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The Hope And Horror Of Us-Versus-Them Thinking (Part 1 Of 2)

Republicans versus Democrats.

Trumpers versus Never-Trump.

White supremacists versus Black Lives Matter.

In today’s hyper-polarized world, you don’t have to look far for evidence of us-versus-them thinking. Simply turn on the news or log in to Facebook or Twitter to find heated battles on everything from politics to social issues to what color that viral dress really was.

Indeed, it can be easy to take a polarized view on polarization and “us-versus-them-ism” itself, with many people decrying how far apart we’ve become on seemingly everything, and how this growing divide is a bad thing.

But I don’t think it’s so simple. In fact, I see us-versus-them thinking as simultaneously the greatest accelerator and destroyer of human progress, a true double-edged sword that can win wars or create them where there’s no need. This is the “hope and horror” of us-versus-them.

First, let’s consider the good part, the hope-inspiring part.

Humans make progress through organizations, or collections of people bound together by shared vision, values, purpose, and belief. We are a team-based society, whether we’re talking sports (LeBron James, Tom Brady, and other superstars can’t succeed without their teams), entertainment (think about how many people are needed to create a feature film or TV series), or even science (where research shows the most innovative scientific work relies increasingly on teams).

That means the “Great Man” theory of the past — that “natural” leaders singlehandedly drive key changes to the course of history—fails to capture the primacy of teams in human progress. Even brilliant, seemingly solo scientists like Einstein need a scientific community in which to share their ideas, hear critiques, and go back to the proverbial drawing board with even greater direction and inspiration. Same for “great people” in any domain.

Thus teamwork is the driving engine and accelerator of advancement across all areas of human endeavor. And what drives such collaboration? Us-versus-them thinking, largely.

Research shows that collectives thrive in the presence of a shared enemy: a group’s focus on their task, along with the psychological experience of cohesion and identity, increases in the presence of a common enemy, for greater performance.   

A classic demonstration of this was provided by the psychologist Muzafer Sherif in the 1950s. In what became known as the Robbers Cave field experiment, 22 11-year-old boys were sent to a summer camp in Oklahoma’s Robbers Cave State Park. They were split randomly into two groups for which they chose names (e.g.., The Eagles). The groups bonded while hiking, swimming, and enjoying other activities. Then they took part in a four-day series of inter-group competitions. In line with research findings, both groups’ cohesion fueled their efforts to beat the other group, demonstrating the power of us-versus-them thinking.

But the Robbers Cave experiment also shows the dark side of us-versus-them. Sherif found evidence of deep prejudice between the groups, as manifest in physical and verbal conflict during the competitions. Afterward, when asked to describe their group and the other, the boys used very favorable terms for their

Metro Denver counties with rising COVID-19 cases hope public education, targeted orders will stave off new stay-at-home mandates

New COVID-19 cases have increased in much of the Denver metro area, and county health departments are trying to persuade their residents they need to keep their distance to avoid new stay-at-home orders.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s new dial framework places each county in one of five color-coded levels, with increasing restrictions on business capacity and event sizes.

Each county’s level is based on the rate of new cases compared to population, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive and how hospitalizations are trending.

As of Friday, 15 counties, or almost one-quarter of the state’s counties, had rates of new cases that could push them to issue additional restrictions if nothing changes. They get at least two weeks to bring the numbers down before more restrictions are on the table, though.

Unlike this spring, when businesses across the state were ordered to shut down, counties are trying to avoid closing large numbers of facilities through awareness campaigns, or targeting orders at populations where the virus is spreading more freely.

John Douglas, executive director of the Tri-County Health Department, said it appears private gatherings are causing a significant portion of the spread in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties. It’s difficult to be sure, though, because not everyone is cooperating when contact tracers call, he said.

Counties could take action if they get multiple complaints about a household hosting unsafe numbers of people, but most of their efforts are focused on convincing people to wear their masks and keep their distance from others until a vaccine is approved, Douglas said. People are tired of social distancing, but sticking with it increases the odds of avoiding a winter surge and new stay-at-home orders, he said.

“The higher we are through the month of October and early November, the worse shape we’ll be in by Thanksgiving and Christmas,” he said.

Nathan Fogg, director of emergency management for Arapahoe County, said metrics like hospitalizations and test positivity are relatively low, so it’s not necessary to put restrictions on businesses at this point.

Earlier this year, Arapahoe County had an increase tied to outbreaks at businesses, which came down after officials targeted messages about the public health guidelines and resources to help meet them to hot spots, Fogg said. This time, they’re relying more on traditional and social media to reach individuals, he said.

“This one, I think, is going to be more about getting back to basics,” he said.

Adams County posted a warning on its website Thursday, stating that if cases aren’t brought under control, the county could move into the second-highest (orange) level, requiring gyms to close and restaurants to reduce their capacity. It urged residents to avoid even small indoor gatherings, unless absolutely necessary.

“We have been told by the state that if we don’t reverse these alarming trends, we are at risk of further restrictions,” County Manager Raymond Gonzales said in the posted statement. “After six months of dealing with COVID-19, we all know there is

Buy Some Costco Stock Now, ‘Hope’ It Comes Down

Costco posted much stronger-than-expected sales data for the month of September.

Costco said net sales for the five weeks ending on October 5 were up 16.9% from last year at $16.84 billion, while comparable store sales surged by a much better-than-expected 15.5%. E-commerce sales, Costco said, rose by staggering 90.3% from last year as customers increasingly used online shopping, as well as curbside pickup, to buy home-based staples amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“September sales were positively impacted by two holiday shifts, Labor Day in the U.S. and Chuseok/Moon Festival in Asia,” Costco said in a statement. “The estimated positive impact on September sales was slightly less than 100 basis points worldwide, half relating to each holiday.”

The September sales figures extended a trend the Costco updated last month with stronger-than-expected fiscal fourth quarter earnings of $3.04 per share, a 13% increase from last year, as revenues reached $52.3 billion thanks in part to the best same-store sales increase in two decades.

“Two-year US comp trends excluding calendar benefits again strengthened to +21.9% from +21.0% in August, which clearly represents a stand-out delivery in a slowing US grocery retail backdrop,” said Oppenheimer analyst Rupesh Parikh, who carries a $400 price target with an outperform rating for the stock.

Jim Cramer gives investors advice on when they can initiate a position in Costco in the video above.

You can follow Jim Cramer and Katherine Ross on Twitter at @JimCramer and @byKatherineRoss. Read more from Katherine Ross here.

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