We are not going to be able to address major issues on the planet divided.
The world is not black and white. It’s not about being right or wrong, these are merely the polarities. There are many layers of understanding and wisdom between the polarities. There is twilight and dawn between night and day. Competition requires a winner and a loser. Cooperation is when people work together to make sure everyone thrives and succeeds. Each of us reach higher levels of success when we are surrounded by others who are thriving. Creating win/win relationships takes creativity and requires us to evolve the way we see ourselves in the larger community of life on this planet.
Addressing extreme weather events, radioactive contamination, polluted/overfished oceans, proliferation of war and more will not be solved so long as a significant amount of people are unable to think, plan, and act collaboratively. We are being called to engage in a dialogue that invokes mutual respect for the needs of all parties. There are schools of thought like Nonviolent Communication (NVC), that can assist us but it is really about tuning-in with yourself and your surroundings.
All that has been integrated into NVC has been known for centuries about consciousness, language, communication skills, and use of power that enable us to maintain a perspective of empathy for ourselves and others, even under trying conditions. — Marshall B. Rosenberg, Phd
This concept is actually quite natural for humans and has been for millennia. Working together, caring about others, lending a helping hand, holding each other in our sorrows/fears, celebrating shared successes and more. This is about returning to the general practices of kindness, empathy, and trust. Though these things are challenging sometimes in our current world, these are the guideposts of where we need to point our compass.
There’s Another Way
Recent social rumblings in the European Union, austerity policies in Greece, Brexit, tensions in Ukraine signify massive shifts in society. The movement towards globalization that favors the freedom of capital over the needs of people has caused wealth… and it has caused suffering, war, and exploitation. Globalized reach is overextended and will begin to whither. All growth cycles include decay, death, and rebirth.
When branches reach too far from the trunk they eventually break in the wind due to their own weight. When policies are created by leaders who are distant and disconnected from the actual people and places they are governing, there will always be social upheaval. Disconnection within ourselves and extreme polarization within society create incoherence and dissonance. Whereas cooperation and collaboration is about reconnection in all personal and social exchanges.
Our binary approach of winner/loser is childish and ineffective at meeting the needs of our increasingly technological global society. Our indigenous forbearers who influenced Ben Franklin and America’s Founding Fathers, the Haudenosaunee, understood the importance of a council which allowed diverse perspectives to be heard and incorporated into a shared vision of moving forward as a society. You can learn more about The Great Law of Peace of the Haudenosaunee here.
If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. -Desmond Tutu
Can Haters Become Lovers?
Hate and animosity are unpleasant human expressions but with the proper tools and effort they can be transmuted and evolved into shared understanding between individuals or parties. Very often hatred is born of fear, wounding, and misunderstanding, or is a need that isn’t being met. In America we are seeing a great example of this playing out since the Trump Presidency. In Europe we see it with tensions over refugees from Middle East wars, the Brexit vote, and increasing tensions in Ukraine.
People usually get along when everyone has food, shelter, abundance, and basic needs taken care of. Racism usually flourishes when scarcity, economic inequality and fear are prevalent. The news media, feeding on the black/white, binary, good/bad oversimplification perpetuates the divide, the ignorance, and the fear. It amplifies the worst in human nature and we often get caught in a feedback loop.
There is passion underneath hatred, even if it is self-preservation, yet it can erupt in very destructive ways. We diffuse this by listening and educating each other, by becoming compassionate to our own needs as well as the needs of others. We are all connected by deep emotional experiences that often have no voice in this world. There is always common ground if we choose to meet there. This is called cooperation…
Social Harmony is Impossible When Individuals are Internally Conflicted
We used to use the description multiple personality disorder until we recognized that all of us have many different voices and perspectives trying to express themselves within us depending on our mood, or situation. Today we understand illness as dissociative personality disorder. Dissociation is when we repress certain aspects of ourselves, our desires, needs, fears etc. without acknowledging them. This is now considered a form of mental illness. We are seeing this illness of dissociation and disconnection expressed in the world around us and politics are a great outward reflection of our internal conflict. What does it take to be present, listen, and acknowledge the perspective of those who we disagree with?
As with most things in the world, we are blinded by the cultural lens through which we see things. Once again we are called to start from within and disassemble our inner conflicts. We can change our world view away from a debate-oriented competition into a collaboration, a council which allows for all voices to be heard and respected.
The act of witnessing opposing perspectives within ourselves (and within community) allows us to see deeper into the emotional needs that these feelings/beliefs represent. Making a genuine connection to these feelings and needs within ourselves and within the hearts of our adversaries is one of the most essential and powerful ways to diffuse conflict. This is where spirituality and self-awareness can meet the political process.
The Evolution of Cooperation
Cooperation is a fundamental law of biological evolution. We are a species that has developed through biological evolution, and the result of billions of cells cooperating to optimize life. We are in a process biologically, socially, and politically of evolving towards optimizing life for all. Let us not lose hope!
Though competition has hogged up the spotlight due to the scientific misconceptions inherent in Darwinism, it pales in comparison to cooperation. Dr. Bruce Lipton speaks of this extensively in his work as it is apparent in biological evolution from the smallest organisms all the way up to the most complex. Compassion is an emotional connection whereas cooperation is the ability to work together towards a common goal and create mutually beneficial results. It is possible to set up scenarios that allow for win/win situations, sadly most of our political structures are not set up to accommodate this.
Dictatorship/Monarchy/Oligarchy (1% rule the 99%)
Democracy (51% rule the 49%)
Consensus (100% we cooperate to create a future that is mutually beneficial for all of life)
The Law of Cooperation as coined by Scott Malis is quite simple and states that “What cooperates the most thrives the most.” The exploration into cooperation as a topic of study is fascinating. War and slavery are considered the lowest forms of cooperation because they are forced and exploitive. Yet there is no refuting the potentially creative (or destructive) power of large groups of people working towards a common purpose. The highest form of cooperation is mutually beneficial, consensual cooperation.
Cooperation is an antidote to corporatist ideology which works toward private gain often at the expense of the general public or the environment. Cooperation is also valuable to individual and public health as depression and addiction are often rooted in a sense of isolation and disconnection. The values of cooperation can be applied internally to become less conflicted within one’s self, externally applied with your family or community. It is also possible to cooperate and work with with our environment to enhance it.
This expression of living harmoniously is potentially the most beautiful thing that humans can strive towards. We have done a pretty good job at showing ugliness over the centuries with sparks of creative genus from individual artists. Now we are seeing that genius manifest collectively and in time we may understand our whole existence as a conscious act of collaborative beauty.
Back in the cave man days as humans were just forming, we were in very small clan type groups. Life was a struggle to survive, yet we did have a means of cooperating well together. Over time we formed bigger and bigger clans, tribes, and village communities. Alone we were weak, but as a hunting party we could take out the biggest of animals and we began to dominate. As we formed and cooperated more and more we began to civilize into larger societies, and things like agriculture began and soon after forms of industrial revolution. As millions of us began to cooperate we became cities or countries as vast societies and became a super species. The next step is a cooperative global society that considers the needs of all species and acts as a steward of this precious planet. -Scott Malis
Let’s make something extraordinary with our short time in this world. If enough of us embrace the principles of cooperation while developing the capacity to communicate and listen compassionately we will unlock a collective potential that can heal our disconnected world. It may seem like an impossible dream or a John Lennon song, but we have unprecedented tools to make this real and we don’t need to imagine anymore. It is time to, as Gandhi stated, be the change we want to see in the world.