The older I get the more I realize how little I know. Yet, it’s still my first instinct to think that MY way of seeing the world is the correct way. I think this is natural. Our views are borne out of a life’s worth of personal experience and our natural predispositions, so of course they feel profoundly right… to us.
The way I see things is so much a part of my identity that it can feel like it is me. Then, anything contrary to my view can seem like a personal assault on me and my way of life – whether or not it really has any effect on me. I think this is also a natural initial reaction. Our entire lives are dictated by our viewpoints, so anything that challenges our views, challenges our lives.
There’s merit to that. Humans have a long history of decimating any person or peoples who counter the prevailing views. A huge component of conscious evolution is outgrowing the need for that violence by learning to accept and appreciate differences. The first step in doing so is to replace certainty of our views with curiosity about others and how they came to their differing views.
For example, when I learn about people who support the KKK, my gut reaction is fury and loathing. WHAT is wrong with those people! HOW can they possibly hold such abhorrent views? We’ve worked so hard for so long to grow humanity towards equal and humane treatment of all — when will the Hate end?
We can call White Supremacists haters and bigots, but that doesn’t solve anything. In fact, doing so just confirms their belief that they are under attack. When I catch myself, I realize I harbor a whole lot of hate towards them for standing in the way of my view of how humanity should be. But just as my reasons seem so strong and unarguable to me, they have reasons for the way they feel that are just as strong and compelling to them.
The only way to understand where people are coming from is to have a conversation with them, from a curious perspective, rather than from the certainty that my values are correct. These conversations can’t take place when everyone is attacking and being attacked.
It’s so tempting to recoil from an opponent and call them narcissist and megalomaniac or fear mongering. It does more harm than good. People who agree with you don’t need more evidence and people who disagree feel attacked and therefore more justified in their own stance.
As long as we are doing ANY name calling of any sort (no matter how well we think the term fits), ANY categorical denouncing of opposing views and parties (no matter how awful we think they are being), ANY self-righteous praising of our own value systems (no matter how much better we think the world would be if everyone agreed with us) — we are guaranteeing the other side will do the same.
I doubt we can ever end the fighting until one side turns towards the other and repeats: “I can see that you are suffering, and agree with you that there is a problem. I would like to work with you to solve it for all of us.” We’ll have to say that over and over and over — and only say that, nothing escalating — until the other side feels it’s safe to come over to hear that we are reaching out sincerely. Then we can have our curious conversation.
I’m talking about the people here, not the politicians with a vested interest in keeping us divided. I’m talking about creating new ways of interacting that are so attractive, they entice people people away from the tired mess of our current political system, rendering it as defunct as cassette tapes.
A beautiful example….