It’s astounding the frequency with which, execution has befallen those espousing the virtues of equality, equity and peace.
Usually at the hands of those deeply invested in the spoils of division.
Think about what this means for the messaging bombarding us daily.
One of the primary objectives of which – is to separate you from the knowledge of your true self, by conditioning you to believe you’re not good enough.
Think about the way we’re encouraged to size each other up:
- Are you Neurodivergent or Neurotypical
- Are you straight or LGBTQ
- Are you Republican or Democrat
- Are you with the home team or visitors
- Are you native or an immigrant
We often think of our daily experience the same way:
- Is it good news or bad news
- Did I succeed or fail
- Is it perfect or never good enough
These distinctions could be a source of curiosity and learning, but far too often they’re a source of fear, suspicion or outright hostility.
Though doctors, psychologists and educators understand that humanity and the human experience exists on a continuum of variation.
Our institutions continue shoving dichotomies down our throats, that won’t allow us to participate unless we choose a side or a box to fit in.
In a brilliant Ted Talk – Barry Schwartz describes how we’re constantly being bombarded with messages encouraging us to reinvent ourselves daily.
This causes doubt about who we choose to be, where we want to belong and what we want to own.1
We have so many choices of brands, flavors, prices. Competing brands (all striving to be #1), we want OUR team to WIN, because who wants to be a LOSER?
Anything less than the best – is settling!
Where’s a blimp with a large, blinking “BS” on the side when you need one?
HELL, when someone has anything less than a white complexion we ask ourselves, “I wonder what they are?”
My answer, “What difference does it make! They’re HUMAN!!!”
You can wrap a diamond or a lump of coal in the same packaging. Your ability to see the value in either, determines whether you see it as a gift or not.
Which brings me to a larger point. Inclusion requires that we train ourselves to begin seeing each other for our commonalities first, what we have in common – our shared humanity.
That’s the foundation of who we are, and where we choose to build a life from.
When we see each other as human beings first, we see people just like us.
We share the same set of emotions, which are expressed and experienced in similar ways across cultures. According to Ekman (1999), emotions such as anger, fear, disgust, surprise, and happiness are universally recognized and experienced by humans.2
Empathy comes more naturally when you see others through the lens of, “me too”. We approach each other with curiosity, as we explore the experiences and lessons we share, and the lessons we can learn from each other.
This is a far cry from the institutionalized fixation on seeing others as competition instead of co-creators.
Whether we focus on competition or collaboration is up to us. Collaboration is about inclusion, because we focus on what unites us first and foremost.
Being curious about one another helps us be more open to listening to their stories about why they think and engage life the way they do. We seek opportunities for understanding, and learning from our differences instead of going into immediate threat assessment.
Imagine how much less conflict and division there would be if we worked toward common ground and shared goals. First, we need to work on showing others life isn’t a zero-sum game (that’s an illusion created to compel us to act from a place of scarcity).
There’s enough, more than enough, when we work to help each other get what we need to be our best selves.
I won’t get into the realities or virtues of competition, suffice it to say, there’s a corrosive lack of balance between competition and collaboration in the world view of far too many, especially at a community level.
We’re too concerned about being on the winning side of things, comparing ourselves to the Jones’s. To the point we often relish in the feelings of disappointment experienced by the losing side.
Is it a wonder our social fabric resembles a frayed mess? We’re more interested in avoiding each other than discovering what we can add to each other’s lives.
Moving from an ‘either or’ to a ‘both and’ experience of each other and of life, can help drop the barriers of division we’ve been conditioned to erect between us.
I’ll conclude with a famous quote from the 13th century poet Rumi, who wrote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
1Schwartz, B. (2005, July). The paradox of choice. TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_the_paradox_of_choice/transcript
2Ekman, P. (1999). Basic emotions. In T. Dalgleish & M. Power (Eds.), Handbook of cognition and emotion (pp. 45–60). John Wiley & Sons.