the other side of the argument

the other side

I’m finding the debate on the EU referendum a little tiresome.

The claims from each side, seem to get wilder and more outrageous. They become more fearsome too. Threat, despair, doom and gloom seems the order of the day.

In part it is the nature of ‘sides’. ‘Sides’ are the root of debate. The foundations of politics. An all or nothing mentality. I win, you lose. I’m right, you’re wrong.

It seems once you join a side, you have to defend the collective position of that ‘side’ against all the other ‘side’ might say.  Our party politics is riddled with this.  Somehow the concept of ‘side’ seems to rob these people of individual thought, ironically at the root of democracy, the very thing they seek to uphold.  Everything the ‘other side’ says is wrong. And everything I say has to support my side’s view, whether I truly believe it or not – even World War 3!  Everything.

“Really? Everything?”, is my response.

The power of ‘side’ is evident in this referendum debate.  Politicians on the same party ‘side’, are now on different ‘sides’. Colleagues once, now vitriolic opponents.

It seems to me to drive an extreme position which, for me, becomes less and less believable. Less real. I stop trusting them all. I stop wanting to listen to them all.

Surely in anything so significant and complex, there is grey? Some risks and some potential gains? Some good, some bad?  Why can these people not just provide a balanced perspective?

But ‘side’ is everywhere.

It permeates our gender, our ethnicity, our social status, our religious persuasions, our organisations, our families, our sport…

‘Side’ fuels blame, it creates blind spots, it reduces options, choices, potential. ‘Side’ underpins judgement. ‘Side’ erodes compassion, care, humanity. ‘Side’ creates gaps, divides. ‘Side’ is the bedfellow of anger and frustration. ‘Side’ is dangerous.

when we are played with by our own emotions

Earlier this week I hopped on a bus in London.

As I found my seat, the bus pulled away and I noticed a taxi slowing next to the bus, as the gap ahead was too narrow.  He slotted in behind, but merely for a few moments, before accelerating alongside the bus.

There was an exchange of views through open windows. Thankfully mostly inaudible, but clearly both had a perspective on what had just occurred.  They drove together sharing their perspectives for a few moments before the taxi veered off.

The bus driver audibly muttered ‘stupid’, thumped his wheel twice and clearly, as he repeated the word at least five times over the next three or four minutes, his attention was directed inwardly to whatever emotions he was feeling after the exchange.  Certainly some anger, maybe some frustration, possibly some hurt?  Who knows?  Maybe not even the driver.

I reflected for a moment on the safety of his passengers, as evidently his mind was not fully on the busy London traffic.

There is a drought of compassion in our world, and a deluge of blame.

I wished for my bus driver to be able to step outside his emotion and notice what was happening for him.

His emotions and doubtless those of his fellow combatant, the taxi driver, trapped them in their blaming world.

Stepping into what he was feeling, and why, might allow him space to contemplate what the taxi driver might also be feeling; from that awareness comes the capacity for compassion, for self and for others.

Sometimes we are merely toys, played with by our own humanity.

let’s draw a line

image

It seems we like lines.

In organisations we draw them everywhere. This business, that division, this function, that department, this team, that group, my role, your role, this project, that programme.

Each time we draw a line it seems to both instill a sense of identity and belonging, whilst at the same time creating a barrier, an ‘us and them’.

The line tells me my place, I’m somehow safe, bounded by this imaginary line. I belong here. The interface between the parts, across the lines, generating a need to manage that boundary. We create roles to bridge the relationships, measures to show the performance of the parts, brands to show the difference… reasons to apportion and explain the blame.

But we like lines.

If the lines are removed, we seem uncertain about how to behave. Who is responsible? Who is accountable? Where are the hand-offs? Who am I? Who are you? How does it all fit together?

It’s like we become a jigsaw where the pieces haven’t been cut out, so we can’t see how they interconnect.

Lines, it seems, are everywhere though. Not just in large organisations.

I was speaking with someone the other day about their business. They work alone, as an associate delivering great creative stuff. They are pitching for a bit of work under their own brand and, in our conversation, seemed somehow uncertain – because of a line they had created for themselves. My business. Someone else’s business.

We create lines in families too. Blue household jobs and pink household jobs. His room, her room. My car, your car. My brother’s role, my sister’s role.

Lines.

Useful or a constraint?