How Dialogue Can Save the World

Ok, here we go. One last time I will take the current political situation in Brasil as an entree for a blog. As the final round of the elections approaches this Sunday, it is all but clear what will happen to Brasil. One of the electoral candidates’ business backers was funneling money to advertising companies that abuse WhatsApp to influence voters. To me it was little surprising that things like these were going on, however it did all but help to unite Brazil. Now, there is even more reason to hate the opposing political party and its’ proponents.

Who Will Save Brazil?

What is astonishing to me, but also understandable given the situation, that nobody seems to realize that not one of the electoral candidates will save Brazil. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, politics is a popularity contest. The fact that there was money going to advertising companies that use whats-app to influence voters unfortunately strengthens my case. It’s like a football game being stuck in the 90th minute at 0-0, on the one side Jair Bolsonaro, on the other side Fernando Haddad. Obviously not one of the supporters is going to give way. Both believe there is just one that deserves to win. Everybody forgets that the supporters themselves (shouting, tweeting, boinking their horn), together, are the people that will eventually have to do the work to change Brazil.

christ

Even though, the next president will have power to give a direction to the country, there is not a single president ever in history, nor a member of a political party that builds houses. Nor do they plant trees, protect wildlife, cook food for the poor, teach in schools or clean the roads. That’s what the people do, that’s what you do. The same people, that instead of engaging in meaningful dialogue, are currently fighting each other for supporting the other candidate.

20th Century Tribal Life

Nevertheless, not only in politics people choose sides. Also, when it comes to dietary choices there are tribes. Be it vegans, paleo-proponents, carnivores, or keto-diet lovers, somehow in every group there are people that think that only they are right.

From diet, to sports, to religious orientation, to field of work, to nationality, to the city you are from, or the skin color you were born with. All of these things have been made part of peoples’ identity, therefore distancing themselves from “the others”.

Let’s take religion as an example. As Rabbi Alan Lurie writes in a Huffington Post blog on “Is Religion The Cause of Most Wars?“, that it is not. However, in another blog Alon Ben-Meir argues that even though 10% of the wars in history were fought in the name of god, far more had a religious component to it. The moment one religion says that their god is the only god, all the other religions are wrong. The same goes for communism and the mix of consumerism and capitalism that reigns in today’s western societies. In this case there is no god, but these ideologies are quite dogmatic anyway. In the case of communism it was worth 100 million deaths spread over various regimes. And in the case of consumerism there are at least 18 million people dying every year. Yes, Heart Disease, Obesity, and Diabetes are all consequences of a lifestyle based in consumerism.

Does this seem like a long shot to you? I believe not, at least, if you allow yourself to look at things in a more profound manner. The Communistic philosophy doesn’t preach to kill people by itself, nevertheless making communism a crucial part of your identity makes it a lot more likely. Along these lines it is similar to consumerism. The idea of working, getting payed, consuming, and working again doesn’t necessarily say anything about killing yourself. Do it with enough dedication though, and it ultimately will.

Identity

In Me, Me, Me, is not Me I already wrote about how we are not what we identify with. How that so, you ask? Well in short; everything we identify with is a human creation and could therefore be anything. “But”, you say, “at least we are our body, right, that’s ours?” Then, why do most people care more about cars, money, and status, than their body?

The whole crux lies in the fact that as soon as you identify with something, be it veganism, paleo, religion, a political party, a sports club or the country you are from, you are part of the group. Once you identify with one part of the identity, you are prone to all other parts of the identity as well.

However, if you manage to think critically of your position you are open to be criticized by people within your identity group. As a consequence this will create distance between you and the fundamentalists, ever more prone to criticism for you not living up to your identity. On the contrary, when you are fundamental about your identity you will be criticized by everybody outside of your group. This is all the more reason for you to not like the others and reinforces your belief in your identity. Do you see the system at work here?

This is exactly what is happening now in Brazil, what happens between the US and “terrorists, what happens during heated soccer games, and what happens when fundamental vegans and paleo people get into discussions. This polarization leads to rigidity which is only reinforced by the other doing the same. This creates evermore distance which reduces the chances on real dialogue.

The Solution is Dialogue

So, here comes the solution. Dialogue, I already mentioned it a couple of times. What, dialogue? Yes, people actually talking to each other, leaving all assumptions about the other on the table. As Peter Senge writes in his book the 5th Discipline, it is essential for people to work and learn together that they are able to speak to each other in a truthful and non-judgmental manner. This is one the essentials for any organization, or country in this case, to flourish. However, more often than not, you respond to what you think somebody else is saying than what they are actually saying. That is, you will have to ask the other what he means if you want to be sure about what the other says, however that is not what you usually do. We assume what the other means, and respond.

The clue with dialogue is that it becomes clear which of you assumptions are true and which are not. Finally you learn to speak the same language.

dialogue-box

The real power of engaging in dialogue, from my perspective, lies in that you cannot engage in it, without accepting that you are in the same boat with the other person. This is fundamentally different when you engage in a debate or discussion, where there are opposing forces.

Consequently, you can start directing your collective energy in the same direction, you can start developing new ideas, and come up with solutions that you never thought of because you were so busy trying to discredit the other.

Use Your Imagination

Imagine, you, your boss, and all of your direct colleagues sitting down, leaving status and hierarchy at the door, and talk about how you all can make the most of the company. Imagine the Brazilian electoral candidates sitting down together, trying to figure out a strategy to, really, improve violence, poverty, and education. Imagine, the western governments sitting down with so called “terrorist” organizations. Imagine two opposing groups of soccer fans uniting to create the most awesome soccer experience ever. Imagine, everybody ditched their identity, and saw that there are more similarities between every single one of us, than there are differences.

