Ok, here we go. One last time I will take the current political situation in Brasil as an entree for a blog. As the final round of the elections approaches this Sunday, it is all but clear what will happen to Brasil. One of the electoral candidates’ business backers was funneling money to advertising companies that abuse WhatsApp to influence voters. To me it was little surprising that things like these were going on, however it did all but help to unite Brazil. Now, there is even more reason to hate the opposing political party and its’ proponents.
Who Will Save Brazil?
What is astonishing to me, but also understandable given the situation, that nobody seems to realize that not one of the electoral candidates will save Brazil. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, politics is a popularity contest. The fact that there was money going to advertising companies that use whats-app to influence voters unfortunately strengthens my case. It’s like a football game being stuck in the 90th minute at 0-0, on the one side Jair Bolsonaro, on the other side Fernando Haddad. Obviously not one of the supporters is going to give way. Both believe there is just one that deserves to win. Everybody forgets that the supporters themselves (shouting, tweeting, boinking their horn), together, are the people that will eventually have to do the work to change Brazil.
Even though, the next president will have power to give a direction to the country, there is not a single president ever in history, nor a member of a political party that builds houses. Nor do they plant trees, protect wildlife, cook food for the poor, teach in schools or clean the roads. That’s what the people do, that’s what you do. The same people, that instead of engaging in meaningful dialogue, are currently fighting each other for supporting the other candidate.
20th Century Tribal Life
Nevertheless, not only in politics people choose sides. Also, when it comes to dietary choices there are tribes. Be it vegans, paleo-proponents, carnivores, or keto-diet lovers, somehow in every group there are people that think that only they are right.
From diet, to sports, to religious orientation, to field of work, to nationality, to the city you are from, or the skin color you were born with. All of these things have been made part of peoples’ identity, therefore distancing themselves from “the others”.
Let’s take religion as an example. As Rabbi Alan Lurie writes in a Huffington Post blog on “Is Religion The Cause of Most Wars?“, that it is not. However, in another blog Alon Ben-Meir argues that even though 10% of the wars in history were fought in the name of god, far more had a religious component to it. The moment one religion says that their god is the only god, all the other religions are wrong. The same goes for communism and the mix of consumerism and capitalism that reigns in today’s western societies. In this case there is no god, but these ideologies are quite dogmatic anyway. In the case of communism it was worth 100 million deaths spread over various regimes. And in the case of consumerism there are at least 18 million people dying every year. Yes, Heart Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes are all consequences of a lifestyle based in consumerism.
Does this seem like a long shot to you? I believe not, at least, if you allow yourself to look at things in a more profound manner. The Communistic philosophy doesn’t preach to kill people by itself, nevertheless making communism a crucial part of your identity makes it a lot more likely. Along these lines it is similar to consumerism. The idea of working, getting payed, consuming, and working again doesn’t necessarily say anything about killing yourself. Do it with enough dedication though, and it ultimately will.
In Me, Me, Me, is not Me I already wrote about how we are not what we identify with. How that so, you ask? Well in short; everything we identify with is a human creation and could therefore be anything. “But”, you say, “at least we are our body, right, that’s ours?” Then, why do most people care more about cars, money, and status, than their body?
The whole crux lies in the fact that as soon as you identify with something, be it veganism, paleo, religion, a political party, a sports club or the country you are from, you are part of the group. Once you identify with one part of the identity, you are prone to all other parts of the identity as well.
However, if you manage to think critically of your position you are open to be criticized by people within your identity group. As a consequence this will create distance between you and the fundamentalists, ever more prone to criticism for you not living up to your identity. On the contrary, when you are fundamental about your identity you will be criticized by everybody outside of your group. This is all the more reason for you to not like the others and reinforces your belief in your identity. Do you see the system at work here?
This is exactly what is happening now in Brazil, what happens between the US and “terrorists, what happens during heated soccer games, and what happens when fundamental vegans and paleo people get into discussions. This polarization leads to rigidity which is only reinforced by the other doing the same. This creates evermore distance which reduces the chances on real dialogue.
The Solution is Dialogue
So, here comes the solution. Dialogue, I already mentioned it a couple of times. What, dialogue? Yes, people actually talking to each other, leaving all assumptions about the other on the table. As Peter Senge writes in his book the 5th Discipline, it is essential for people to work and learn together that they are able to speak to each other in a truthful and non-judgmental manner. This is one the essentials for any organization, or country in this case, to flourish. However, more often than not, you respond to what you think somebody else is saying than what they are actually saying. That is, you will have to ask the other what he means if you want to be sure about what the other says, however that is not what you usually do. We assume what the other means, and respond.
The clue with dialogue is that it becomes clear which of you assumptions are true and which are not. Finally you learn to speak the same language.
The real power of engaging in dialogue, from my perspective, lies in that you cannot engage in it, without accepting that you are in the same boat with the other person. This is fundamentally different when you engage in a debate or discussion, where there are opposing forces.
Consequently, you can start directing your collective energy in the same direction, you can start developing new ideas, and come up with solutions that you never thought of because you were so busy trying to discredit the other.
Use Your Imagination
Imagine, you, your boss, and all of your direct colleagues sitting down, leaving status and hierarchy at the door, and talk about how you all can make the most of the company. Imagine the Brazilian electoral candidates sitting down together, trying to figure out a strategy to, really, improve violence, poverty, and education. Imagine, the western governments sitting down with so called “terrorist” organizations. Imagine two opposing groups of soccer fans uniting to create the most awesome soccer experience ever. Imagine, everybody ditched their identity, and saw that there are more similarities between every single one of us, than there are differences.
In case you think this is impossible – I would consider that a lack of imagination. So, what do you imagine?