Already in daily life the political conversations in the homes, streets and in the air, are positioning for advantage. More often than not I find myself deeply disturbed by the content of these anticipatory political forays. I want to chuck my equanimity and shout out: “Are you kidding me? “How do you move from the good and generous person you are to this kind of vitriol and anger?” But I don’t shout even if for no other reason than my words would be lost in the chorus of rage that characterizes the time in which we all live. Whenever I feel the rise of deep anger, the yellow caution light goes on inside and I return to the work of this webpage. Sometimes it is the whisper and not the shout that attracts the minds of people’s roving attention detectors. This webpage is not a shout or a blaring revelation. This project is more a whisper of remembrance and reminding; we are on the whole good people seeking an alternative to this escalating storm of selectively locked down minds and collapsing strategies. So what do I believe given my work on decision making should we remember if we can this next political season?
First it is now most frequently in the political realm that we wear our worst sides and do the damage that is being done. Most people whose political behavior and beliefs conflict with my own are simply reacting to something personal that is finding expression, not in relationship where it belongs, but in politics. At the personal level or relationship level, the rage I feel against the other’s opposing views frequently shifts to a form of empathy when I find understanding. Empathy and agreement are two different things, but if you want to prevent either war on the large social scale or conflict at the interpersonal scale, empathy is where it begins. Parading out adjectives like evil and all of its related adjectives comprise the first stage of toxicity at the political level of conversation. The first thing I remember is, come what may, we operate from the individual level first, the interpersonal, second, and the political finally is third. Only starting from the individual personal level do empathy and mediation become possible, but you can’t stop at the individual level. Seeking empathy and understanding in the third political stage of relationship, prior to the developing the individual and community understanding is too often a fools errand. So stop when anger surges up and have the all important “three cups of tea” with your adversary at the level your grandparents may have called hospitality. True hospitality is an antidote to the political gangrene arising from ineffectual, groundless, angry conversations.
Second I recommend sequence is important. Our neurology is sequence dependent for certain physically based executive functions utilized for the due diligence prior to decision. We cannot control or bypass those sequences at the neurological level. One exception is the reaction process that does bypass conscious sequences without our conscious permission in matters of life, death, or high performance. The rest is up to us, our constructed intentionality, and our decisions in this society. Your individual experience interacts with your community, but if your individual experience breaks down, while your community can support you, it can not replace your personal process. If one maintains personal health and stability, that strength can sustain you in a community crisis or conflict, but individual strength is no substitute in the longer run for strong stable community support around you. Strong and stable personal and community relationships lay the proper groundwork for third level of political conversations that can work. Absent the strong personal and community foundations, political conversations tend to sink to fear and anxiety drawn not so much from the content of the conversations but from the fundamental insecurity of participant’s personal experience. Fear and anxiety with no efficacy or resolution turn toxic in the physical human body, in society and as we can see now so clearly, in politics. In our time engaging in political conversations with strangers requires preparation or even facilitation. How much and what kind of facilitation depends of the basic quotient of personal and community health of the participants.
So the reminders of this posting for avoiding avoiding encounters that lead to or exacerbate political toxicity and gangrene are:
- First, prior to engagement, do your personal check on what you truly sense is good and right in this world . (Pause I);
- Then recall who comprises your community; what are their needs and what is the impact of your future words on them? Remember, community is more than a circle of friends, particularly if you subscribe to a religion that has instructions regarding love, kindness and respect. (Pause II)
- In your democracy, what are “the rules of law” structures that your government has implemented that might be effected by the outcome of this decision? (Pause III)
- If you are in service, how do the first three sequential pauses work or not work for you and the the person you are serving.
Avoid, long term rage, anger and bitterness to stay healthy. Good luck here comes from good practice.