What divides us.

Not dog related.

Today a police officer was killed in London doing his job. I changed my profile picture to reflect that and respect him and his family. I shouldn’t have to justify honouring him.

I can respect the police and speak about against police brutality and miscarriages of justice both as a citizen and as a former police officer.

I can support the armed forces at the same time as disagreeing with the wars the fight and wanting justice for war crimes.

I can hold an anti vivisection position and the same time educate staff who work with lab animals in order to make the lives of those animals better.

I can disagree with the party I vote for because I don’t have to agree with every policy they have and I don’t have to blindly follow every one of their policies.

I can agree with the UK government in the (very) rare time that they do something good and at the same time hold the position that they get most things wrong most of the time.

I can want independence for my country and at the same time realise that there is much work to do with the practicalities of that.

I can see that religious organisations abuse their power and cover up child abuse at the same time recognising the good work they do for the poor and needy.

I can oppose the state of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people and at the same time be fervently opposed to anti- Semitism.

I can oppose the monarchy and realise that has nothing to do with the armed forces of the country.

I can also draw clear lines with some things while being flexible in my views and positions on others, all within the same genre.

There are other examples. Social media divides us, pigeon holes us, creates identity politics. It reinforces reactionary behaviour. It causes stress. Not every remark is aimed at me, not every remark warrants my energy or attention. the same goes for you.

Last thought

I’ve been commenting and using Facebook less and less of late. Identity politics and tribalism are the reasons. This is just my thoughts, they are no more or less valid than the next person’s.

When we can’t concede points in a discussion, what’s the point of having the discussion. In Alan Alda’s wonderful podcast, Clear and Vivid, he says he enters every conversation open to having his mind changed. To me that means he’s listening. If we want to be heard that means we need to let others be heard as well.

I listened to a podcast recently where an elected conservative representative of his constituency numerously said “objectively speaking” , except it wasn’t objective, it was his opinion on the discussion point. I felt angry listening to it but then realised that anger gets in the way of me listening to him, so what’s the point of me listening to the conversation? Just because I strongly disagreed with some of what he said, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have things worth listening to or for me to agree with. Finding the common ground is what will keep all us moving forward. In films like “American History X” the protagonist’s journey reflects what happens when someone who is diametrically opposed to his point of view takes the time to see him as someone who is hurt and damaged and manages to turn him around. Compassion, empathy, love, respect, understanding.

The flip side of being willing to have our minds changed means that we can be influenced by those whose opinions we do not agree with on a fundamental level. This takes us being mindful and developing skills of critical analysis. this takes work and energy and when we are scared and exhausted by the world, this is very difficult. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, but I certainly need to and I think more of us need to also.

Social media drives and thrives on division. The more time we spend online, the more money the platforms make. The irony of me writing this and you reading this on social media is not lost on me. Caution yourself from shaming others from really going to town on people whose comments you disagree with. There is a person attached to those comments with feelings, a family, a job. They deserve our compassion and kindness. Our words have effects.

I’m reading more, reading for a variety of sources and opinions, not just the ones I agree with. this allows me to develop those skills of critical analysis, empathy and compassion which are so important. it also allows me to understand that so many of us have underlying emotional trauma which we are not even aware of and this drives much of these behaviours (the reinforcer being some relief or distraction).

I was a horrendous misanthrope for a long, long time. I am enjoying connecting more with people but I prefer not to do it by text or here. If you are interested in connecting and discussion things like this, I am always open to it. I won’t always get it right but I’m certainly trying.

We have so much more in common than we have different. Those common factors will help heal us, hopefully.

Hope, love, patience, understanding, empathy, compassion.