Over the past decade I’ve watched with alarm the widening polarization of the body politic across Western societies (and to some extent globally). As commonly recognized, the public is split into irreconcilable political factions who disagree not only on the interpretation of events, but on what events even took place. They have seemingly separated into two disjoint realities, each with its own facts, authorities, histories, and narratives.
In this polarized environment, each side attributes the problem of polarization to the other side’s descent into unreason, having fallen victim to an evil, manipulating power. However, the trend toward polarization extends far beyond the left-right, red-blue, or conservative-progressive political divide. Within each of these blocks, new polarized debates erupt with the same intractable breakdowns in communication.
A polarized society, unable to communicate with itself, cannot do very much but ride its inertia. It cannot set its sights on a goal, imagine, or create as a collective. Every problem is too big; nothing can be solved; thus, the helplessness and malaise of society today in the face of ecological and social breakdown.
Let’s look at a few examples to illustrate the paralyzing effects of polarization. In cities across North America, residents are pitted against each other in a debate about homelessness. On one side are people who, even if they identify as compassionate liberals, say they are fed up with the homeless encampments, syringes, and human excrement in their neighborhoods. They oppose new shelters that would draw even more homeless to their area and advocate tougher policies. On the other side are those who call for compassion: more lenient policies and new shelters.
As with most polarized issues, the debate diverts attention and energy from the root causes of the problem. Homelessness is a symptom, and this debate is over how to address that symptom. It is like asking whether you should use a cortisone cream or herbal salve for your rash. If the rash is a symptom of a deeper, chronic condition, then the topical remedy may, in providing temporary relief, reduce your motivation to address the chronic condition. It is a way to maintain the status quo. That’s fine if the condition is incurable. But is homelessness – surely a chronic condition – incurable?
The homeless debates that have received so much attention in San Francisco, LA, an Seattle come down to, “Should we let the homeless remain in our area, or should we make them go somewhere else?” Obviously, moving them somewhere else isn’t going to alter the root conditions that breed homelessness.
The sound and fury around this, and any, polarizing issue diverts attention from assumptions that both sides tacitly share, and from questions that neither side thinks to explore. The debate distracts us from questions like, “Why are there 600,000 homeless in America alongside (according to the Federal Reserve) 16.8 million vacant housing units?” What is behind the tide of addiction, family breakdown, community breakdown, and economic poverty that breeds homelessness? These are uncomfortable questions that elude easy answers. They beg us to question the foundations of the American Way.
Restricting the conversation to the two poles of homeless shelter or crackdown on vagrancy incites a clash of irreconcilable values. The public is put into a classic double bind, racked between two unacceptable choices. Because each choice is unacceptable, the other side seems unacceptable. The ensuing hostility distracts still further from the underlying conditions, which, because they bear no easy solution, have the potential to unite rather than divide – to unite along the lines of “We don’t know what to do.”
This is just one tiny example of a general condition in political discourse today: the framing of the issue aggravates the issue, divides the people, and distracts attention from deeper levels of cause. In my Climate book I make the case that the carbon narrative of climate change, with its strongly polarized views between the alarmists and the skeptics, distracts from a deeper understanding of Earth as a living being, whose organs such as forests, soil, wetlands, whales, etc. must be healthy for the biosphere to be healthy – whether or not we cut carbon emissions. We are, I wrote, engaged in the wrong debate. But it is a debate that sits comfortably within a policy apparatus and worldview that prioritizes quantitative solution strategies that require a single measurable cause or culprit to attack.
Some narratives seem deliberately constructed to polarize and distract. Russiagate would be a prime example. Most of the debate is about whether Trump did, or did not, collude with Russia to “hack our election.” More important, though, may be what the furor drowns out, and what the debate, by its very framing, implicitly takes for granted (for example, that America would never interfere in someone else’s election, and, more insidious still, that the world is to be understood in terms of “America and its adversaries”). Through its silent assumptions, the controversy preserves the underpinnings of the status quo – the things that will not change whether Trump or any other mainstream candidate occupies the White House.
