It’s obvious that we’re facing challenging times in world politics.
For several reasons we’re seeing the emergence of a counter-movement to everything we thought we had achieved over the last nearly eight decades.
A new conservatism is on the rise—threatening our efforts in areas of gender equality, unity and open borders. Suddenly, using racist stereotypes as an argument in a political debate seems to have become part of the game again.
We look at Donald Trump, we witness Brexit and we ask ourselves how this is all possible.
As harsh as it sounds, we all take part in this.
How can a mindful person be part of this dramatic turning point in history? We might find ourselves thinking: “I have nothing to do with this.“ There is even a hashtag on Twitter reflecting this overwhelming feeling: #NotinMyName
As a yoga teacher I come into contact with many people who are more or less proud of not following the news. I share the feeling that there is a lot going wrong in the world, but avoiding those problems does not solve them. It just gives more room for others to come up with solutions. Solutions which we may not agree with.
Unfortunately the pattern behind this process is something we all witness in our daily lives. When we have the feeling that something is going wrong in our life, there are different ways we choose to face situations.
If a friend constantly annoys us with certain perspectives and opinions, we could speak up and share what makes us feel uncomfortable about their words. This would ask us to look at what makes us uncomfortable and verbalize it in a respectful way. Another option would be simply not taking calls from that friend and avoiding spending time together.
What if our partner upsets us and we’re not “feeling” the relationship anymore? We can dive deep into our own feelings and ask ourselves where they come from and try to share our concerns. But more common these days is the “easier” option: ending the relationship without questioning the reasons for the emotions behind it.
In a broader sense, the gender-equality debate is a classic example of an area where the voices of many men, who should be part of the conversation, convey a louder message through their silence.
All too often today, we are ghosting each other without even realizing it, simply by not showing up to take part in a mindful exchange.
The same pattern can be applied to politics.
Of course we can have a discussion about how we finance our health system, even if that includes facing controversial ethical questions. We can exchange our thoughts on refugees coming to our countries seeking help, and how much we are willing to share with them. Of course we can have a conversation about our own identity as a country and how independent we want to be from others.
In a society that often tries to avoid conflict, we are afraid to share opinions others might disagree with. We are afraid of being judged because of our opinions. Isn‘t this sad? What about freedom of speech? We call the media the fourth estate, so what about a fifth estate? The daily debate within civil society.
Democracy needs citizens who are capable and willing to be part of the discussion on a regular basis. Otherwise, we run the risk that the so-called silent majority finds leaders who are able to form a political movement based on fear and prejudice.
Those who would call themselves a part of this silent majority do so because they know that their opinions are controversial and any expression of their thoughts would lead to emotional discussions. Unfortunately this creates a dangerous dynamic where any meeting between the silent majority just further radicalizes their opinions, fueled by the feeling of being excluded from the debate.
Maybe we should ask ourselves where the connection is found in these patterns.
Every time we don‘t share our point of view mindfully with someone we disagree with, we miss some important chances. We miss the chance of finding out why others do what they do. We miss the chance of finding a solution that suits both sides.
Friends, families and partners don‘t need to have the same political opinion. What we do need is to establish a political culture that allows us to express our thoughts and allows others to do the same—a way to disagree respectfully.
Our main goal should be to move past the existence of a silent majority. Everyone wants to be heard and everyone has the right to be heard. Not hearing someone does not change their opinion—it may even have the opposite effect, of radicalizing them further.
It‘s time for less running away and more mindful exchanges of thoughts if we’re ever to see a way forward from here.
Author: Robert Busch
Image: Farther Along/ Flickr
Editors: Khara-Jade Warren; Ashleigh Hitchcock