Democracy or tyranny?
In our current society, there are a number of factors that have divided us into different camps. How do we reverse that and come together?
There are many reasons why we look at our fellow human beings with increased distrust.
Politicians use fear and distrust of others to motive their constituents. When news outlets promote conflict, they are rewarded with increased viewership, more clicks, or a higher circulation. As more families fall into or toward poverty, they fight desperately for livelihoods.
And yet, most significant advancements have been made when we work together as a society. Advancing life spans, reduction of widespread disease, better understanding of the world around us — these things are all made possible through cooperation.
It’s not realistic to expect that everyone will agree on all, or even most, issues. But how can we disagree, yet still make progress?
Can we somehow look at our economic, political, religious rivals and somehow see our similarities rather than our differences? How do we come together after being driven so far apart? Particularly when physically coming together is limited due to the global pandemic?
There is a lot of unrest in America — and indeed, throughout the world — and much of it seems to stem from people feeling that their voice is not being heard.
The most recent example of this is the protests springing up around the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd’s death has sparked protests against police brutality of black men, and African-American communities are demanding to be heard.
This is hardly the only example, however.
Recently, there were anti-lockdown protests in a number of cities. Many of those protesters also complained about not being heard by state or local officials.
Also, women have been more and more frustrated that their voices are not included when decisions are made about women’s health. Many decision-making groups are made up of mostly or all men. As a result, the female voice is absent.
Many rural residents feel that financial and regulatory decisions are increasingly made in cities, for cities. The interests, needs, and wants of rural constituents, they feel, are not included.
All of these examples have led to political and social unrest. People who feel they are unheard grow more frustrated. As a result, they become more insistent that leaders listen to them. That can take the form of protests, boycotts, intimidation, threats, or violence.
Do you share these feelings of voicelessness? In your life, who hears your voice? Your city, state, or federal governmental representative? Your friends and family? What about your boss, or your union representative? How about a religious leader?
Being heard, or at least the feeling of being heard, can be extremely powerful. Do you receive that in your life? Where?
Knowing what you believe is an essential part of becoming a fully-realized person. It is also helpful in a number of different ways.
Knowing your beliefs can:
- Make you more confident
More than anything else, perhaps, your beliefs help define who you are. The more you know your beliefs, the more you know yourself, and the more confident you will be.
- Keep you from being fooled
If someone tries to provide you with misleading or manipulative information, knowing your own thoughts is crucial. In other words, they can help you navigate difficult waters.
- Help you make decisions
Companies often have a “mission statement” that provides guidance when there is a decision to be made. Personal beliefs can serve the same purpose. For instance, does an action get you closer to your ultimate goal? Does a decision match your values?
- Be a conversation starter
If you find yourself talking to a stranger and you don’t know what to say, falling back on what you believe is a good way to start. Talking about something you believe in will provide a topic to build a discussion around. Similarly, it can also be useful in determining how to respond to a conversation someone else starts.
- Make fulfilling friendships
If you know what you think and care about, you can surround yourself with people who have beliefs that are similar, or complementary, to your own. Those friendships are likely to resonate more significantly.
- Help you choose a meaningful career
Similar to finding friendship, the key to a fulfilling career can be an alignment of your own beliefs with a company culture or goals.
Can you think of other ways beliefs are important?
Easier said than done
Of course, talking or thinking about your beliefs is quite different from actually knowing what they are. In attempting to discover what you believe, you may even find that you question things that you have believed for a very long time. That can be very disconcerting.
Do you know what is important to you? What you are passionate about, and what is central to who you are as a person? What do you believe?
Every week, Michael and I meet online to talk about questions for Intellectual Roundtable. These conversations always start the same way: with the question, “What are you thinking about?”
The discussions we have are wide-ranging. They might cover interesting things we have read, from online articles to non-fiction books, from novels to blogs. Sometimes we discuss thought-provoking conversations we have had with others.
The topic of our health, mental or physical, occasionally comes up. How we make the decisions about how to stay as healthy as possible, from the food we consume to our exercise routines.
We also talk about politics. We don’t spend too much time on the latest happenings in Washington D.C., but rather what we consider the ways to make life better, both for us individually but also for society in general.
Sometimes, these conversations can be distilled down to particular questions for this blog. Some of them are obvious, and make for insightful questions. But not always. Sometimes, we can’t quite get the wording right. Or the content can’t be boiled down to one sentence. Or a question just isn’t apparent.
But what we have to say is always engaging. We never run out of things to talk about, and I always end our meeting having been exposed to ideas or perspectives that I hadn’t before.
And it all comes from a simple question: What are you thinking about?