Ironically, the Russiagate issue, sustained by hatred for Donald Trump, has produced the opposite of its ostensible goal. It is as if the Left has decided to attack Trump where he is least vulnerable. It closely parallels the Obama birth certificate controversy. By creating a furor over a non-issue, they distract attention from the issues. Obama could have been assailed for his pandering to corporate and financial interests. Trump could be assailed for his (or his staff’s) militant warmongering and gutting of environmental protections, among other things. Yet these draw a tiny fraction of the political energy that Russiagate has; in fact, the Establishment cheers his regime change schemes in Venezuela, his military provocations of China and Iran, and his sanctions on Russia.
Good — now I’ve alienated both the Right and the Left by calling both Birthergate and Russiagate non-issues, I will offer, just in case someone is still reading, a general principle: In a polarized environment such as a war, the pacifist is more unpopular than the enemy. The enemy is necessary to prop up one’s own identity as being on Team Good. The pacifist calls that identity into question.
Appearances aside, I don’t think the two abovementioned narratives are deliberately intended to polarize and distract, but whether or not they are, they fall on fertile ground. In the United States and increasingly around the world, people are predisposed to engage in polarizing narratives. This tendency makes us easy targets for manipulation and forestalls any possibility of a people’s movement broad enough to instigate meaningful systemic change. How can we cohere enough to transform the massive edifice of established power when we are fighting amongst ourselves over superficial, symptomatic, or manufactured “issues”? A society at war with itself cannot move forward, just as a man at war with himself can do little to change his circumstances. The inner conflict incinerates his creative energy. Quite possibly, political polarization is the biggest impediment to social and environmental progress facing humanity today.
Over the course of this year I will be putting out some essays and other offerings around the topic of polarization. I have already launched an online course that takes a first step into practically deprogramming from the habits of polarization, called Unlearning: For Change Agents. The tendency toward polarization runs deep; it has been intensifying over my lifetime, and its healing is deep work. It is a work of unlearning the psychological habits of polarization, and of hearing and sharing the stories that disrupt polarizing narratives. It is about making space for complexity and relativistic thinking. It is about noticing the hidden motivations within ourselves that polarized identification serves.
OK, but what do I think about the homeless issue? What is my opinion on Russiagate? And do I believe in greenhouse-gas induced global warming? I have my opinions on these things, but it is not my role to add my weight to one side or the other and thereby bring even more attention to the wrong debate. Nor do I think that these issues are unimportant. That is not what I am saying. I care deeply about the plight of the homeless, not to mention the planet. It is that in neither case will the real problem be solved by winning the fight as presently constituted.
Michael Barton says
This is an important part of the problem, and the other part is the inability to agree on what is a fact (and the relative importance of that fact) and what is indeed manufactured or fake (and why). We need to rediscover collectively a process that will help us to get to the heart of issues. Fundamentally, that involves both sides willingness to listen to each other and have a substantive debate over their respective evidence. To separate what’s personal from what’s global – and to give each their due (because coming to terms with what is personal is important work as well). Thank you Charles for exploring this important vein.
I agree, Michael. Not long ago I read an excellent essay which described America’s “epistemological crisis”, where a significant minority of Americans have divorced themselves from two of the main sources of truth that we rely on: Science and Journalism.
Yes, I understand where CE cautions us about relying too much on Science and our tendency to rely on quantitative, reductionist views of our world. But Science does have its place, and there is more to our challenges than our polarization over the issues.
It’s not just a matter of two sides, each espousing their own set of facts (as CE stated in his essay.) To me that smacks of a false equivalency. One side has facts (along with their limitations) while the other side relies on lies and myths and whatever they can collect from the Internet and FOX News.
That leads to the epistemological crisis.
Regardless, it might be best to apply CE’s advice that we start the dialog with those we disagree with by first finding commonality over issues we CAN agree on.
God help us.
