportion.  At stake: the future survival, adaptation, and adjustment of human and natural life as we have known it! The moment is critical. Conflicts abound! Their number, complexity, and connections pose enormous challenges. We are now embedded in a global “versus” mentality of conflicting and competing interests, concerns, and ideologies guideposts.

Call me a Jeremiah!  I accept the label! I do so because current conflicts have pushed humanity to the edge of survival. Our planet may survive, albeit in dramatically altered form; but all human life and natural life is in danger of extinction or radical transformation. We want and need proposals from those seeking leadership. The very election process is antiquated, and a theatrical charade deserving of a Shakespearean tragedy, history, and ultimately, dark-shrouded comedy, where each laugh brings with it an awareness of the ambivalence.

The “Versus” Mentality

Our nation and the world are now pummeled by “versus” mentality!  I use the “versus” mentality as a “trope!” By casting conflicts within a “versus” framework, there is an opportunity to clarify source and consequence.  The Rubicon has been crossed!

To a large extent, the “versus” mentality is exemplified in the former President George W. Bush, fateful words: “You are either for us, or against us.”  Seeds were planted: “There is a good side, and a bad side.” Seeds of ignorance!

How tragic! There will always be different sides; but the challenge to awakened minds is how to engage bring creative solutions to fractious challenges. At the core are differences! Failure to understand the nature and history of differences dooms humanity and the natural world future.

Table 1 lists twenty-three “versus” conflicts.  How many were discussed? Imagine each presidential candidate now asked by serious journalist to address these conflicts, if only to show a consciousness of the conflicts. I do not claim a comprehensive list or the best choices for inclusion.  Rather, the listing can be best be thought of as stimulation for discussion and debate.  Add and delete according to your preference.


The “Versus” Mentality of Our Times: Twenty-Five Conflicts

  1. Universal human rights versus Local, traditional, national rights, laws, regulations, policies. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).
  1. National unity, homogeneity, conformity versus Diversity, heterogeneity, and counter-cultures.
  1. Colonialism, imperialism, hegemonic globalization versus National sovereignty, self-determination, autonomy, traditional, indigenous identities.
  1. Hegemonic globalization controlled by the eight dominant economic, political and military powers versus Open and democratic control.
  1. Change versus (Rates, Severity, Consequences of Changes associated with Social-Technical and Military Imposition and Invasion).
  1. Westernization versus Non-Westernization cultural change and processes. The key here is “imposition.”
  1. Level-of-Living versus Quality-of-Life. (Indices of GNP and employment present positive views of national development and economic status, but do not reveal the absence or declining quality of life faced by the majority of people in the world).
  1. Spirituality versus Formal religious fundamentalism, extremism, dogma, theocracy.
  1. Militarism versus  Peace and justice.
  1. Foreign Nation Military/Cultural Occupation and Colonization versus National and Cultural Self-Determination (e.g., Okinawa, Afghanistan, Iraq);
  1. Equitable Distribution of Wealth, Power, and Position versus Concentration of Wealth, Power, and Position, within and across nations. This is the fabled 1% versus 99% issue (Now considered 2% versus 98%).
  1. Environmental Needs versus Human Needs and Wants. Exploitation of the natural world for human political, financial, and pleasure purposes. Development has become another terms for destruction, devastation, and obliteration of natural milieu.
  1. Natural Resource Sustainability versus Exploitation, Depletion, and Exhaustion of Natural Resources.
  1. Traditional (Conventional) Marital and Familial Life Styles and Laws versus Emerging Multiple Marital and Familial Structures and Styles (e.g., Single Parent, Gay Parents, Non-Marriage Couple Living, LBGT Adoption Options). Legal and regulatory contestations occurring.
  1. Gender and LBGT life preferences versus Traditional, Conventional, and Religious life preferences. This has come to the fore with the issue of bathroom and toilet signs favoring certain sides of the issue.
  1. Male (patriarchy domination) versus Female equality. The issue “misogynist” (Male hatreds of females) and “misandrist” (female hatreds of males) power options is at center of the debate. While “hatred” may be too strong a word, there is no doubt power is central to the issue.
  1. Unlimited Opportunity, Choice, Mobility versus Limited Opportunity, Choice, Mobility.
  1. My Identity (e.g., Personal, Cultural, National) versus Human and Life Identity.
  1. Polarized Tension Opposites versus Accommodation, Collaborative, and Exploration of Alternatives.
  1. Homogenization versus Multi-Culturalism.
  1. Race-based Power Biases (Beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors) versus Equality, unbiased views (e.g., Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, No Lives Matter, My Life Matters – maybe).
  1. Crystalizing Conflict: Palestine versus Israel (Above virtually all other national, cultural, and religious conflicts, the Palestine-Israel tragic conflict is the crystallizing source of all other struggles in the Middle-East at this time. This conflict, which actually began long before the UN 1948 decision to create a state of Israel, is a cauldron of versus
  1. Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Controls versus Human-Managed Technology.
  1. Surveillance, Monitoring, and Storage of all information; Invasions of privacy versus Legal, Constitutional, and moral rights and privileges.

25:  List One!  _____________________ versus __________________.

Each tension presented in Table 1 is complex, nuanced, and in need of careful analysis and study, especially with regard to its historical and situational origins, and its possibilities for resolution. The Table is relative to individual, collective, and national views. It is a starting place . . .  a template for awareness of the demands and requirements for human and natural life survival, adaptation, and adjustment. It is provocative!   Leaders and those in power are invited to reply to each. Readers are invited to ask: Yes, but what about ______________?


Marsella, A.J. (2005) “Hegemonic” globalization and cultural diversity: The risks of global monoculturalism. Australian Mosaic, Volume 12, #4, 15-22.

Marsella, A.J. (2012).  Globalization and psychology.  Journal of Social Issues, 68, 454-472.

Marsella, A.J (in press). Globalization. In F. Moghaddam (Ed.) Encyclopedia of Political Behavior.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu. He is known nationally and internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 publications noted for challenging the ethnocentricity and biases of Western psychology and psychiatry, and for advocating peace and social justice. He can be reached at


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 1 Aug 2016.

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