We live in some of the most politically divisive times ever. As a consequence, it’s exceedingly difficult to have civilized discussions about important issues without it quickly becoming a flame war. This is a huge problem of its own accord, but is utterly catastrophic in the context of the times we live in.
My hope in writing this is to help calm the waters a bit, and slow down some of the unnecessary in-fighting within the Cascadia movement and beyond. More than ever, it’s absolutely essential that we do our best to cast aside our differences and focus on the shared goal we all have to make the world a better place to live.
We have a natural tendency to demonize people from the “other side,” simply based on our perception of one or two of the thousands of beliefs they hold. Our brains are wired to make quick distinctions, and stick with first impressions. The truth, however, is that there is a lot more nuance to other peoples’ viewpoints than we can possibly glean from the surface level. We should fight our instinct to box people in, and try to open our hearts to empathize with everyone (whether or not we agree with them).
Our egos like to attach to stances, and tighten their grip when attacked. People have their own ideas about the right way to do things, and are often stubborn to let them go. It’s not necessarily our job to change their mind, but we should at least make an attempt to understand them, and see if there is space to work together within the greater common ground we share.
Not saying this is an easy thing to do. Especially not diving straight into the deep end. The Cascadia community is a strong one with a lot of solidarity between groups, but there still seems to be hundreds of subdivisions that drive us in slightly different directions. Perhaps we should start by building new bridges where the ideological gaps are shortest within our movement, and work our way up as we get more comfortable working with outside groups whose views don’t line up quite so well.
It’s a bit tricky, since even people who are mostly on the same page will never agree on everything. Gandhi once said that “in reality, there are as many religions as there are individuals.” Applied more broadly, your particular set of beliefs are uniquely your own, and even the most like-minded person to you in the world will still have some topic that they view slightly differently.
It may not sound like it, but this is a good thing! Not only would it be super boring if the world was a homogeneous blur of all the same beliefs, but we’d also have a harder time provoking each other into thinking up new and better ideas. Society would stagnate.
The truth is, we have a LOT more in common with people from “the other side” than we think. When we see them spout an ignorant statement, we tend to assume they are just universally ignorant. But everyone knows something you don’t know, and has a life that led them to be the way they are. You can’t say you would think any differently if you were in their shoes.
We can learn something from everyone, especially our biggest “enemies.” More importantly, when we open ourselves up to learning from them, they open themselves to learning from us. Just because people have different opinions, it doesn’t mean we need to hate them for it, nor do we have to go out of our way to avoid them. Just the opposite, in fact. We should seek them out.
The greatest illustration of this that comes to mind is Özlem Cekic. After winning the first female Muslim seat in the Danish Parliament, she received all kinds awful hate mail. Instead of avoiding or dismissing these people, she made it a priority to meet face to face with them. She summoned the courage to go into hundreds of homes of people who had said deplorable racist, misogynist, Islamophobic slurs to her on a regular basis, and found out something rather unexpected.
Turns out, they were just like her in most ways. Afraid of people they don’t know. Demonizing someone based on limited information, and making them one-dimensional. By having a meal together and discussing the issue of where the hate is coming from, she got to understand them, they got to understand her, and both walked away from the interaction better off for it.
This is not to say we should adopt hateful and ignorant beliefs, obviously. Rather, if we want to get rid of these ignorant stereotypes, we must plainly display to offenders the truth that we are all fundamentally the same. Hate is nothing more than ignorance given an emotional backing. If they hate you for no reason, show them it’s for no reason. Remove their ignorance, remove their hatred.
Treating others with unconditional love is difficult sometimes, for sure, but it’s the best thing we can do if we’re ever going to come together and address problems bigger than ourselves. It’s not just a hand-holding hippy platitude. It’s simple cause-and-effect logic. Our minds will often find and exaggerate the things we seek, so it’s better to seek similarities between one another instead of looking for contrasts.
On top of that, it’s not very mature or scientific to argue past each other and throw around insults (which is often the case when conversations are approached with intense emotional heat). People mirror each others’ tones, and shouting matches get us further from our objective of reaching a mutual understanding. Why not choose to break the reactionary cycle and respond by respectfully listening, and asking questions to help others look at issues from different angles? Make an attempt to commiserate rather than condemn. Wouldn’t discussions be a lot less stressful for everyone that way?
Each person is the hero of their own story, and each of them has their fair share of flaws. Just because these imperfections may overwhelm their character sometimes, it shouldn’t automatically bestow upon them the title of “villain.” If anything, it may be that some of their ideas are “evil” (ie: ignorant/misguided), and those are what we should fight.
Any given person is just doing the best they can with the information they receive that shapes their worldview. We all have access to different bits of info, and they can be combined in unique ways to make better solutions. There’s wisdom in the crowd, and we need to utilize it the best we can.
Our enemy is not in the shape of any human being, it’s the ignorance that infects each and every one of us. We’re all in this fight together, and the world needs us to unite in spite of our many differences. Don’t we owe it to future generations to at least make an attempt?
Make sure to check out https://www.yourcascadia.org for more information
or email firstname.lastname@example.org for questions or to get involved.
Disclaimer: This post was written by Elliott, who is spearheading this project. The views are his, and do not necessarily represent those of YourCascadia as a whole. YourCascadia is just a tool, and has no views. It will be controlled entirely by its members via a direct democracy once it is built and running. Want to write a post here? Let us know!