Will Stevensin says
I’m commenting probably too late in the game to be noticed, but I just learned about CE. But Michael and Thomas your comments just fall in line with further polarization, following the same line of thinking. First of all let me mention Hegel’s dialectic: the process of development of an idea (of course Hegel saw it as the action of the Holy Spirit): First Thesis, then its counter opposite Antithesis, finally a merging of the two into Synthesis (which is a new Thesis). That’s polarization and I understand your suggesting that by comparing the two polarized positions we can find a more accurate synthesis from the merits of both sides. But Hegel’s dialectic still exists within the myth of separation. In fact ideas, language and thinking are inherently dualistic (separated from each other) because each idea gains definition from comparison with its opposite pole on the continuum (Think Dark to Light (there are an infinite variety of shades in between)). Systems thinking–systems within systems, the whole is greater and different than the sum of its parts, unanticipated properties emerge when the causes and conditions are right, etc.–is a different, call it non-linear, way of perceiving the world, which can be perceived directly without the intervention of language (now, of course talking about it is a whole nother thing because the world as it is can not be reduced to linguistic parameters). But I think Charles is talking about how to perceive the interconnected world that does not subscribe to a mere linear single cause to effect (which is how science proves things for the primary purpose of prediction, if you can predict you can control). Charles is doing about as good as anybody in relaying the perception of the world this way in a manner, through language, that others can understand. I think the revolution he is talking about will not be a revolution in thought or ideas (which would be superficial). I would add that the revolution is not in our control, not in our cognitive or behavioral control. If it is to happen it will happen of itself, when causes and conditions are right, and we (humans) will be mere observers. (I sure hope it happens!)
Lawrence L Piper says
We obey our evolutionarily inherited traits, traits which probably were beneficial when they were embedded within our psyches, but no longer are. It also seems that we are evolutionarily predisposed to focus on bothersome symptoms rather than the root causes of our self-destructive behaviors. We have a need, I guess [?], to search for the easiest answers. We must keep ourselves as psychically comfortable as possible. Staying within this ‘comfort zone’ appears to be one of our prime directives.
However, IMO, we have nonetheless evolved to be intelligent and knowledgeable enough to take ownership of our further cumulative social evolution. This might involve embedding new beneficial behavioral memes within our payches, shouldering out the more self-defeating memes. How might we do this? Having pondered these matters for more than a decade, I have some theoretical ideas. I would gladly participate in discussions of how we might accomplish much more basic self-honesty, which should allow us as a species to survive, even flourish, on a flourishing planet. ‘Root-causes’ are my prime focus. – LLP
Patricia Edith Kaplan says
Wondering if you have read Peter Kingsley’s book Catafalque….his research speaks to these root causes to which you refer….and the news is not especially good.
Herb Schneider says
I’d be interested to hear more of your ideas.
Suzanne Grenager says
You have hit the nail on its proverbial head again, dear Charles! Just as in the case of medicine, the only hope for healing our gaping societal wounds is to dig and delve, and dig some more, till we get deep down to the root cause of our systemic breakdown, whatever the symptoms. And just as in medicine it’s about holism (one body indivisible), we will discover, as you so eloquently suggest that the root cause of global dysfunction is our ignorance of this indisputable fact; that the whole world is one family — humans, animals, trees, plants, rocks et al. And love alone, of self and all that is, is the only answer I know.
And so.. you have once again told us what we don’t do right. Can somebody please start telling us all what would be the right thing to do? Book after book, report after report, blog after blog and essay after essay… all telling us we do things wrongly. Almost everything we do is wrong. The way we dress or eat or move, work, socialise, seek medical help, debate issues, what we buy, what we say… In a word – we are sinners. Aren’t we? They have been telling us that for 2000 years, and so, here we are. Perhaps there is stil hope, after 2000 years of repeating ‘you sinners’, that we shall somehow become saints if only we are told enough times how bad we are… But isn’t repeating one same thing over and over and expecting different results… a definition of…. you know the rest.
I am not sure what this piece aims to achieve – but to my mind it reads like this: look, you are doing it wrongly (as if we haven’t been told we’re doing it wrongly enough times), come to my course, and I’ll teach you how to do it right… I’m not telling you here, of course.. because… well, you need to pay to be told… (I am guessing that the payment is going to be voluntary, but it is still a payment).
