Our conversation on Feb. 6th has rolled around in my mind for the last couple of weeks. It seemed as if we started focusing on all the points of negativity that seem to both define our current attitudes and policies related to diversity and equity. There were comments about every level of involvement from individuals whose attitudes belie their privilege and prejudices to generalizations about systems and populations that seem to work against establishing heightened intent. While I think it is important to have those types of conversations, I don’t think they rise to the need that we all feel for some definition or resolution to the issues of the day.
I, like many of you, have found the political climate in the US unbearable over the last year-plus. It has become so oppressive and overwhelming that I find myself pulling away from conversations and even action when I have been inclined to engage in the past. More often than not, I am reluctant to respond or react immediately because I don’t have enough factual basis upon which to act, and I don’t have time to research/investigate all of the perspectives I imagine exist and make an informed decision.
So, upon extended reflection, I decided to share how I frame my thinking about social-political issues. My hope is that it also sparks some active conversations that transcend immediate reaction and instead invite deep criticism and observation.
1. Balance should be the Goal: Not Winning
Scientists and philosophers alike often refer to the ‘balance’ of things in the universe. I often think of this balance in relation to the Taoist philosophy of Yin / Yang, which relates to the two energies embodied within. In achieving balance, the concepts of “good” and “bad” are not attributable to one type of energy or the other, but to the imbalance that exists when they are not.
The imbalance at this moment in the history of humanity is making it difficult to cut through the crazy and find a balance. Our willingness to label opinions, actions and people with the words “good” and “bad” make it easy to not discuss the underlying issues causing imbalance rather than the end results (
2. Difficult Conversations Aren’t Easy
It’s not much of an overstatement to say that when Barak Obama was elected President elation and relief swept through the progressive-thinking, socially-minded population. There was seemingly an equal amount of consternation and frustration within conservative circles that seemed to come alive soon after the election. And, with the overt commitment of the Republican Congress to block all of the new adminstration’s initiatives – nee, to see the President fail – rose to a unique level of animus in American politics.
I remember feeling a sense of relief that the political and social issues we had been wrestling with under the previous administration would be addressed in ways that would result in what I considered to be real change, along with many others. It wasn’t long, however, before unrest began to show through the veneer of Promise and Hope. But, other than media attention focused on the political divide, there was little public awareness and very few difficult conversations that occurred openly as they are today. In previous administrations
Today there are multiple difficult conversations occurring simultaneously: systematic oppression and racism; sensible immigration policy; the impact of global economics on local economies; climate change, the stranglehold US business and industry have on political institutions; safety and security within various social and political communities. These are conversations that have not previously achieved the type of publicity (in the daily news cycle sense) than they currently enjoy.
If the current administration were as ‘popular’ as the Obama administration was, I don’t think we would be having some of the difficult conversations we are at this moment. I think we have a nexus of both frustration and opportunity right now, and to determine how we are going to move toward truth, reconciliation and evolution of both thought and behavior.
3. The Arc of the Universe is Long
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quote from a 1967 speech to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (text here) has cast it’s shadow on many a liberal political victory. But to read the quote in context sheds light upon King’s intent to reinforce the idea that ‘right’ is not always victorious, but that an issue will continue to rise in the hearts and minds of just people until it is resolved in the light of justice.
Light and pressure must continuously be applied in order to achieve justice. The best example I know is the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission that served as the impetus for radical shifts in culture and policy after the fall of apartheid in the 1990’s.
So many of our current issues would benefit from a similar process of truth-telling that results in just and equitable outcomes.
4. 7th Generation Thinking
I cannot even fathom seven generations in the past. The people in my family would have been living in the 1700’s and I can hardly imagine what their day-to-day existence was like. But seven generations into the future seems much more tangible. I imagine the world will be tremendously different. And I have some grave concerns about what that might entail that prevents humans from living their best lives then. I think that this is becoming significantly more prevalent among my contemporaries and those that are younger (Gen X through whatever the new up and coming generation is). This attitude is going to significantly change the conversations we have, and the actions we take as individuals, families, communities and government in the future.
5. Policy is not the Cornerstone of Democracy: Communities are.
People come together in communities to both feel connected and to support their values, beliefs and principles. They develop commonality of thinking and doing, and seek validation through relationship with others in the community as well as the organization itself.
Policy – that which is devised through political organizations – does not define how people think and behave, it is the result of how people think and behave collectively. Political organizations merely reflect that which its citizens (or constituents) hold up as relevant or important. And, when the relevant constituencies are unable to adequately express their interests, there often arises an imbalance of power and influence that must be addressed through difficult conversations and a re-defining of community.
These are my own opinions, obviously. They don’t seem to have much to do directly with the content that we are discussing in class currently, but they are so foundational to my opinions on diversity and inclusion, I felt like I had to make an attempt to lay them out early.
Thanks for reading.
Care to check out some of my resources?