The one thing entrenched conservatives and entrenched liberals have in common is fear. On a hike today with my wife Carmel, she pointed out that many times fear is derived from pain and suffering. Pain and suffering from the thought that we might lose something dear to us. What both entrenched conservatives and entrenched liberals fear is that the other side, if they have their way, will drive us toward destruction. Destruction of our morals, our way of life, our freedoms, and the destruction of our country. This fear dictates that we establish a group to flee from or lash out against. In the two-dimensional “us-versus-them” world we’ve constructed, we’re quick to find a “them” to assign blame. The primary weapons of fear used by these groups are labels.
Entrenched liberals label entrenched conservatives as bigots, xenophobes, and completely out of touch with reality. They believe that if entrenched conservatives get their way the country will descend into fascism and all our rights will be taken away.
Entrenched conservatives label entrenched liberals as, snowflakes, communists, and completely out of touch with reality. They believe that if entrenched liberals get their way the country will descend into socialism and all our rights will be taken away.
These attacks are particularly acute when power is about to swing from one side to the other.
Taken to its natural conclusion these abrupt power swings will bounce back and forth in increasing frequency and amplitude until the repercussions destroy the system. That is the destruction of our morals, our way of life, our freedoms, and the destruction of our country—the very thing that both entrenched liberals and entrenched conservatives claim to be preventing.
The increasing, polarizing, divisive trajectory that we are currently on leads to destruction.
Both “trenches” draw their power from the very divisiveness that is leading us toward catastrophe. Since it is their source of power, both will fight to protect that divisiveness and keep the us vs. them status quo in place.
But what if there is another way? What if instead of using the weapons of fear and divisiveness, we employ the tools of unity and empathy? What if instead of looking for differences of opinion to attack we look for common ground to serve as a foundation for rational dialog? What would the world look like if we channeled all the destructive, counterproductive, and self-limiting energy that is apparently available in abundance into positive, restorative, and unifying actions?
To illustrate how we can do this I want to borrow a term from cinematography called “dolly zoom”. It’s used in many movies including Jaws. In Jaws when Chief Brody realizes that a shark attack is underway, the camera’s lens zooms away from his face at the same time and rate that the camera moves toward him on a dolly. The dolly zoom is employed to enhance the effect of the scene as the foreground stays in the same position while the background appears to stretch, giving a sense of height. Zooming out while keeping the details of the scene in clear sight is a powerful technique. The continuous perspective shift unveils a new reality. With a dolly zoom, the subject’s place in the universe is challenged by continuously changing his spatial relationship with everything around him.
If we dolly zoom a situation, we zoom out to the widest geographic perspective possible while we also focus on the worm’s-eye details on the ground. We zoom out to the orbital perspective without losing the details of the individual communities that make up our planet. We must zoom out from the individual to the collective, without causing the individual to be reduced to a statistic or a cog in the wheel of Orwell’s 1984 world.
An additional consideration of a dolly zoom is looking at a situation over the longest time span possible without losing the importance of each individual moment. In other words, we’re not overly focusing on the short term and ignoring the long term or vice versa.
What is really interesting is to add multiple points of view to a dolly zoom. When we look at a situation from two points of view, we can see it in stereoscopic vision. Multiple points of view allow us to then begin to see depth. When I was outside the space station on spacewalks my view of the Earth was changing by 5 miles every second. I was seeing Earth from an ever-changing point of view.
Another thing entrenched conservatives and entrenched liberals have in common is they are locked into a single narrow perspective; they are not seeing the deeper and truer picture. By zooming out to the big picture while focusing on the details, considering the long-term effects of a policy or decision while not losing sight of the immediate short-term effects, and by incorporating the perspective of others, we can all begin to see the humanity in everyone and liberate ourselves from a single, limiting perspective to the wider and more powerful multi-perspective world.
What becomes clear when we dolly zoom out to the orbital perspective is that we all are responsible, as best we can, to make more unifying rather than dividing nudges to the trajectory of our society in our daily, words, actions, and posts. We will then be able to overcome divisiveness by seeing differences of opinion with a humble realization that we don’t already have all the answers and maybe there is some value in a different opinion.
I am not saying we should overlook things that we know to be wrong. What I am saying is that we need to stand up for what we know to be right but to do that in a way that actually leads to progress. We need to address those things we disagree with from a position of understanding and empathy—from a humble and sincere desire to understand the views of others and where they come from. If we do that, I am convinced we will discover that we have so much more in common than we realized and when we boil it all down, we all want the same things: peace, harmony, and meaning.
The days leading up to the election and the weeks to follow offer us a good opportunity to practice this perspective. For this week and the upcoming weeks please keep this perspective in mind. Apply it to media consumption and posts, family conversations, and encounters with others. We are truly all in the same boat (I’ve seen it from space).
Thank you, Ron