I am desperately hoping that some of those who have chosen to write for public consumption will start writing about some kind of vision for the future. Free of charge vision so that people can read it freely. What can be done? How? If we are only capable, like some people suggest, of engaging in a single issue at a time (I don’t buy it, but let’s consider it even so), then why not make that one issue be something real: for example water. Let’s all together think how we, the people of this earth, can clean up all waters that we polluted. We have scientists, engineers, peasants, farmers, doctors, people of every shape and description. Water matters to us all. So… how CAN we clean it up? Noboyd can deny that our pollution is our pollution. They can’t exactly accuse orcas or spiders or trees of spilling pesticides all over the place. Many peopel will say that it isn’t possible – but if we were able to fly to the moon, then we are able to clean up our own rubbish.
So… how can we do it?
It is high time we forgot about governments that sit in palaces and brag or bitch or manipulate … just leave them to it, and concentrate on water. Accept reality as it is: governments are not going to ban all pollution and they will actually do whatever they can to keep things as they are – even if that is completely insane because it is a road to total destruction. They are going to wnat to keep it the way it is. A percentage point of carbon more or less… There is not point in moaning about it. What we need to do is: think, learn, investigate, imagine, and invite everybody to join in. The rich and poor. The manufacturers, and establishments of all kinds, the bosses and workers alike. We need technical solutions, organic, biological solutions, we need to look into every single process in every single industry and house that uses water – and we need to see how it can be done in a way that leaves no trace behind. PLus we need to see how we can clean all the pesticides and other chemicals and other rubbish that have spread almost everywhere.
If we solve just this one problem properly, we will have solved them all.
And then, … ah, THEN, we will see what we are capable of, and THEN we will have something to be truly proud of. I look forward to seeing the effects on our mental and physical health of this particular exercise.
You see… free of charge vision… for the future of humanity…
Joseph Ratliff says
“So… how can we do it?”
Yves, the answer to that question is much more complex than one essay, or even a library of books, could answer. Charles isn’t saying “we’re doing it wrong,” he’s saying the way we try to answer “how can we do it” needs to evolve (different from saying “we’re doing it wrong”).
But it starts with asking different questions, deeper questions, about the undeniably complex challenges our species faces. Some people will want to do that, some will take years to come to that conclusion, and others won’t want to ask deeper questions at all.
That said, there aren’t simple answers to complex problems.
There are simple answers to complex problems. But we’ve gotta treat the root instead of the symptom. Treating only symptoms makes it complex without a solution in sight.
I would like more people to use Compassionate communication (also called Non-violent Communication or NVC by Marshall B. Rosenburg) – it’s like magic and applies to any issue. I believe this will get us to where we want to be.
We think this is worth pursuing with all the energy and intention we’ve got: https://souldocumentary.love/venus-project/
I agree Yves, that we can find the right thing to do and that we can engage in more than one issue. Because when we dig deep to the roots, we find that many issues are interconnected and therefore a simpler solution unfolds.
Jeff Alexander says
As an educator and a volunteer (a little) I work with soil health and ecological understanding. I also as part of my application of my Christian faith serve the homeless. An individual or family is homeless due to particular personal circumstances and characteristics that is not amenable to simple one size fits all solutions. The solution to homelessness is providing services and restrictions – a mixture of the private, governmental, secular and spiritual on a local level to serve, guide, correct, meet needs, educate – that blend of gift and accountability, blessings and consequences that shape our human lives, that when done right call forth the best in us and curb the negative. Money, time, resources love – both tough and tender -that is nimble and wise and discerning enough to work with the individuals, couples, families in all their varieties. The city I live in is developing that matrix of services in response to the crisis. Some from the governmental, some secular and some faith based. In fact I can confidently say that help is available to those ready and willing to make use of it and there is outreach and contact with those who are not ready or able to “help themselves”. Personal change and growth is usually a slow process.
