My biggest take home from the current state of politics around the world is that we don't understand each other. I know I need to make a better effort to get to know people whose lives are very different from mine. This is hard. You can't throw out Hail Mary requests on facebook for people with different views to contact you. You can bait them. That tends to get a quick response. Throwing rocks puts up defences or provokes attacks, but it isn't exactly the best way to build a real relationship. I strongly believe people only tend to take real feedback from people who are genuinely on their side.
I have one friend who has been particularly influential on the way I see the world. We disagree on lots of things, but I know that when we are discussing something he is genuinely listening. Our relationship is strong enough that if I have read a book, he gives me some credit for having thought about it. If I disagree, he doesn't write off my opinion as something completely bat crazy. We seldom argue, so much as teasing out ideas. There is too much information out there to process. I think a healthy distrust of experts is important, but if there is a relationship, you can extend your own understanding of the world by having links to other people thinking about other things. If Stuart criticises my thinking, I take it very seriously.
Yesterday, I had coffee with another friend who had voted Leave in the UK referendum. I was absolutely gutted by the result. The interesting thing with this friend is that we agreed on almost all the points that lead us to completely different conclusions. We both think A. We both think B. We both think C. We both think Z. Yet, we connected the dots in very different ways. I felt his vote had stolen something from me. Like 52% had voted to take the vote away from 48%. Not something you should vote on. We believe in a similar world, and yet this vote seemed to divide us onto different planets. He was also upset. Despite 'winning' the vote, a lot of his friends had felt betrayed by him. A lot of his friends characterised his decision as 'racist' and 'anti-immigrant'. He strongly believed he had thought about it deeply, and voted his conscience. The reasons others attributed to him were not his reasons.
He did recognise that there were others who had voted the same as him for completely different reasons. That he was on the same side as people who thought very differently about the kind of world they wanted. The best analogy I can think of for the referendum is the 2015 General Election. If the question had been, 'Should the Conservative Party be in power?', then 36.8% of people said "Yes!". Each party had a manifesto of what they wanted to do. 63.2% of people said they didn't want the Conservative Party to be in power.
The Divided Kingdom of Great Britain
That was the only thing those 63.2% of people agreed on. That 'consensus' included 12.7% voting for UKIP and 3.8% voting Green. They do not agree. The Labour Party won the second most votes with 30.4%. You could say the two main reasons people voted Leave were (1) they felt the EU had too much power centralised in Brussels, and (2) they believed the inflow of immigrants was negatively affecting their job prospects and/or way of life. Asked whether they wanted 'tea or coffee', they said 'yes please'. There are more questions than answers about what kind of Britain people want.
The irony is that my friend believes in lot of the same things as me. The question created division that doesn't exist. We both believe that borders equate to Global Apartheid. That there should be free movement of people, goods, services and ideas. We both believe in empowerment of people. We both believe that some things are better privatised and some things are better run by the state. We both believe that Capitalism has helped tear the world out of poverty. We both believe that a good idea doesn't make a good business idea, and by using Capital to free people from thinking about monetising things, muses can be created to release people to work for things other than money. To release people to build communities. To release people to spend time together, create things of beauty and think deeply about things that matter to them.
I worry that Party Politics, the media, social media and the desire to create ideas in opposition to each other and throw rocks removes nuance and relationships. We start portraying each other as evil. We get angry. We point out each others holes without first looking for what they are adding. All stories have holes. They are easy to find. If we don't give each other the benefit of the doubt, I think we end up obsessing about the holes.
We need to do better than this. We need to start listening.