Thousand Reflections: Is our confidence, our action, our lack of shame for our behaviour obstructing us from growth?

Issue #17

About Thousand Reflections: Thousand Network is full of people from all walks of life and background. Here, we try to tap into this collective wisdom by offering a prompt every week and sourcing short responses from the members.

This week’s prompt (courtesy of Marcel Rasche):

A few days on the Thousand Network Facebook group, Marcel posted a long, profanity-laced rant, in which he proposed that America had it coming to elect Donald Trump, and that Americans arrogance had created the situation. Thousanders reacted to it in a wide variety of ways. Some were offended, as they had a right to be. Some were upset about bringing such discussions into the group, as they had a right to be. Others responded with love and deep thoughts, as they had a right to do.

It was a richly vivid, profoundly uncomfortable way of making us look at our own selves, and how we might be standing in our own way to progress and peace. This week, we invite reflections on this idea, both for and against. Some questions might be — if someone doesn’t propose their idea in professional, well-structured language, should we still listen? How should we deal with the fact that we, the progressives, are frightened and horrified by Trump’s election, whereas the conservatives felt exactly the same way when Obama was elected? How can we start true dialogue, or can we? What kind of self-reflection and self-awareness do we need to be able to engage in true peacebuilding?

Verhaeghe Guillaume

I’m a progressive, so I would vote for (my local) Trump to initiate fundamental changes in our perception of “democracy.”

I’m a conservative, so I would vote for Hilary or Obama, to keep the world as dynamic and beautiful as it is, and let us have time to integrate the bunch of innovations that are arising everywhere.

I’m tolerant, so I’ll forgive the youth and anger of Marcel. I really believe he wants to make our world a better place.

I’m intolerant (of his latest expression), and I’ll say he should make public excuses, and then find the way to keep growing & mastering the use of his energy for efficiency.

I’m complex, so I’ll ask you to try stopping to see the world in so much binary.

I’m simple, so I’ll tell you this : the true dialogue has already started, and self-awareness is growing faster than ever. Be patient brothers & sisters, because at the end, you’ll ask to restart again.

Hugo Volz Oliveira

Yes, a mirror would most certainly help. Or several of them. We’re so cuddled and live so well that no rant could be enough to show us other shattered perspectives on who have we become, and what do we need to know in order to grow. Because the major obstacle to growth is feeling like there’s no need for it. That’s a widespread feeling in America and in the west. And apparently in our group too.

The internet is going for a while and if someone is angry at a virtual critique then it can’t be because of its style. Most of the backlash on Marcel’s post was about the content while most of the formal feedback was about the style. This dissonance means that we’re still very uncomfortable with the feeling of shame. And that’s okay because we’re mostly taught that shame is bad and should be avoided. So, to better engage in true peacebuilding it would be nice to have some cool exercises on what are we ashamed of and how can we deal with that shame. That should make more obvious that America is no longer great. That growth is needed. And if we’re growing then peace is easier, and starting a dialogue becomes natural because people fear less when they feel they are progressing.

Daniel Ospina

Marcel, thanks for this beautiful opportunity to explore a complicated topic (not the US election but honesty, directness, and the expression of unedited emotion).

My view: The paradigm has been that this sort of posts (emotionally charged) should be avoided. It is often considered tactless to express something without taking great care in pointing out the nuances and audience. This paradigm taken to the extreme makes that people can no longer voice their views on complex subjects at all or risk being politically incorrect, it is paralyzing.

The opposite extreme is just saying what one thinks in the moment without “sleeping on it.” As we see from the reaction to Marcel’s post, many will take direct insult and will disengage from the conversation or even the relationship. Expressions of raw, unexamined emotion echo and, out of context, rarely lead to mutual understanding.

As it is often the case, either extreme is a positive way forward. Moderation or a “balanced approach” is elusive at best and lacks some of the benefits of either extreme (advancing the discussion on a subject or releasing tension, accordingly).

For me the key is context. Emotion needs a way out but must be kept within the context and evaluated as such. Expressing a point of view, on the other hand, necessitates introspection and gains in clarity from an explicit frame of reference. Wisdom would be learning to spot the difference between the two and speak accordingly. Numerous oriental philosophies would say that learning to control (flow-with and manage instead of repress) our emotions is the path to wisdom.

A spiral taking from both raw emotion and structured expression has the benefits of each and achieves balance through movement. Like riding a bicycle, equilibrium is achieved dynamically.

Of course, if you have a public profile, one must be careful as many won’t share the emphasis on context and can exploit it to your disadvantage, but let’s leave that for another discussion.

Marcel Rasche

It’s time for shame.

We got defeated. A lot of progress got defeated in BREXIT, in Trumps appointment as new president of the United States and in so many countries where right nationalism is on the rise again. Apparently we didn’t deserve this progress yet. We must have forgotten something.

Because there is no reason to be against progress unless it is against you. Something has upset a large percentage of the population and I don’t think that they would vote for an untrained game show host if things were not seriously fucked up for them.

