To change the world, can this tiny step make a difference?
Posted January 9, 2018
What can hold a society together? What kind of energy binds a society, if we don’t want to be all the same?
How can we support individualism and celebrate our differences?
How do we achieve a harmonious family structure? Once upon a time, children were expected to maintain traditional family beliefs and customs. In those days, parents were a primary source of learning. Regardless of different personalities and preferences, among siblings, there was, nonetheless, a prevailing belief that the family was a unit, that family members would support each other, even when they disagreed. This passed for family harmony.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition, having faith in God meant a belief that He would balance and accept all of our differences. At the level of being human, we can argue and fret over conflicts between us. At God’s perspective, we believe that His energy can absorb all the differences and bind us together as “God’s children/family.”
In today’s secular society, this kind of religious belief is not enough to hold us together. Ironically, the more success we are in the material world, the more challenging it can be to transcend the physical manifestations of our success and focus on a more spiritual level. We focus on ourselves, our tangible accomplishments.
Consumer/corporate capitalism has directed our money-making energy to be the primary glue of society. While this appears to be a common goal, our sense of unity is illusory. In any specific situation, we see a zero-sum game. I can win more if you lose. How can I win more? I will try to find ways to make you lose. Our energy is directed toward dividing us, as we insist on escalating the conflict of me vs. you. The longer we persist in this direction, our energy for the original purpose of our work declines. The effort to fend off competitors takes a toll. Who really benefits in this situation? The joke is that, whenever there is conflict, the only winners are the lawyers.
How do we understand the concept of peace? What does it mean for us to feel that peace prevails in our society? Throughout the ages, many people have debated the relationship between peace and conflict. How can peace be defined as the absence of conflict? Conflicting preferences and beliefs are inherent in human nature. The issue, then, is: How will we treat others whose beliefs are unlike ours?
Is there such a thing as “constructive conflict?" That is a term often used to describe a process of clarifying a direction for product development in startups when team members don’t agree. How can we examine conflicting ideas without getting our egos in the way? Does this mean our discussion has to be exclusively intellectual and academic, dry and boring? Certainly not. One of the key factors to explore is why members feel so strongly about their positions. We need to understand each other!
Is it easier to describe “what peace is not” than what it is? In most circumstances, peace and violence would seem to be opposites. Maybe a better working definition of peace is the absence of aggressive combativeness—the compulsion to fight for our own beliefs. What are we really fighting for, though? For our egos? To justify who we are, our identity? Are we that insecure?
When a working team gets stuck fighting over differences, how can they re-focus on the real goals of the project? They have to move the conversation to a higher level, to reduce the emotional baggage that is unavoidable when egos feel defensive and/or aggressive. Alignment is the key concept, but—alignment to what? Will a team be aligned just because the boss offers rewards and punishments designed to manipulate them?
I am advocating a practical approach to alignment that does not require altruism, or any self-sacrifice. How can we embrace positioning ourselves in the context of society, some structure larger than ourselves? Can we acknowledge that, to be a member of society, we are unavoidably accountable to each other? This is not as idealistic and naïve as it may sound. Idealism is a condition where we dream of persuading others to agree with us. Isn’t homogenization the logical outcome of that line of thinking? Is that what we want?
Peace ultimately means accepting “what is,” including beliefs that conflict with ours. If we want change, the energy for that must start from our own core, from some truth we feel and care deeply about. Don’t we all want a peaceful society? What can we focus on that is beyond intellectual arguments or emotional outbursts?
My answer—#Ifightforyourrights—I commit to invest, NOT money, but a certain percentage of my energy to "fight for your rights," whatever they might be, such as gender equality, justice for the poor, etc. I may or may not even share the belief. I do this without expectation or judgment. I don’t need you to reciprocate to me. My only request is that you, in turn, "fight for someone else's rights or beliefs," not necessarily mine.
Will you contribute at least 0.1 percent of your positive energy to change the world?