Had an interesting conversation with a colleague today, that quickly turned into a topic that I consider very important nowadays. For our personal life, for our professional life, for our life as human beings walking on the World.
I feel the public discourse is flattening to a very dangerous extent.
It’s not only a matter of polarization, it’s mainly a continuous repetition of the flaws of the other side. It might seem, on the surface, that there is a desire to change the other’s opinion or behaviour. But what I find appalling is that actually there is more of a desire to just repeat what was said yesterday, in an endless loop that leaves everybody in the same place they where before. There is no progress. Because the target of what is said is increasingly the people that have our own same opinion.
We have stopped trying to understand what led us here. We are just repeating mantras (“fake news” vs “racist”, “America first” vs “globalism”, “tremendous economy” vs “devastating inequalities”) that resonate with the people that are already on our side. Be it because we need to sell more, because we need to keep the votes, or because we need to constantly re-affirm our self and group identity.
So, the question is: do we care?
If we don’t, that’s fine, we are on the right path.
If we do, I have an idea to share. It’s not mine, I believe it is a Buddhist idea, and I have heard it narrated by Pema Chödrön.
She tells the story of two people that meet, and start talking. They talk about what they see, the World they know. One is facing the ocean, and tells about the greatness of it, the beauty of its blue, the smell of the water. One is facing a forest, and tells of how dense it is, how tall the trees are, how incredible it would be to venture there. They soon end up arguing, as they cannot find a common perspective. Until the one facing the ocean moves to the side of the other and turns. And then, they start describing the forest together.
If you do care. If you seek change. If you want to move past the terrible impasse that is sucking up our future. Be the one who moves and turns. Find the other’s perspective.
P.S.: I am sorry I could not find the exact quote and link from Pema Chodron. I might have changed the characterization a bit, but I am confident the one I shared has the same underlying meaning. Should I find it, I will make sure to update this post.