In case you think this is impossible – I would consider that a lack of imagination. So, what do you imagine?

old-young

How Does Politics Really Work?

Je moet het ijzer smeden als het heet is – You should mold the iron when it’s hot

– come into action when you recognize the right moment. –

Dutch saying

With the presidential elections less than two weeks away here in Brazil, I thought it time to take – what we call – politics under closer scrutiny. More than often a topic of discourse, politics is usually treated as an influential phenomenon. We like to think so at least.

Democracy

So far the least worst system created that has held up on bigger scale is democracy. In this political construct every person has the ability to vote for the idea or person that he or she would like to see established in his or her country. However, is this really the case, that the voter has the power to express what he or she wants?

By comparison we stick to democracy because a dictatorship scares every person after we have seen so many vivid images of Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Mao Zedong, and others. Similarly we stick to capitalism because communism was (executed) way worse by comparison. This does not mean however, that democracy and capitalism are great systems.

Brazil

Currently in Brazil, there is heavy campaigning going on between 13 presidential candidates. Main topics of discussion are the treatment of minorities, abortion, and how to deal with the sustaining violence. According to Brazilian news outlet Globo, in the years 2016 and 2017 together the Brazilian police killed almost 10.000 people. Supposedly the highest amount in the world.

rafaela-biazi-680927-unsplash

Ordem e Progresso (Order and Progression) written on the Brazilian flag, far from present in everyday life however.

Now it’s definitely important that these topics get attended to, the thing is though, that they are symptoms – not origins of problems. People are more frustrated about the likelihood to be robbed in the street than the quality of education. However, when you take a moment and think, change the latter and you will alter the former. This would be a very long term plan (a lot more than 1 president can realize) and would take planning and dedication to execute.

Imagine yourself in a situation where you have to take care every time you take out your phone of your pocket, as soon as its get dark certain places are no-go-zones and you pay 40% of taxes on top of all your groceries that you never see in return in the form of quality healthcare or education (only in shiny suits, big houses, and nice cars of your politicians). In a situation like this, that is not only common in Brazil but also other Latin American Countries, nobody wants to wait 20 years before people stop robbing and assaulting.

The Candidate’s Perspective

At the same time imagine the attractiveness of this strategy as a presidential candidate who only governs for four years, and needs to explain this complex strategy to 200 million people. Conceding to shouting one-liners and emotional presentations is a lot more attractive. And that is what a lot of politicians do.

And it works! Why? Because politicians spend a lot of money understanding us, human beings, how to make our clock tick in their direction and how to tap in to our irrationality. So in this beautiful democracy, who is influencing who? Politicians know; attack is the best defense. And then, even more so: how much money and time have you recently invested in figuring out how to influence politics?

Flaws

However, this does not only apply to Brazil, but to the U.S. and the Netherlands as well. Right there, we have a couple of essential flaws to the system. A 4 year period is too short to get something done for real, and every election campaign turns into a popularity contest – not a contest of the best ideas to resolve present issues. In Brazil popularity revolves around the subject violence, in the US around Mexican immigrants and terrorism, and in the Netherlands around refugees. On top of that all, by ways of the democratic system it is impossible to take every inhabitant of a country into account for any politician, regardless of which of these countries you visit.

Democracy is so overrated.

Frank Underwood (House of Cards)

I love how the Netflix hit-series House of Cards portrays the workings of politics and of democracy in this case. An interplay between dealing in favors behind the cameras, and figuring out how to make the voter do you what you want when you are in front of the camera. Even though, large parts of the series could be perceived as exaggerated, The Guardian Australia’s Political Editor, confirms the deal-making culture that is highly influenced by third party interests. A useful thing to keep in mind: politics is influenced by third party interests.

Since we have been scared by the alternatives to democracy everyone keeps discussing left, right, and center instead of if democracy, or politics is the best way to govern a country at all.

Transcending Democracy and Political Decision Taking

Transcending this discussion of left, right, and center has direct implications for your life. Are you going to wait until the party that verbalizes your desires best before you can live the way you want? Or, are you going to turn that around?

Politics will never be a solution, and because it is a glorified popularity contest to begin with, the topics you think important are nothing more than a trigger to acquire votes. Whatever subject makes it into the debates of politicians will never be what it was before. It doesn’t matter what happens with it, as long as it gains votes.

woman-protester

Error 155: Democracy not found

Topics to consider in this case are drugs, terrorism, Islam, refugees, guns, and abortion. These topics are present in politics across the entire planet, but when being spoken about them, how much of it is about understanding the problem, and solving it thereafter, and how much is about votes and popularity?

The moment these subjects enter the realm of politicians, information gets disguised, twisted and abused all to acquire votes. Drug laws resemble political views not actual science, otherwise alcohol would have been illegal before LSD, mushrooms, weed, amphetamines, and cocaine. If laws on terrorism would be rational than they would be far less important than fighting diabetes and hearts disease. The former “only” cost around 25.000 lives in 2016 (as published on Satistica), where diabetes and hearts disease, according to the World Health Organization, takes 18.3 MILLION lives every year. Both of the diseases are preventable in 99.9% of the cases.

A small example of what happens to subjects once they become a political theme. I am by no means arguing to abandon the current systems (before we have an alternative). However, at the very least you should be aware of the real value of what is being discussed. As with all things, if you want to make a decision that works for you and not what works for somebody else; educate yourself and never stop questioning.