#we’re all in this together

We’re all in this together, and yet we move lightyears away from each other. In our minds. After all, it’s true. It’s all in our mind. It plays tricks on us. It makes us believe things that are not true. It fights wars in our names. It can make us psychopathic, sociopathic, mythopathic and apathetic monsters within an instant. So we hurt others, kill others, destroy others.

It very seldom manages to turn us into angels, philanthropic and altruistic creatures in an instant, that care for each other, that want to give rather to take.  That love unconditional.

That’s what makes us human. After all.

And still, we act like wild animals. Maybe we should decide what we want to be, animals or humans. Humans do not bomb each other’s beliefs out of the head. Out of the house. Out of the country. Humans talk to each other and try to find common ground. They try to find solutions that are in the best interest of both parties. Of all parties. Humans take care of each other.

We are far from these. Not sure who to blame. Religion, men, the arms industry? All the ones that lobby their interests. Interests of a few. To the disadvantage of millions. If not billions. I blame the absence of education and parenting. That’s when things start go wrong. But I also blame religion, some men (and women) and business models that are of benefit to 0.5% of the world population.  I blame all those, because their religion is based on power and control. On executing (power). On being in control. With rules, that compete in stupidity, idiocy and illogic with each other.

But there is still hope. I put my hope in the younger generations. In the sharing economy, in alternative business models for this world, not based on money. In real philanthropy. In educated generations around the world that find the way to live with each other. That can design and re-build a sustainable, peaceful future. For all our sakes.

No matter how naive that sounds, or how foolish. I do believe in this. After all there are some beliefs that can bring out the best in us. The human.

Photo credits: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

#resilience

Last month I followed a training course on resilience. All participants were asked why they decided to take the course. I went first. It was out of curiosity I said. I wanted to better understand how resilience works, and how it is actually defined. It’s one of those words, that because of their origin, in this case latin, everybody interprets and understands differently.

To me embodiment of resilience is a tree that despite hard winds and rough weather does not break. It can bend and suffer but it finds back to its form. Unbreakable. Being resilient is maybe not to be left unmarked by things you experience – but being able to live through it. To not bend, permanently.

How to become unbreakable? The possibility to shed some light on this question was the main motivation for attending the training course. Not so much for myself. More to find out about the magic ingredients that make someone become more resilient. To see what I could do to help others become more resilient. My kids, my friends. At some moment, even myself.

And while I started writing this blog last month, two terrible things happened. Not to me, to others. Nevertheless, they affected me too.

First one was the boat disaster outside Italy with over 700 migrants losing their life. It was all over the news. Τhis was last month. This month it’s almost forgotten. We went back to business as usual. But I haven’t. And mostly because of a photo I saw in the news coverage. A Greek coast guard officer carrying the dead body of a drowned boy. You know when they say that a picture can say more than a thousand words? This photo told the story of thousands of migrants that died in the mediterranean looking for a better future. Like the boy that drowned in the waters before Rhodes. As a mother having a young son I felt like it was my son out there lying in the arms of the coast guard officer. It was terrible. Mostly because I imagined what the mother of the boy must have felt, if she was still alive.

Like many others I am not resilient to the fates of innocent children and people that are victims of war, poverty, violence and suppression. I am breakable. I feel like I am falling apart. That drowned boy, is my son. The abused girl in the news, my daughter. The tortured woman in Saudi Arabia, my sister. I can’t look at all those fates, and stories without thinking it could be me, my kids, my family. And when you look at the big picture, they are: My family, my kids. Me. This world is my home. It’s everybody else’s home too. My thoughts and feelings are mostly like this when such bad things happen.

The second terrible thing that happened was the devastating earthquake in Nepal. Watching photos and videos of a poor country in ruins, I was mad at the news coverage counting how many Brits, or Germans might be among the victims. WTF! How about the thousand Nepalese that died in that earthquake? Why highlighting a single (Western) national victim and making that a headline? But that is business as usual – and applies not only to this earthquake. Whenever terrible accidents happens, we always highlight the fate of the poor Westerners as if the ‘others’ don’t matter.

Since when have we become like this? I don’t like myself like this. I don’t like us. This humankind.

There is a guy who has created an earth flag, for whenever we earthlings will land on other planets or encounter extraterrestrials… Is this the only way to unite as one? When we encounter Martians? Is there no hope of us to evolve to a truly united humankind, within this known planet?

#intellectual fascism

We tend to believe sometimes that we know some things better than the rest. Sometimes we are right, most times we are not. There are though people that firmly believe they know everything (better). Those know-it-all personas have a tendency to drive the rest of us crazy. If they are our friends we just accept them as they are and smile every time they try to convince us with an argument. If they are family members be it fathers, mother-in-laws or husbands – your love for them usually makes up for any extremely annoying persistent strong view (how to tackle this should be subject of a separate blog-post).

Worse than family are colleagues and superiors. Some are truly in the champions league of know-it-alls. Beyond personal differences and relational hiccups in the workplace – it is even more frustrating if the working culture is narrow in terms of its thinking. A lack of responsiveness to different ideas and approaches is a true killer for our enthusiasm. In some professional environments the thinking is so narrow that the line to take can seem like intellectual fascism.

Harnessing only a specific type of thinking does not only lead to personal frustration. It is also a very bad way of doing business or managing tasks in most areas. In western civilisation we are usually spared from severe forms of dictated thinking. This doesn’t mean that people from time to time do not abuse their powers to convince others of their world views.

Being at work takes a lot of our time. It pays for bread and butter – so on one level the paycheck already makes work meaningful. But for a lot of people – including us – this is not enough. We think our tasks and our energy spent in the professional setting should make use of our existing knowledge (…and wisdom), objective evidence-base and allow us to acquire new skills (and more wisdom).

So – how to diplomatically manage and stay calm in a narrow-minded working culture where not evidence-based facts – but opinions based on populistic mass media coverage or personal hang-ups are a reality? How to handle situations where ‘intellectual fascism’ rules? If this is an issue that permeates the workplace it might be a difficult thing to raise as a problem. It might even be hard to define exactly what the problem consists of or where it originates.

Because a lot of the time things are more muddled than organised. Meetings sometime resemble episodes of ‘The Office’ and are far from being productive. What if you’re stuck with the short end of the stick? Is there a way to open people’s minds for more calibrated and well-substantiated arguments – to allow for truly participatory*, holistic* and inclusive* discussions?

At the heart of this lies some expectations. The workplace, colleagues and the hierarchy, is one of our fundamental “eco-systems” and we would like it to work with us – not against us.

There is a ton of research literature about work and group dynamics, leadership and working environments. At the end of the day the working culture is made up by the people who come there every day.

How can one move forward with things if tunnel-vision is the only thing on the menu? As narrow minded people seem seldom to reflect upon themselves and their preconfigured world view it is difficult to approach them with some helpful wisdom. A slap to the face or any hard punch is also out of question (as violence is not known to help against narrow mindedness).

So what to do next time you come across any form of small-mindedness? Just face it with the most subliminal sarcastic smile you have in store and give an imaginary slap to the face and move on. And before doing that, make sure that you really listened, and don’t dismiss it just because you disagree.

* these are all concepts that everyone loves, but few think about what they really mean..