for a less-divided future
“I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”
In my last article, I wrote about four things you can focus on to invite the kind of creativity that can heal what divides us. Beyond what we can DO, though, I’m focusing more and more on what that future might FEEL like.
When we feel ourselves caught in the middle of a divide, it’s easy to want to fall back on figuring out how to ensure that our side will prevail. When we do that, we tense up, getting ready to fight (or maybe we wither a little, leaning into our freeze, flee, or fawn responses). The trouble is, that when we’re in survival mode, the only question our brains can answer is “am I safe?” and our threat-assessment instruments shift into overdrive. From this place, coming up with creative new solutions is all but impossible and the people with the most to gain from that paralysis are generally those with the most power in the here-and-now.
Before we plot our “attack,” against the “enemy,” we can take a step back and ask whose interests are served by the divide existing in the first place. The phrase “to divide and conquer,” didn’t come from nowhere. There’s often real strategic advantage (if the game is to win and ensure someone else loses) to creating a split between people that has them feel like the person on the “other side” of the divide is bad or wrong.
It’s a lot easier to “stay on top” if the people you have power over are fighting amongst themselves.
A growing body of research suggests that the public sphere has become less rationally driven and more reactive over the last several decades. Our actual policy disagreements are less extreme than the force of the contempt on different sides of an issue might suggest, though. When we look at the actual underlying issue disagreements, we can see that the people who are fighting so forcefully might actually have more in common with each other than they do with the powerful interests who stand to benefit from the chasm that grows wider and wider between us.