Ozzie Maland says
Good essay, Charles. You question how can we cohere enough to transform the massive edifice of established power when we are fighting amongst ourselves over superficial, symptomatic, or manufactured “issues?” Noam Chomsky’s book _Manufacturing Consent_ points to our media controlled by an oligarchy intent on manipulating such issues to create polarized divisions wherever and whenever possible—the ancient and most basic political strategy of divide and conquer. We will only cohere enough to make a basic transformation if we succeed in seeing through the propaganda spewing out daily on TV etc.
Gustavo Casanova says
I haven’t hashed out this idea yet, but I believe humanity/society isn’t amenable to large scales. We evolved in small tribes, that split off when too large and spread across the globe. We are now at a stage where as an American, I can live a completely different lifestyle from another, and still both be Americans, the tribes are too large, too varied and disproportionate across borders, and forums.
An avenue of pursuit could be to collectively withdraw to our communities, and families (on the local scale). As for nation states, regionalize, either physically or by increasing representation.
Matthew Watersong says
Thank you so much for putting words to the pause that creates possibility. This work doesn’t get the headlines (so far), but you’re not alone in it either. Writing from North Carolina, where a group of us regularly gather to slow it down and ask what can happen when we drop the us vs. them, both within and without. It ain’t always easy, but in my body at least it feels a lot easier than continuing to be angry at half (or more) of the people around me.
What I’ve observed as one of the obstacles to this healing work is to help people who grew up in polarization, like just about everyone I know, feel safe and supported enough to slow down and look around. With the crises so terrifying around us, stopping the blame – even for a moment – still sounds to many nervous systems like standing still before a charging polar bear. The question I’m asking with my friends is what it takes to create the emotional safety and wild trust to take that moment of open-eyed stillness and bewilderment. How can we trust that if we question all of our assumptions, we’ll still find that our dedication to helping will be there waiting for us? I think meditation teaches this: if it’s important, it will still be there at the other end. Russiagate or birth certificates probably won’t be waiting to greet the slower you, or at least not as loudly. But the ache to heal will recognize what has opened up in you and will move through more focused and free than it could do when right and wrong were shouting over it.
Thanks brother, love you.
Herb Schneider says
I like your thoughts.
Joseph Hyde says
The questions I keep coming back to….
Is this what we want?
Does this problem warrant a response?
What is the problem with the status quo?
It seems to me that polarization is very good for the status quo.
Susan Campbell says
Polarization sells. It sells issues of newspapers. It sell books. It sells TV pundits. Why is this? I think this is because most of us humans need to make someone wrong for us to feel okay inside. We are addicted to right-wrong. I was a guest on a nationally televised talk show many years ago (to promote my book, Beyond the Power Struggle), and on that show I taught a young couple in a polarized conflict how to active listen to one another –which helped each one see the other’s viewpoint. Both the host and I thought this was a lovely demonstration of what’s possible when people slow down and use a listening practice like active listening. Then the host opened the floor up to the audience to hear how they were reacting to seeing this formerly warring couple looking lovingly and respectfully at one another. The comments from the audience we things like: “I’m on his side. She’s kind of controlling.” or “He’s the one who needs to change, not her.” These comments showed the studio audience as quite eager to take sides–even though the conflict had been resolved right before their eyes in my demonstration with this couple. They seemed to not see or want to attend to the resolution. They wanted to have their say, to grind their own ax, to “be heard.” The host tried to intervene, “Hey, wait a minute….(etc).” And he did a good job. But both he and I felt a bit disappointed after the show that such a beautiful demonstration of healing polarization went unnoticed. I learned a lot that day, and am no longer surprised when I see these sorts of things. I continue to do my work to address polarization on every level of human systems (families, organizations, couples, and intra-personal). And I continue to seek deeper levels of the problem. Today my favorite theory that informs my work is that humans are polarized within themselves partly due to their inability or lack of motivation to do the inner work of growing up. To grow up is to integrate all your inner conflicting aspects. If you stay in inner conflict–as in battling a serious addiction–you can seem like you are working on yourself, but you’re really just working on the same familiar problem over and over. We do this because we are ambivalent about growing up and having to take on the real problems of living in these times. It’s easier to just keep re-working your familiar problems. And why do people not want to grow up? Because of unfinished business in how they were parented. So the answer I have come to is: I want to help each person I work with admit that they need to complete the job that their parents started. Their parents were fallible humans who did not offer them some important ingredient or condition for growing into a confident, self-loving human. So it’s time now for them to finish this job. And a big part of that job is addressing the inner splits or conflicts between various shadow aspects of themselves. To grow up, people need the practices and the discipline to learn how to hold space and offer loving attention to their rejected or abandoned “parts.” Learning and practicing these things creates an intuitive understanding of how the integration process works. Then, when we are trusting of this natural life process….maybe we humans will be able to effectively face the real challenges that face us in the outside world.
