October 19, 2010

Web Exclusive: An Oppositional Society

Posted: 05:52 PM ET

By Rebecca D. Costa
Author of The Watchman’s Rattle

It must be obvious that we live in oppositional times.

No matter what candidate, ballot measure, idea or program we put on the table, those who will oppose it always far outnumber those who are willing to advocate.  It isn’t even a close call.

If you doubt me, just listen to any radio talk show that encourages its listeners to phone in, or read the Sunday letters to the editor.  By an overwhelming majority, we oppose. In fact, so much so that it’s easy to see why we have become gridlocked in the nation’s capital.  If we oppose every solution, then how can we progress – the last time I checked, pervasive opposition was the same as gridlock.

For example, take increasing our troops in Afghanistan, illegal immigration, healthcare, social security, epidemics of autism and depression, climate change and offshore drilling regulation.  Opposition everywhere.  It doesn’t matter which side we take, we don’t like what has been proposed, though we don’t really have any solutions either.

What causes a society to mistake opposition for advocacy?  What makes us passionate about what we are against?  Become our greatest obstacles toward progress?

The answer lies in a pattern of human behavior that is as old as the organism itself.

When the complexity of the problems we must solve exceeds the cognitive abilities we have evolved to that point in time, we reach an impasse.  In a nutshell, human beings cannot progress any further than evolution will allow.  We simply do not have the biological capacity to understand and solve every problem we face, despite having the biological imperative to continue progressing.  So what do we do?  History shows that we begin substituting unproven beliefs for facts and rational thinking.  Over time, irrational beliefs find their way into public policy and once this occurs, great civilizations begin to decline.

If that sounds like a mouthful, then just take a look at where we are today.  Climate change?  We can’t even agree on whether it’s a real problem or not.  How about healthcare reform?  First we pass a complicated initiative that few people can understand and now we want to stop it because it is imperfect.  Never mind the reality that there will never be a perfect initiative.

But perfect or imperfect, don’t we need to do something?  Venture capitalists seem to do well even with an 80% failure rate.  In a business where no amount of due diligence in the world will lead to perfection, venture capitalists know that the impact of a few wins is enough to dwarf the losses.


We now find ourselves facing the same realities that venture capitalists face everyday.  When it becomes impossible to pick the winning solutions from the losers, we have to accept imperfection and waste.  That’s just the way it goes, lest we oppose everything and progress stops.  Imagine a venture capitalist that opposed every investment opportunity that came across the desk because they had a better than 80% chance of being wrong – how long would they stay in business?

It can be demonstrated that over time, the human brain – which requires millions of years to evolve new capabilities – begins to lag behind, and it becomes unable to separate solutions that will work from those that will fail.  Take the recent Gulf oil spill as an example.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men believed dropping a concrete box on top of the hole was our best option.  Three weeks later we discovered that wasn’t going to work.  Then we tried drilling through the side of the main pipe to siphon off pressure and oil, and two weeks later we discovered that wasn’t going to work either.  Fortunately, our third try hit pay dirt: the static kill method.  But what if that had been solution number 86?  What would the fragile southern and eastern seaboard look like today as currents swept the oil this way and that?

If we had honestly faced the limits of our cognitive ability to choose a solution that would work, we would have acted like good venture capitalists and effected many solutions at the same time, knowing that 80% might fail but the 20% that worked would have stopped the oil from spreading to fragile habitats within a matter of days.

But the key to mounting multiple solutions in tandem is advocacy, optimism and a realistic assessment of our odds of calling it right.  And in an oppositional society where organizations such as the Tea Party movement,, Democrats and Republicans have raised opposition to a fine art, what chance do we have of resuming progress?  How can we move ahead?


