Both of my parents served their countries during wartime and I lost relatives in the fighting. And I don’t think that was what either side had in mind when they marched into battle. While so many citizens are working toward egoless lives, modern politics has become largely distasteful in that most of us can sense that it is almost exclusively about ego (in the forms of either money or power).
Whereas we all were taught to view politics as collective, respectful, group decision-making on behalf of all, the fact is that it has become partisan, petty and it accomplishes very little other than dividing the populace and lining the pockets of those who participate. So how do we turn that into something more in alignment with our spiritual values and understanding?
What’s that joke from the French Revolution? “I must find out where my people are going so I can lead them!” We lead by enacting our values in our everyday lives. And I don’t mean passively—that’s about as good as nothing at all. We have to represent our values in our lives. We can’t pretend we didn’t see family violence or corporate theft. We have to see others as valuable and ourselves as equal to them. We have to believe enough in ourselves as good people that we will have complete confidence when responding with our most loving, empathetic nature. We have to set the tone for where we want to live. We have to establish the example. We have to wisely impart the value of differing perspectives and open minds.
No one side has the answer to everything. If one approach worked we would surely have a super-successful example of it by now. None exists because each situation must be taken in its own context. Sometimes a more aggressive, experimental, optimistic perspective would find a new solution previously unsought-after. Or maybe someone more conservative would play it safer and stick to what is known and thereby avoid what was destined to become a serious problem. Each has its advantages.
Several recent studies demonstrated that conservatives are well-named. They prefer the known, and have greater fears about the unknown than do people who identify as liberals. In cave-man terms, one of these groups would have more members running off cliffs chasing pretty birds to eat, while the other would starve to death by refusing to leave their cave for fear of getting eaten by predators. Again, both groups starve or die because neither group has all the right answers. They’re better to work together.
These days any group that gets 51% of a vote completely ignores half their constituents as though they don’t matter at all. That was not how the system was intended to operate. That’s how egos would operate it. The public is looking for selfless politicians not ego-maniacal ones. We’re looking for the person who says, Okay, I know what the people like me would like to do, now tell me what the people like you would do and why? And then everyone’s needs would be considered and to whatever degree addressed, and the objective throughout would be to do the maximum amount of good to the greatest number of people.
Obviously if something works for one person it won’t for another. But if we all take a turn being in each other’s shoes, we all win some and we all lose some. Since that would be inevitable in a democracy, we’re simply better to focus on the wins and accept the losses as an integral aspect of working together.
With each group competing for control we forgot what we were supposed to be doing. Politics is a service. The goal shouldn’t be to win, it should be to serve effectively. What happened to caring about each other? Why can’t we forgo judging someone in favour of complimenting them? Why do we need others to be wrong for us to be find a direction?Why can’t two people on opposite sides still each have a valid point? As everyone’s ego struggles for confidence and trustworthiness and stability, many have accidentally built very rigid, certain, jagged judgments that keep us apart from the whole of creation.
Make it clear in your life that the peace and the prosperity of all is your objective. If you see someone bullied, speak up or act. If someone looks emotionally down, offer them a compliment or smile. And refrain from talking about others (to others or to yourself) about the downfalls of opposing ideas.
Instead, broaden your mind by truly trying to appreciate why a very large percentage of the society you live in actually thinks the opposite of what you do. Search through their interpretations for things you like and agree with. Learn from their perspectives. And use anything that works, from any solution, from any camp; use anything that meets the overall needs of what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’ve never taken an idea from the “opposite” side, then you can be assured that you’re lost.
Humility is what remains once ego is deserted. Do not assume you are correct, for you will learn more from assuming you are incorrect and re-proofing your current beliefs. Always respect others. Operating from that cooperative place, you will gain the strength necessary to carry the degree of wisdom that is required to competently contribute. Anything absolute is nothing more than ego played out on a political stage. And egos—our own or other people’s—won’t lead any of us anywhere we would want to go.
Respect other ideas. Embrace them as though they were your own. Expand yourself by including the perspectives of many kinds of people. Because that multi-faceted perspective is what the world calls wisdom.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.