So much YES. Each person must “admit that they need to complete the job that their parents started.” How many people actually get it and accept the work when confronted with this?
Hi Susan… You were most helpful on the two occasions we spoke in 2014. After Trumps election, it seems many “spiritual” people went mad for war. We could pay an awful price for being subject to the conceit of the righteous, whether from the left or right. Thankfully, Charles has remained a voice of sanity!
Thanks for sharing this post,
is very helpful article.
You are so amazing. Thank you for conversing in ways and on subject matter that are seemingly absent from the collective dialogue but are so so soooo necessary. I hope this sparks conversations that ripple out in all directions. In the meantime, I will continue to organize community song circles to bring humans into connection with each other and become beautiful offerings to life in doing so.
It’s too easy for us to turn away and hope our comfortable lives remain comfortable. We feel separate from the problems that plague others—even if those problems affect those close to us. There are people out there with parents and siblings who are homeless, but who won’t help them—because they are drug/alcohol addicts, or mentally unstable to the point they present a danger, or something else less than savory. So they are abandoned and as a society we turn our backs on them.
As Charles states, we need to get to the root of the problem of addictions and mental problems to solve this problem. Building shelters is a short term band-aid. What in society drives people to drink and drugs? What could we be doing better to help those with mental issues who are unable to care for themselves, and present safety issues for those who might take them in?
But nobody wants to be taxed to get the money that is really needed to address these problems. Because we don’t really see it as our problem—it’s just a problem for someone else, and our only problem is keeping it all out of our backyard. And much as I’d like to see the government kept out of it, and for communities themselves to deal with the issue, I know that’s not really possible in this time and place. So for now, I think what is needed is taxpayer dollars so intervention can be done early in people’s lives to keep them off of drugs, and/or treat them for thier illnesses which lead to homelessness.
And of course—those homeless due to being bankrupted from medical bills, or job loss, etc. That’s just a national embarrassment that we would toss people under a bridge for ill luck. We need a basic income so nobody finds themselves completely destitute.
Guess the bottom line is this—we need to move towards a society in which we truly see ourselves as each other’s keepers, and honor that commitment.
I had been contemplating current states of social polarization for awhile now but hadn’t considered it a trap but rather a norm without discovery. I suppose I’m ready to except the chatter as one would quietly observe a party with its groups and nuances, lol…I feel a real need to make a difference without having to struggle and this seems so impossible. Can you get with this?
Herb Schneider says
My frustration is that progressive people, including people in The More Beautiful World Fb group, ignore, dismiss, mock or attack me and my ideas. It feels bad when you offer heartfelt help and the people you imagine would understand, spit in your face. I think what happens are two things. 1. I write to try to relate to the mainstream but then the leading edge people think I’m mainstream. The essence of what I write is progressive and maybe too much for mainstream. So I successfully alienate multiple groups….genius! 2. I think people see one aspect of what I propose and then they think they understand the whole….but it is the separate parts together that is what I am proposing. But I still believe in miracles and I believe I your message, Charles, which I have been promoting for the past eight years or so.
Together we can find the solutions.
