The Enemy of Peace
A recent discussion on Facebook led me to these thoughts which I am pulling out of a comment for more general consumption.
I have come to believe that too many of our political, social and philosophical debates focus nearly exclusively on achieving a preferred outcome for the speaker. In other words, if I hate guns, my only focus is on “no more guns.” Or if I am sickened by people unable to afford healthcare my focus is just on everyone getting free or cheap healthcare. Or, fill in your favorite debate of the moment.
But that often ignores two fundamental principles of civilized society. 1) other people want something else and that should matter; and 2) our decisions all connect to other ideas, things and people in a way that should be considered and it is impossible or nearly so to consider all of them by yourself.
So, maybe you feel like you have to have guns or you feel like no one ever should. Either way you should welcome the voices of people who feel otherwise and can express them respectfully and at least honor their opinions and desires by genuinely listening and seeking to understand even if, in the end, you do not change your mind. That should be a constant, on-going exercise, not something you do once and then dig in forever more. My friend Jenna recently exemplified this concept quite beautifully while tackling a touchy subject I raised in a post and it reminded me of this important point.
And to my second point, every decision in a society has many ripple effects that need to be considered. When you ask the government to take guns, you are giving them power to restrict your liberty in a particular way. That power then can be used to restrict it in other ways. Do you want that too?
When you argue for free healthcare how will we pay the healthcare providers and provide incentives for people to become healthcare workers and for companies to improve our drugs and medical technology? When the government provides something, it nearly always forces someone else to sacrifice. Will you be willing to similarly sacrifice when the government wants to give someone something of yours? Can you reach the same outcome without the government?
These are just examples. They are just as true for people who want gun rights as they are for people who oppose. Or people who want free healthcare or people who oppose. My point is not about guns and healthcare.
In other words, we should be trying to consider not just getting our preferred outcome, but whether the path to that outcome might also lead us to places we did not want to go. Both of those things are too often missing from our dialogue over life’s most important issues.
When we invite diverse voices with diverse opinions and perspective we do more than create an opportunity to educate ourselves or others. We also create the opportunity to honor and value another person which I find is often at least as important as any answer, opinion or solution.
I wonder if there is a greater enemy to peace than our refusal to listen and include.