Rebecca Costa is a sociobiologist and evocative speaker whose unique expertise is to spot and explain emerging trends in relationship to human evolution, global markets, and new technologies. She lives on the central coast of California. Please see




Filed under: LKL Web Exclusive

Share this on:
John   October 20th, 2010 11:06 am ET

Excerpts from 545 people by Charlie Reese: See the article on Google, type in 545 people.
545 people responsible for the following taxes, 100 Senators, 435 Congressmen, 1 President and 9 Supreme court Justices, 545 Human Beings out of 300 Million that are directly, legally morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems of this country.
This might be funny if it weren't so darned true.
Be sure to read all the way to the end:
Tax his land,Tax his bed,Tax the table,At which he's fed.
Tax his tractor, Tax his mule, Teach him taxes, Are the rule.
Tax his work,Tax his pay, He works for peanuts, Anyway!
Tax his cow,Tax his goat,Tax his pants,Tax his coat, Tax his ties,Tax his shirt,Tax his work, Tax his dirt.
Tax his tobacco,Tax his drink,Tax him if he Tries to think.
Tax his cigars, Tax his beers, If he cries Tax his tears.
Tax his car, Tax his gas,Find other ways,To tax his ass.
Tax all he has Then let him know That you won't be done Till he has no dough.
When he screams and hollers; Then tax him some more,Tax him till, He's good and sore. Then tax his coffin,Tax his grave, Tax the sod in, Which he's laid.
Put these words Upon his tomb, Taxes drove me to my doom...'
When he's gone,Do not relax,Its time to apply The inheritance tax.
Accounts Receivable Tax, Building Permit Tax, CDL license Tax,Cigarette Tax, Corporate Income Tax, Dog License Tax, Excise Taxes,Federal Income Tax, Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA), Fishing License Tax, Food License Tax, Fuel Permit Tax,Gasoline Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon), Gross Receipts Tax,Hunting License Tax, Inheritance Tax, Inventory Tax,IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax), Liquor Tax, Luxury Taxes,Marriage License Tax,Medicare Tax,Personal Property Tax,Property Tax,
Real Estate Tax, Service Charge Tax,Social Security Tax,Road Usage Tax,Sales Tax,Recreational Vehicle Tax,School Tax,State Income Tax,State Unemployment Tax (SUTA),Telephone Federal Excise Tax, Telephone Federal Universal Service FeeTax, Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge=2 0Tax, Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax,Telephone Usage Charge Tax,Utility Taxes, Vehicle License Registration Tax,Vehicle Sales Tax, Watercraft Registration Tax, Well Permit Tax, Workers Compensation Tax

STILL THINK THIS IS FUNNY? Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.

Yao Foli Modey   October 20th, 2010 11:12 am ET

The segment you had on modern slavery was excellent and educational. I am surprised how much injustice is still going on around the world. I enjoyed it a lot and hope you can do follow ups on it.
I want to draw attention to the newly released book entitled "Tears of Mama Africa". This is a book that discusses the African side of the European slave trade to Africa. The book aswers a lot of questions about what really happened on the African continent during the slave trade era. It explains whether Africans sold their people voluntarily or not.
The impact of the slave trade has been tremendous and has continued up to today. The psychological trauma has been tremendous and the effects of this horrible tragedy still lingers on today.
This is a book worth reading by anyone who cares about Africa and the progress of this continent.

Jerjol   October 20th, 2010 12:52 pm ET


Tea Baggers are ANARCHISTS their activities are SUBVERSIVE, for the most part they are MAL-CONTENT individuals that want to USURPE THE STATUS QUO BY OVERTURNING THE CONSTITUTION.

Much of the rants they argue about remind me of the HITLER movement in Germany in the 30's

If you consider the intelligence quotion of many of their spokes persons that represent their point of view, you will find that their intelligence levels are below the norm

Sarah "I CAN SEE RUSSIA" from my back porch is their bright shinning representative.

That alone should have intelligent folks running for the hills.

The TWIT from Deleware's I.Q. is in the lowest quandrant and she also is their heroine for change, but she knows absolutely nothing about our constitution, some thing that is absolutely required for a Senator to administer the chores of his office.

Trust what I say, if the Tea Baggers are successful in getting even ten of their fold elected our country is headed down the road to perdition.

Think before you vote and dont be swayed by lies and idiocy


Smith in Oregon   October 20th, 2010 10:14 pm ET

Ultra hardliners and war drummers within Netanyahu's Zionist Israeli government are pushing and demanding Israel attack Iran under the guise of 'saving face in the world' after Iran stood up against Israel and the numerous embargo's and fired up the Iranian civilian nuclear reactor which is fully legal under the NPT treaty. Israel attacking Iran would be a BIG MISTAKE for Israel to go down that road of ruin.