We are stretched thin, working for survival and providing for our families, we are dispirited by the rancor of civic participation, we are often further drained by a toxic work environment and so coming together and being involved we are dissuaded to do.
We do spontaneously come together, in a profound way, in the presence of tragedy and in the presence of great beauty.
In Virginia I was working on and am now working on building a community minded garden cafe, In Good Company Social club. It is for the general public, for everyone, and we expressly invite local people and orgs doing progressive work in all the spheres of human activity….intersectionality, synergy…to have as this restaurant their social club.
A festive place designed for socializing and with an ambience informed by the spirit of a true team who works there.
A place of such physical and atmospheric beauty that it is conducive for people of all social circles to interact constructively and amiably. The membership card is simply the respect you show for others. “Respect towards all, from all” is the social club’s rule of etiquette. No one can take your membership card away from you, there is no membership fee, there’s nothing to sign…it’s just one’s conscious effort of respect towards all. Sing, dance, eat drink, socialize (or just eat quietly by yourself if you like)…all with respect.
Years ago, it was originally called Mother’s Place. If it was wholesome enough for a mother and her newborn, it was wholesome enough for everyone.
A wholesome, festive place, woven into the fabric of everyday, normal life.
As a people, we routinely spend money and time eating away from home so this is a way to connect with others in our community that requires no additional investment of time or money. It is also bolstering and restorative, which is personally sustainable, which is necessary to prevent burnout so that we may act in the long term….which is vitally important for creating systemic change.
The social club will host daily World Cafe Method structured conversations (or some other conveyance method) to help harvest and utilize the collective wisdom of the community for the community. The topics chosen by participants.
To create an environment, woven into the fabric of daily life and in alignment with the sensibilities of mainstream culture, of respect and conviviality so that local people from all social circles can naturally, organically make connections, friends, acquaintances, networks, collaborations, big and small, long term and short, formal and informal for the betterment of one’s individual and family life and for the betterment of the larger community.
There are people of conscious goodwill in all social circles.
So this is my work. I have written an operations manual template that will be my operations manual for authentic teamwork in… In Good Company Social Club (altered to fit my new environment.)
It is a practical, step by step guide for any progressive restaurant owner to create a vibrant and productive workplace that truly works for all and to create one’s own version of a community minded social club, if one wishes.
My, maybe Quixotic, dream was that in one town or city… this happens and a local renaissance begins to bloom. It is a living, real life example that is rapidly duplicated in various forms across the nation and across the world (where it is safe to gather in such a way). These renaissance or transition towns connect via the internet and the world is connected locally (in person) and globally (electronically). Sharing inspiration, challenges and stories and methods of success.
An exponential wave of progress cresting just before the exponential wave of the dissolution of the unsustainable reaches its zenith.
That we all are points on an exponential wave of progress, rippling outwards, meeting and synergizing with the ripples of all.
That’s the dream. This is my ripple.
From the Epilogue, “People, Planet, Peace and Profit.”
There is dignity in expecting those we hire to be aware and awake. To be
conscientious of protocol that makes sense, is user friendly and removes
obstacles to the work at hand. To receive a livable wage. To help create a
workplace that is a good place for all.
It is usually not the work itself that is difficult but the bullshit that makes it
so. In many workplaces the crew operates within a subtle, or not so subtle,
matrix of domination, capitulation, apathy and fear. An authentic team is
unified within a matrix of awareness and respect for self and others. It is a
wholly different atmosphere.
This book illustrates a new paradigm emerging in the world. A workplace
that works well for all…the owners, the crew, the community, our
environment, the world.
In this connected world of economic misery, much of the world’s
population depends upon, and enjoys the benefits of exploitative industry
(Like the computer I am using to type this.)
It is rare and difficult for any one of us raised in an industrialized nation to
extricate ourselves from profiting by another’s suffering.
While bullshit comes from the top of our hierarchical systems, bullshit also
comes from everyone. Bullshit comes from you. Bullshit comes from me. Is
any one of us so infallible that we never contribute to the collective BS of
the world to some degree? Great or small? We cannot, with integrity, so
easily point the finger.
