The tenor of politics concerns me. Yes, politics are often interpreted as parties facing off over an election. In the western world, it is liberals vs. conservatives everywhere you look. But politics is misrepresented in that lens. What we’re talking about isn’t locked into the coded language of conservative or liberal. What we’re talking about is much bigger and much harder to define than that.
Predictably, I fall into the liberal camp. I think there are more important things than money. I think we could all do with a few more nice people hanging around. I think what my neighbor does in his bed has nothing to do with what I do in mine. And I don’t think the government serving as a mechanism to move money around is a bad thing.
My sister, who is one of the kindest people I know, is conservative. I have relatives that mainline Fox News. And too often, we deal with these conflicts in worldview by not dealing with them. For those of you who use Facebook, you just quiet down voices you don’t agree with by excluding those posts from your timeline. (Still think Facebook is the devil.) We read news from sources that share our perspective. We talk to people who agree with us. When we know we don’t agree, we just leave it alone and talk about the weather or the Kardashian clan or home renovations. Or whatever.
But it bothers me that we can’t talk about these things we disagree on without it turning into a conflict. These are only ideas, they don’t have to turn into tears and hurt feelings, right? Could we agree on some baselines?
- The world is changing. It feels like the speed of change is accelerating, and this is scary.
- There is so much information. We don’t know where to look anymore. There isn’t enough news to fill up a 24-hour news cycle. And there isn’t very much at all going on in the world that you can do something about. Send some money to the refugees, sponsor a kid. Everything else … how does the information improve your life? How are you smarter/better/happier/more connected for having spent an hour watching CNN/Fox/MSNBC?
- There are so many choices… Even if you go to the middle ground between fast food and fine dining, like Noodles and Co., you end up standing in front of a silver machine that starts with four categories of beverage, and then branches out into further options from there. Do we need to be able to choose from 25 different kinds of dish-soap? Do we need 123 choices in toothpaste? And those are just the inconsequential decisions.
- We’re afraid, but the things we are afraid of are big and nebulous and they never go away. Once upon a time, there was a direct connection between the thing we were afraid of and our fear. Lion in view? Fight or flight. No lion? Keep looking for berries.
- We all want it to turn out okay, first for our immediate connections to the world and after that, if it works out okay for everyone else, that’s good too. We have ideas about how to manage the overwhelming nature of the change we’re experiencing right now, but we don’t seem to agree on what the priorities should be.
- When it comes right down to it, we don’t know where to begin.
- We’re too scared to access our curiosity.
Maybe if we could agree on that much, we might be capable of having a more productive conversation about everything that is going on.