What do you think about the state of our country today? And what is your opinion about our society? These are things I think about every day.
I think our country is at risk—slipping out of our representative democracy that is formally called a republic and informally called a democracy. And my opinion about our society is that we blame problems on “those people” too much and don't have enough collaborative problem solving.
And the result of this societal game of “victim, victim, who’s the biggest victim?” is detrimental to our civic health and community well-being. (If you just had a reaction to that statement, keep reading!)
My choice in life is to do something constructive and contributory — no matter my personal situation. And sometimes that’s really, really hard. Especially when I’m angry and just want to pile on to the blame game. The blame game is easy.
Citizenship is harder. Recovering a lost democracy is dang-near impossible. We all pick our battles.
We often do battle within ourselves, too. We value being rational and non-emotional. Yet as human beings, we are actually ruled by our emotions.
Some of the most rational people I know will passionately defend how non-emotional they are. It’s ironic. But almost every decision we make must be emotionally approved or we won’t do it.
In other words, does this decision feel right? What do we actually mean by “feels right?”
People describe this process of emotional buy-in as intuition, or a gut feeling, or heart-centered. It’s our way of checking for emotional safety as we live our lives.
This is a fallible system. It’s based on what we know and have experienced in the past.
The old, existing system doesn’t often say “this new, scary thing you’ve decided is OK with me!” Instead, it fights like hell saying, “No — don’t do that! Danger!”
And this is exactly the point. New and different = danger. Old and comfortable = safe.
But what if old and comfortable were not safe? This is when we often decide to venture out and try new things. Our country is at this point, right now — old and comfortable = danger. It’s time for us to have an adventure together. All. Of. Us.
By the way, this emotional buy-in is not a bad thing, it is necessary. It’s also what allows us to be manipulated by marketers, political campaigns and politicians. And it’s time to break free of this manipulation.
Back to “victim, victim, who’s the victim?” In our society, some people have been disadvantaged while others have been advantaged. This is where “the biggest victim” game comes in.
As we struggle to be seen, to have our grievances heard, we end up competing for attention. People who are privileged, still get to choose whether or not to pay attention and/or assist.
My assertion is that the system itself will only perpetuate more of what we already have. Creating a different future, where people are both responsible and empowered, will require us to have tremendous courage. Courage to look for evidence that supports or refutes our emotional safety check.
No longer is, “I have a good feeling about this” enough to justify our personal or collective decisions. Because what your gut tells you and what my intuition tells me are likely different things.
And until we listen to each other, talk, connect and deliberate in good faith, we are more likely to be manipulated. A strong connection among citizens in communities, where your gut feeling wants to include what I know intuitively, puts the current system on notice.
We are on a shared adventure to fulfill the mission of our founders — e pluribus unum.
Here’s a good place to get started.
Participate in the National Week of Conversation. It kicks off Friday and runs through Saturday 4/28. Steel your courage to reach out and have a conversation you would have avoided.
Start by remembering a few things we have in common:
- We are all human beings
- We all live on Spaceship Earth
- We all want to leave a better planet for our kids
- We all enjoy the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
As you participate in one or more conversations this week — whether in line at the grocery store, with your neighbors or one of the hundreds of events being hosted in-person or online, be curious about someone else. And think about walking a mile in their shoes.
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