It seems that our barometer these days is to measure, “our guy” against “your guy”. You don’t need to look any further than the spectacle that is the 2016 Election year, here in the US. As I scan the comment sections of articles and Facebook, it is hard not to see how polarized we have become. What was once rooted in ideology, many actions have now been diluted into blatant partisanship and stereotypes. Words like “racists”, “Communists” and other stereotypes are thrown around from both the Left and the Right. It occurred to me that pitting one prejudices against another does not serve us. Yet this is culture we live in. A dizzying array of polarized ideas that puts us on the defensive and takes us further away from our center. But, it does something much more alarming. It prevents us from having any real debate and instead becomes a reflexive response rather than a conscious, connection to what is at our hearts. We need to appreciate that we face some real concerns around the world that are not a matter of philosophy, but of humanity. Can we ever engage in a real dialogue if we don’t stop rooting for our guy? And even more, instead of engaging in healthy, solution producing debate, what is the ultimate goal of tearing down the ‘other guys’? Do we want to live in a world where only one worldview rules?
Dichotomy has served us. There is no doubt that competing influences has spurred on growth and development and massive amount of consumer goods. We have seen exponential growth in technology, wealth and our population that may have never happened had we not been in a race against the other guy. But many of us feel called to do more. Isn’t that what this shift is all about? In order to do that we need our policies and our media to reflect that, so much of the current partisanship is currently a conscious act for the purpose of distraction and control of the population. Much of the polarity is propagated for the intention of furthering special interests that don’t serve the greatest good. But many of the issues humanity faces cannot wait. We now live in a global village, so solving our problems is going to take a global dialogue, cooperative decisions, and large scale responsiveness.
There are three challenges that humanity faces that requires a worldwide effort.
In an overwhelming consensus, climate scientists agree that our earth is warming and that this warming is caused by human behavior. Yet there are those among us who have planted seeds of doubt. (If you haven’t seen the documentary Merchants of Doubt, I highly recommend it). However, only slightly more than half of the American population believes that the planet is warming due to humanity’s actions. So because of this, anytime someone mentions being ‘green’, a term has been hijacked to mean climate change, it is something to be dismissed. The truth is, even beyond climate change the earth faces some serious problems.
As humans we are facing three major environmental crises: food production, water and energy and they are all inextricably linked. We can’t solve one woe without addressing the others. Currently about 3% of the earth’s water is fresh water. As we continue to pollute our water with our devastating agricultural and energy extraction practices, water becomes our great human concern, and yet we can’t have any real conversations about it because there are voices out there that want to make everything a matter of politics. Not to mention water is increasingly being owned by large corporations. Access to clean water is a basic right for everyone on the planet.
There is no perfect health care system. Whether it is a single payer system or a privatized one, they all have benefits and drawbacks. But in the “my guy” vs. “your guy” world, we can’t have any real debate about it. We are facing a crisis of health; two-thirds of the population is overweight or obese, cancer is on the rise and chronic illness is showing up in younger and younger populations. While one side of the world is dying of poor choices the other side is dying due to poor conditions. We are so steeped in fear that we can’t move past our disease care system. An inclusionary, integrative system is where we need to head, when everything is so polarized we can’t face the issues with any sincerity or depth. So this isn’t so much that the world needs to have a global system, but within each country, our politics prevents us from really exploring our health care in an open minded and solutions based way.
When we hear a conversation about income disparity, claims of Socialism and Communism come up. Again, creating a strawman argument that if we even broach this subject, we must be a Socialist. This distraction led to the outcry by the Occupy Wallstreet Movement, but just how bad is it? If we look at statistics worldwide, half of the word’s wealth is owned by the top 1%.
Overcoming the Illusion
We are not separate. Everything is interconnected and interrelated. We have drawn these imaginary and illusory boundaries around our state, our countries and our lives, but they are a mental construct. As we begin to understand the enormity and complexity of the challenges we face, there can be no other choice than cooperation. When we take action against another, or when we disrespect the earth, we are acting out against ourselves.
Becoming Whole (again)
Can we still be individuals and come together? Can we honor and respect another’s opinions without seeing it as a dismissal of our own? Many of these issues require some very hardy debate, there are no one size fits all solutions for us. Sometimes, the other guy has a good idea and we need to see past our philosophy and get down to solutions. Our media perpetuates fear and suffering, but we can move past this. Begin in your center, literally, your heart and move out from there. Understand that there is enough, we just need to accept that we are all in this together.
If you fall prey to polarity and defensiveness, stop and ask yourself what part of you feels challenged by that person, situation or comment? What is going on within you that put you on the defensive? This is a great opportunity to understand ourselves and our worldviews. We called to do more. Around us we see our old systems breaking down to make way for better things. These better things will only come to us, as a conscious society demands them. This is not a knee-jerk reaction, but conscious, pro-active decision making. These decisions can only be made with the heart open and the mind calm. The Us versus Them mindset is one of a child and it is time for us to mature. So find something you believe in and be a part of it. Take action. Next time someone wants to argue with you about one of our society’s many challenges, ask if they have any solutions and really listen.