Technology and innovation are two elements that distinguish humankind from the rest of the animal kingdom. While many anthropologists believe the earliest humans existed nearly 200,000 years ago, the first civilization formed approximately 12,000 years ago in Mesopotamia.
The regular flooding of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers provided a fertile soil allowing for robust harvests, and was the beginning of what is sometimes known as the Agriculture Revolution. An abundance of crops provided opportunities for trade which in turn, allowed people time to develop skills, be creative, and enjoy life rather than spend the day simply trying to exist. But increasing the coffers for those earliest entrepreneurs meant conquering smaller cities or tribes and forcing them into slave labor.
It is difficult to believe that our pre-human ancestors never engaged in some aspect of servitude. Conflict, discord, and disagreement are common with many animal groups. However, one study by The National Geographic® showed that nearly 60 percent of mammal species are not known to prey upon each other.
Are we humans destined to clash and quarrel so much that the only way to find a resolution is with confrontation or battle? Is it a forgone conclusion to believe hostility and altercation are part of our makeup and DNA?
I tend to be an optimist. In my perfect world, I would begin this article with the title and end that sentence with “enough said.” That would be all. Perhaps I am a bit naïve or have lived in an ideal world where kindness, gratitude, and caring for one another is the fuel for life’s engine. Maybe I have not seen enough strife, fighting, or tragedy to be jaded and constantly on guard waiting for the next thief to rob me of my possessions or my faith in humanity.
Technology has connected me with many wonderful and likeminded individuals who advocate for similar principles like honesty, integrity, and fairness. But over the last 5 years, I have also witnessed a decline in civility by many who thrive on employing divisive and belittling tactics, attacking any who dare question their beliefs. What is more shocking is they are being exploited by those who are supposed to lead and unite, but instead resort to what gets them more attention while abandoning any integrity.
Civilization is defined as, “The stage of human social and cultural development and organization that is considered most advanced.” Let that soak in for a moment. How advanced is a civilization whose leaders create such petty arguments for the sake of their own popularity and advancement? When has accusation, condemnation, and name calling ever been associated with a strong leader?
The problem is we are not focused on finding a solution but rather how to expose the other person as being wrong.
Recently, I was involved in a volatile situation that inspired this article. I was having a discussion with a couple of gentlemen with whom I work which turned political. My thoughts were clearly opposite from theirs. It became a little heated and one of them asked me what planet I was from, then the other person proceeded to tell me why I was wrong and from where I should be getting my news. I had no desire to fuel the debate and, in my opinion, they had no interest in hearing my thoughts.
That night, I had a difficult time sleeping; not because of their political beliefs, but because I truly admire both these men for their incredible work ethic, and we depend on each other to perform our best. If we cannot get along, how can I expect myself to peacefully exist with the rest of humanity and especially those who disagree with me?
Moving forward, what can I do to help unite rather than further divide my world? Focusing on whose political opinions are “right” is not the answer. I have not lived their experiences nor have they lived mine. They have very good reason to believe how they do. Where we are united is that all three of us are working towards a very similar goal; we simply don’t agree on a political path to get there.
The answer may be revealed in a question: “What can I do to help unite rather than further divide my world?” Imagine if everyone started off with this question. We would look for a solution rather than a reason to fight. If this were the premise, we would not lose any relationships over political, religious, or philosophical differences.
The one weapon we humans use to divide each other is the very same weapon we ought to use in resolving this deeply troubling and contentious dilemma. That weapon is none other than words. But rather than using them as swords severing flesh and bone, we need to use them as salve for those wounds and elixir for the heart.
We need to engage in a conversation with those whom we disagree. We must strive to connect, searching first for the commonalities then seeking to resolve the differences. When this becomes our mindset, we stop trying to “prove” we are right.
If there is a problem, it is with those who refuse to have the conversation. They are so convinced of their “rightness” that a conversation is useless. However, the conversation may reveal their flaws and weaknesses. They counter by insisting their way is the only way and must now force it on others. When they have no sensible response the only way to move forward is by blaming, shaming, and name calling.
This dismissive way of thinking is not assigned to one political, religious, or philosophical persuasion. The moment these tactics are used it reveals their selfish agenda which is to punish or eliminate all who dare disagree with their beliefs.
This conversation is not for the faint of heart. It is for those who truly desire a civilized society, and of course, for the love of humanity.
This week, start a conversation of your own and see if you can ignite a spark that will spread across the world in a unifying flame of kindness, compassion, and unity. We must take the lead because those who’ve been charged to lead us have failed to be an example.