I urge the Jewish people in Israel and Jewish people around the world to strongly urge the Netanyahu Israeli government to not engage in a war with Iran.

Keith Farley   October 21st, 2010 12:38 am ET

Is John Stewart going to work with Adam Sandler again ?

IKHAN   October 21st, 2010 1:07 am ET

@ Smith in Oregon

there are good, peace loving Jewish folks in Israel & here in USA who feel dismayed at the policies of their govt and want to and are working to bring sanity to the current climate in Israel.
Organizations like JStreet & Jewish Voices for Peace. Learned & well informed people like Uri Avnery, Chomsky & others.
About time that we start listening to these voices.

Smith in Oregon   October 21st, 2010 3:55 am ET

Sadly IKHAN, it only takes a small handful of individuals in powerful governmental positions to entirely dictate what direction that nation follows. If the Israeli Mossad assassinates Iran's President, the well wishes of the Jewish people for peace will largely fall on deaf ears and a great many Americans across the Middle East would lose their lives as a result.

Although Israel has their hands out for their 3 Billion yearly free American taxpayer giveaway, I'm not entirely convinced that Israel's ultra-conservative Apartheid government even cares what trouble Iran's ally's Russia, China, North Korea and Venezuela would cause America economically or otherwise. Certainly Syria and Lebanon would also come to Iran's aid if Iran were attacked.

I am reminded of depraved firemen and police that go out and create a raging forest fire or a string of unsolved crimes to force support and justify their worthless existence.

Theo   October 22nd, 2010 7:58 am ET

@ Smith of Oregon and IKAHN

Smith is absolutly correct, the human race acts similarly to other mammals, such as sheep or cows.
One lead animal starts running and the rest of the herd just runs right behind without knowing why they do it.
A great majority of the americans were for the war against Iraq without really caring why do we do it. The president and the congress gave the tone and the whole nation sang the song.

As long as the american zionists, most of them ultra right christians, beat the war drums, there is absolutly no chance for a peace in Palestina.
Look, even President Obama succumbed to the pressure of the jewish lobby, his tone regarding the ME sure changed since 2008. There is no more talk of a just peace, withdrawal of israeli forces, etc.
Check his speech at the Cairo University in spring 2009 and at the AIPAC meeting this year. Is that speaker the same responsible man?

IKHAN   October 22nd, 2010 1:36 pm ET

Hi Larry,
good morning folks

@Smith in Oregon

as always you get to the crux of the issue.The points you make should make us think.
This is indeed worrisome and most Americans, unfortunately are not aware of or chose to be blind to the horrifying ramifications for USA if Israel is allowed a free run with their current policies viz a viz Palestine & Iran.
Thats why I urge all thinking Americans to lend a receptive ear to the voice of peace loving Jews in Israel & here in USA. They are not anti-Israel as propgandists would have us believe. How can Jews be anti-Israel ?
They love their land and wish peace & stability in the region for themselves & others.
I also wish that influential media figures like Larry give time to these voices of moderation & sanity.

claudia   October 24th, 2010 9:31 am ET

I pray that mankind will awaken from its deep hypnosis.

There's really five companies that control 90 percent of what we read, see and hear."
– Ted Turner

"The mass media is itself part of the same power structure that plunders the planet and inflicts human rights abuses on a massive scale"
– David Cromwell

"When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker, a raving lunatic."
– Dresden James

"The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it"
– Albert Einstein

“All truth goes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Then it is violently opposed. Finally, it is accepted as self-evident."

Comments have been closed for this article

Keep up to date with Larry

Follow him on Twitter

Become a fan on Facebook

Contact us
Go Behind The Scenes


LARRY KING LIVE'S Emmy-winning Senior Executive Producer Wendy Walker knows what it takes to make a great story.

With anecdotes, provocative emails, scandals, show transcripts and insights into Walker's long working relationship with Larry King, her new book PRODUCER issues readers an invitation to listen in on the most intriguing conversations on the planet.

Order from:
Barnes & Noble

King of Hearts

Larry King's King of Hearts

Saving a heart a day is the goal! Learn more about the Foundation and it's efforts to help the uninsured

Visit the Larry King Cardiac Foundation.

subscribe RSS Icon
Powered by VIP