I like to think I’m a smart guy. When I was young, I got really good grades. I did well on standardized tests. I read a lot and have a little bit of knowledge about a lot of different things. I can follow logical progressions, think critically, and am quick with a quip. I can hold up my end of almost any conversation, I’m curious, and I try to look at things from multiple perspectives. I try to see farther than just the next step ahead, try to understand implications of actions before they occur, try to offer explanations. I’m also keenly aware that there are many people smarter than I am, both in general and on specific matters. Still, I’m a smart guy. I have an idea about The Way Things Should Be, even when I know how Things Actually Are. Maybe that’s why I find myself so often frustrated.
Now when I say I know about The Way Things Should Be, I’m speaking both empirically and generically. Obviously, like almost anyone, I have my own biases on specific topics and I get that for matters like those The Way Things Should Be is not always an absolute so much as a brokered compromise that meets some of my own ideals but maybe not all of them. Concepts like what makes a good educational system or what is the best way to make a pie crust can be malleable and probably should be malleable based on a plethora of conditional parameters relevant to the participants of the conversation. Those are generic ideas of The Way Things Should Be, albeit with specific features, and in reality there may be a several constructs that create effective solutions. Most topics will inherently fall into this category. We converse, share opinions, follow up with factual data to prove a point or strengthen an argument, coalesce on an agreed compromise-or not, and move on to the next. There is often room for growth or change to these ideas, though not always, and that’s understandable. As we learn more, as the world changes, so too might our assumptions of the generic Way Things Should Be.
But there are other, more intrinsic, less malleable concepts out there and The Way Things Should Be for these matters shouldn’t really be in much debate. I’m talking about things like equality, fairness, love, respect and tolerance. Stripped down to their basic ideals these intangible yet important concepts are nothing less than the building blocks that help us understand The Way Things Actually Are and how they got that way. I think that anyone who understands these concepts intellectually, these elemental human connections, can agree on what they mean and how they look and feel. We know what equality means whether or not we choose to adhere to it. We recognize peace and love when we feel it or live within it’s sphere of influence. We can talk about these ideals with a common point of general reference, at least most of us can, without too much rancor or debate. These are the things that matter, that bind us as a civil society, that allow us to move forward more or less together. These should be the unspoken underpinnings of all our conversations about the Ways Things Should Be and without a collective agreement that we begin with these basic tenets in hand no real cohesion of conversation can occur. No progress can occur. No consensus, no compromise, no commonality. We might assume that we all share this underlying recognition and nonverbal agreement as a basis for our discourse, maybe not in absolute terms in every specific situation, but surely at least in principle and as a point from which to start. We need not agree on the specifics for every single topic, but we must at least agree to start from a common point. When we polarize, when we demonize, when we dehumanize each other before we even begin to converse we get nowhere. We shuffle off incensed, unheard, dissatisfied, and defeated. We embrace the negative aspects that drive us apart-inequity, self-absorption, hate, disdain, division.
Ask yourself a simple question- do I prefer to be loved or disliked? Do I want to be treated as an equal or as an inferior? Do I operate from a position of inclusion or do I shut out those who may look, act, think, or feel differently than me? I know my answers to these questions, and while I’m not perfect in my application of these ideals, I strive to be. I’m guessing that you do as well. So why then are we, as a people, a country, a species, continually casting each other in the most unflattering light and working at cross purposes as if human happiness is a zero sum game where only one perspective triumphs over all others? Why do we allow our political, religious, and corporate leaders use all the negative aspects to create division among ourselves? Why do we embrace it?
We all have ideas of The Way Things Should Be. Our determinations are based on both the visible world and our subconscious biases, constructs embedded into our psyche by decades of instruction and experience and repetition. And that’s OK, because we all develop differently even as we are created equal. We can find compromise within criticism when it comes from a position of respect. We can find peace and prosperity when it comes from a position of tolerance and love. We can all create a better future when it comes from a place of compassion and a sincere desire to leave our world better for those to come.
We can debate and disagree but we must not demonize or hate. We can continue the human experience together or we can destroy our potential and return to a primal state. The choice should be obvious. The path should be clear. The Way Things Actually Are today isn’t The Way Things Should Be. I think you know that to be true and it’s up to all of us to fight for what is right before we fight for what we think is best.
Talk to you soon…..it’s good to be back.
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