Brian K. Graham


Anyone who has written a blog knows what keywords are.  They are the words that help search engines to find our material.  If someone is searching for information about, say, vegetables pretty much anything that is written that contains the word vegetables is searchable.  What you may not have noticed is that we as humans also have keywords.


We tend to connect with others, or not connect with them, based upon the words they use.  If someone says the word “conspiracy” we begin to put them into a particular box.  If another person says the words “civil rights” we place them in another box.  Without even being aware we are doing so we are forming a bias about that person.  From just a few simple words we determine if the person to whom we are speaking is liberal or conservative.  The problem with this is that we do not get a full picture of the person before we overlay our bias.  We are jumping to conclusions.

For instance

If you were listening to me doing a public talk on the subject of Spirituality, you would identify me as a Liberal.  Then you would entirely miss that while I am indeed a social liberal, I am also a fiscal conservative.  Jumping to the conclusion that I fit into your bias’ regarding liberals or conservatives deprives you of my full range of thoughts.  Additionally you would dismiss what I have to say because once your assumptions about me are established you may close your mind to what else I have to say.

The great threat

By using keywords to categorize the value of other people leads us to the great threat of today’s society; the Zero Sum world.  The Zero Sum world teaches us that if you are not in alignment with my bias you are a threat, an enemy.  My belief is the Zero Sum way of life is the reason our social media is rife with recriminations, anger and in many cases, full out hatred.  Often we look back at a time when the political party not in power was thought of as the “Loyal Opposition.”  We maintained our own way of thinking, but honored that someone else’s idea might still have  validity.  It is this belief that because I have a different approach to life than you, I am not a threat to you.  I simply have a different idea.

Winners and losers

In one of the most important discussions ever held in this country there were no winners, no losers.  The crafting of the Declaration of Independence required tremendous compromise.  So did the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.  I think it is fair to say that everyone in attendance felt they had lost an argument and won an argument.  In the end, the most amazing series of documents ever written came to be.  Compromising on something is neither winning nor losing.  It is simply listening to another way of thinking.  Failing to listen to each other makes us all losers.

The end result

The end result of a Zero Sum way of thinking is divisiveness.  There is simply no way anything that comes out of Democrat position is always wrong.  Neither is it true that a Republican or Independent viewpoint is automatically flawed or dangerous.  What we end up with is, rather than a balanced approach to the future, we swing wildly back and forth.  There is no longer a middle ground.  We have entered the era of radicalized politics that are as dangerous as any radicalized religious belief.

Is there a workaround?

The workaround is to become aware of why we believe in a Zero Sum world.  Who is feeding us the message that if “they” are right “we” must be wrong.  The opposite also applies as well.  And of course the most important step we can take is to become aware of our own Keywords.  The truth has always had a home somewhere in the middle, at least that’s what I was taught.

Think about it.

I will have more thoughts about the effects of Zero Sum thought soon.  Meanwhile I invite you to read my book “It’s All About Me, The Involved Observer to get a handle on where your beliefs originate.  It’s available on

1 thought on “Keywords”

  1. Pingback: Zero sum thinking - Brian K. Graham

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *