Oh my Gawd. The tension in the world is right up there at the moment. Polarised views, violent rhetoric and the inability to have a respectful discussion that leads to any resolution or understanding. I’m right – you’re wrong – go die. Essentially.
So what can we do about it? Do we have a personal responsibility to develop our emotional intelligence? Could this make a difference anyway?
I would like to propose yes, it will. And in any case, even though no outcome is guaranteed, the alternative is much worse.
So, I ain’t gonna lie. It’s a challenging and noble quest to be willing to look and inquire into the Self. Usually most of us on this journey had no choice but to change. Shit was not working. But guess what, shit ain’t working for anyone anymore.
It’s so much easier and immediately gratifying to blame and project all our unacknowledged crap onto others – especially if we feel we have the ‘moral’ high ground. And everyone thinks they have the moral high ground. Join up into a gang who think the same way – that’s ignorance squared.
I’m not saying Mindfulness Philosophy is the only or a definitive solution. Far from it. But it does offer A tried and tested cognitive method to get to know and care for ourselves better and the consequences of just that alone are good.
First we get to wake up and be aware; can’t change what you don’t see. Then, if we treat ourselves with non-judging kindness, there is the possibility to acknowledge our own shadow; those ‘not so nice’ parts of ourselves that reside within.
We realise ‘we ain’t so perfect’ and it is survivable to make mistakes, change our minds or admit we were wrong. Who knew! We can then take responsibility, adjust our beliefs and change our behaviour. It’s vital to take action, mindfulness is not passive.
Slowly we begin to ‘see Self in others and others in Self’, the foundation of empathy and understanding. It becomes less threatening to listen and try to understand where ‘other people’ are coming from. With an attitude of curiosity we can learn to examine and interrogate the ideas being put forward, rather than imply the person is a total twat for having them.
I think for most of us, we were never educated in how to have debates in a respectful manner. That certainly wasn’t the case in my childhood home. My dear old dad used to start foaming at the mouth when he heard the Tops of the Pops theme tune. If I said I liked Marc Bolan – oh the carnage.
It’s understandable that people get scared or angry in heated discussions – the same stress hormones kick off in a conflict, as they do when you’ve just opened the fridge and there’s a flesh eating zombie hiding in the cheese box.
I love listening to skilful respectful debate of ideas – take a listen to Michael Sandel the American philosopher – the man’s a master at exploring and discussing differing ideologies and the participants mostly follow his example.
I’m not talking about violent hateful speech here – I’ve decided to stop listening to what Trump says. But I am making an effort to listen to political views with which I don’t agree. At the very least I can get a better understanding of the logic behind those beliefs and usually I can find some common ground.
It’s more important than ever that we learn to do this – otherwise we start ‘othering’ groups of people – dehumanising them and they become easier to hurt….. and we all know where that one ends.
So I would say, yes absolutely, we do have a responsibility to develop our own emotional intelligence. If for no other reason than it’s cowardly, boring and vacuous just to point the finger all the time. There’s nowhere to go with hate speech, absolute certainty, the refusal to listen or change one’s mind. Save your breath. Just don’t be part of that ignorance.
Instead, in the words of the great Mahatma himself; let’s be the change. I hope we can do it in time.