Once a society loses this capacity [for dialogue], all that’s left is a cacophony of voices battling it out to see who wins and who loses. There is no capacity to go deeper, to find a deeper meaning that transcends individual views and self-interest.
It seems reasonable to ask whether many of our deeper problems in governing ourselves, the so-called gridlock and loss of mutual respect and caring might not stem from this lost capacity to talk with one another and to think together as part of the larger community.
I’ve had so many conversations recently about how the world seems to be showing us its worst side. How scary and stupid it all is.
But it’s not scary and stupid. It’s perfect.
1. THE PROBLEM
What is emerging among us – in the UK/EU, in the US Presidential Race and now in Turkey – is a perfect, predictable, natural outcome of what we designed the current system to do i.e. to have leaders at ‘the front of the room’ promise us that they will take care of us, on our behalf, and look after our collective futures.
It’s important to look beyond the surface drama of what’s happening in the world right now to some of the truths underneath. And to look at our own part in this horror show.
When we react to scary stories – told to us by our leaders – with fear and anger; and then when we act on that fear and anger by casting out ‘the other’ or by voting for what seems to be an easy, simplistic solution – this doesn’t just produce disappointing outcomes. Worse than that, it simply doesn’t reflect who we truly are or what so many of us actually want – which is to be adult, to act from the best part of ourselves, to work together to overcome our differences and to co-create something that is a reflection of the best of us.
That’s why what happened with ‘Brexit’ and what is unfolding in the US and Turkey feels so ugly to so many of us. We know, deep down, that we are capable of better.
The current system can produce only two options: high expectation or low disappointment.
Our consumer society has created a generation of empty-raincoat leaders who know how to use the current system. They have learned exactly what to say to stir us up and get us to vote for them, even when they have little substance beyond that, let alone a plan.
2. THE NECESSARY BUT INSUFFICIENT RESPONSE
But we have a part to play in this. Our level of consciousness always determines what we see as possible and in fact what turns out to be possible. Fear will always lead to separation, not unity. Fear will always lead to old stubborn reflexes rather than new, creative possibilities. So when we allow ourselves to become scared (which is a different thing than actually ‘being scared’), we have bought a ticket on a roller coaster. We might have been offered the ticket – but it is us who chose to buy it.
So, as individuals, we need to look at our own responses to external stimuli and messages. We need to own our responses, and be able to choose differently.
However, the world needs more than individuals working on themselves. Even lots of individuals individually working to raise their own consciousness will not create the tipping point of change. All of that is noble, well-intentioned and necessary. We advocate it unreservedly in CoQuora. But it is insufficient.
We need ‘working on ourselves’ and more.
Me being kinder to my barista this morning
cutting down on the processed foods
saving a starfish on the beach
stopping being triggered to anger at my teenage son
…all of that is all well and good – but something else is missing. My personal growth alone will not bring the change the world urgently needs. Honestly, the world cannot wait for me to be a better version of myself.
3. THE SOLUTION
Here’s what we also need. We need to be able to be together to raise our collective consciousness. Our consciousness in groups. That’s what we do NOT have currently.
It doesn’t matter if we wake up the whole world if we can’t sit in a room together and have a conversation about what matters to us.
And not just talk together about what truly matters but work together, through constructive transformative dialogue, in a way that leads to practical actions based on self-generated and chosen accountability for change.
Most human beings have zero experience of what that feels like. Zero.
On the contrary, most of us have group experiences characterized by fractiousness, boredom, bullying, hiding and disappointment.
For most people, the prospect of sitting together in a large group produces feelings of dismay or hopelessness. ‘It’ll just be another talking shop’…
That’s why so many people keep turning to the front of the room for their certainty and direction, even when they’ve lost hope.
What if there were group conversations characterized by:
Invitation rather than any form of coercion
Joyful and energetic participation, where all sides and perspectives are given voice
Discord and conflict welcomed as learning rather than something to be overcome
Purpose and direction generated from the space between us
Insights and learning popping up at times when they are exactly needed vs the breathless search for more information
Commitment to implement action taken willingly by those who created the action plans ie chosen accountability.
The tools and processes for these sort of conversations are already available to us. We set up CoQuora so that we could bring the best and most effective of them together in new and powerful ways. We are in the process of inviting the citizens of Orlando, Baton Rouge and Dallas into conversations like these. Healing is necessary, and the changes we all want to see need to be co-created in and through communities, not sold to us from the front of the room. Change requires action and CoQuora has been established to create powerful conversations that generate purposeful action.
How would conversations such as these help the communities or institutions you care about?