Is it fair to judge the butcher while we enjoy the meat?
We who build businesses, organizations and institutions…we, by our
effort, intelligence and will…build something.
Some that is built is good.
Some causes great harm.
But because many of us, in many ways
benefit from these efforts… some degree
of gratitude and appreciation is in order.
When we awaken to the reality that many existing businesses,
organizations and institutions create harm along with the nice things that
we enjoy, we…instead of doing the easy thing of only pointing the
finger…can do the work of building something better ourselves.
Calling out abuse is a worthy part.
The other part is to see one’s own
culpability and to build the good.
Someone has to build it.
If that someone isn’t us, who is?
If we wish to live in a more beautiful world, a world that works for the
100%, then we, the people of conscious goodwill, must continue to roll up
our sleeves and work to create the businesses, institutions and
organizations that work for the benefit of all. It is not easy but it is
enriching and possible with authentic teamwork.
We can help co-create a world that respects people, planet, peace and
This manual is especially for those who wish to create, and who are
creating, the more beautiful world.
As usual Charles, I find your writing a great way of stimulating new thinking and feeling. In this case your essay got me thinking about Brexit. As a strident ‘remained’ UK citizen I find it very difficult not to find affinity with others in my trench and at the same time throw grenades or pour scorn on those in the trench opposite.
The allure of the remain/exit debate as a yes/no, right/wrong simplification is hard to resist. So your essay got me thinking about what might be underneath, and harder to face into (the type of culture we want? the need to equalise power and wealth? disconnectedness/otherness?) These topics are not really talked about in the general Brexit discourse; or at least if they are, they are drowned out by all the righteous shouting on both sides.
And I smiled at the idea that both sides in a war dislike pacifists more than the enemy. I smiled because I imagine the reaction here in the UK if someone tried to bring these conversations to the table.
So thank you
I rarely hear anyone asking disputing groups what they actually want. And if asking, actually listen rather than immediatley react – perhaps emotionally.
“What do you want? What would you like to happen? Here are the effects. This is a likely consequence.. This has been an actual consequence.. Can we move to a different choice now we’ve seen the evidence…” etc. People who are able to highlight the issues that arise from asking for certain things, discussing whether outcomes are what was desired perhaps can help to narrow the real choices that exist within every problem down to a few options. There can be compromise but only when these questions and realities are fully explored. I do this with my kids and they make better choices for all each time.
There is a mistake in this article. Polarisation is about good and bad.
Good is about Ideals which in any point allways will be in conflict whith reality
Bad is this reality.
Good people supress reality because they dont want to give up their holy Ideals.
Ideals bacame an Ideology.
Therefore exists laws and Borders. It is not our duty to solve every problem in the world.
It is not realistic. Climate savers and Multiculturalists think like this, but like all Idealists
they dont see reality. People which have to feel reality will have to bear the consequenses.
Robert M. Ellis says
I think you have identified some of the issues in contemporary polarisation, but a great deal more thought is required to understand the processes that create them, and engage in the practices to address them. Much of our thinking unnecessarily creates absolutisations that perpetuate these conflicts. Addressing them is what we are aiming to do in the Middle Way Society (www.middlewaysociety.org). If you look on our website you’ll find a great many resources on ways of responding to polarisation.
Sharon LeMay says
This article was written a year ago, but really hits home with the current polarization over Covid-19. I used to identify as far left—now I find myself being accused of being far right because I question the safety of a Covid-19 vaccine, whether wearing a face mask is really helping anything, and is the stay-at-home orders doing more harm than good. Whether I’m right or wrong on that doesn’t matter–it’s the lack of the ability to have a civil discussion on it without shaming, name calling etc.
I find myself politically and ideologically without a home these days. My values don’t match most of what the far right embraces, and the left appears to be intolerant of any view it disagrees with–even if it’s just one item out of many. So…guess I just officially became independent.
There are simple answers to complex problems, thank you for sharing this article post.Really looking forward to read more.