Just for a moment, I would therefore like to take racism, sexism and homophobia, islamophobia and bigotry out of the calculation. Because I believe they were present in the media, but not the root for this issue, just a method used by a candidate to give easy answers to hard questions that show that something went wrong before.

And that’s my premise. We did something wrong. Globalism, technical advancement, higher trade. We are pushing all these things. At the same time the 1% gets richer and when a company screws up, factory workers lose their jobs and managers get million dollar packages. That is sickening. You have to see that these people have families and will now struggle to feed their kids while they have been doing their job well all these years. And people are upset. For this and so many reasons.

Fact is — I don’t know actually. I don’t know which are the reasons exactly. And I definitely don’t know which solutions would work.

There are ideas. Maybe it’s that input and output got disconnected and success is not anymore about how hard you work but about with how much money you started as a kid. Maybe it’s about disenfranchisement of factory workers. Maybe it’s that too many jobs are lost to machines. Maybe it’s that not everybody is profiting from global trade and we have had a too nice time closing both eyes from the very unpleasant life changes that we put coal workers and truck drivers through now and in the future by supporting alternative energy and self driving technology. Sure, in future I would like to have all this, but let’s not lose our morals on the way. I want to save the planet, but I am doing it at the cost of somebody else. If that’s true, that’s some fucked up stuff we’re doing. But I don’t know.

We talk about how we now have to fight this orange mop with tiny hands, but I think that’s priority two.

We need to find out what we did wrong, and accept that we have been wrong and the trump supporters might have been right about a few things. That maybe we have been accepting things that we should not have. That we have closed our eyes to the suffering of rural workers whilst building temples in our capitals. Maybe we have on the way and with all our dreams of the better future forgotten some people on the way. And maybe that was not okay.

Maybe it’s time to see this and be ashamed for a while for what we have done. Because while we should protect people from bullies and should put the work for that in — every day we are not needed for that we should try to heal. And here we can heal, by admitting some faults and going into the shame.

Shihab Uddin

I disagree with labeling human beings as progressives or conservatives. Everyone is a progressive or a conservative with regard to various aspects and spectrum — for example, I can be much more conservative on some things than other so-called conservatives.

Being a Muslim and living in a Muslim majority country I should be worried about Donald Trump’s election — that he may stop our dreams to visit the United States or make it very difficult, or that he may change trade policies so that our export industries to the US may crumble.

But looking at recent history, I believe United States policies will be more or less the same. Politics is an ecosystem that they have created. For example, during the Obama administration more immigrants were deported and refused US visas despite having the same credibility as other applicants. So I believe policies will be more or less quite similar.

For a peaceful world, American leadership is very important. We know the Soviets wanted to create a Socialist uni-polar world and did a lot on that path but they were not open about other ideas. If we look at the world now, the US did the same thing in creating an uni-polar world but with better strategy.

Speaking of Trump’s election again, I believe Bernie Sanders’ is correct in analyzing the situation. Whether progressive or conservative, American people are having real problems — losing money, jobs, and things haven’t changed much for them. They wanted a Hero or at least someone who can break the status quo, do something to change their conditions, not win their hearts. May be Trump will be better or worse as anyone else, but this urge to change brought him to power.

Personally, I think we just need to keep ourselves together, be helpful to each other in spite of everything else, try to break our stereotypes at a personal level. I think that’s the best thing we can do now for us and our future.

Bianca Praetorius

Europe turns right, Brexit, Trump, whatever it is: A large part of the population of our planet seems to be angry. At How to deal with this anger?

One can reject, ridicule or research it.

In this current political disaster — let’s go for the latter:

To every anger, how offensive or ugly it may look, there is a root-cause that we need to understand in order to actually deal with it, in order to even have a chance for this anger to disappear.

The last three years I intensely worked with a spiritual group in the UK, trying to uncondition people’s subconscious by using a specific African ritual, using lots of love and a specific African plant. I order to attend at one of our sessions, every attendee had to write down their life-story.

They would send them to us and we would read those stories.

When you read someones life-story that they would write for themselves, in order to get over patterns, let go of resentment, anger, or grief and receive healing — I can tell you, they are quite different than what their CVs look like. You get quite a shockingly raw and naked perspective on people and their truth.

Deep, ugly, sad, moving, beautiful, human.

You have all sorts of people in front of you: I met CEO’s of big companies, leaders of political movements, murders, the average-joe, the average-jane, I met rapists and violently abusive Dads, mums, husbands, wives, sisters and brothers.

Me, as a facilitator of those sessions- I have only one job: Not. to. judge. Anyone. Ever.

You never judge, no matter how horrible it may seem to you, what they did or think.

You don’t judge. And why? Because simply: Judging doesn’t help shit.

So, I read hundreds of those life stories and in every, every single case of anger, there had been a pain, a hurting, an abuse — beforehand. Every anger has a root-cause of hurt.

Hurt people, hurt people.

So if you look at all this trump-right-wing mess from a humanitarian, spiritual, or just heart-centered perspective, there is a root-cause we need to address. Anything else would just be useless work of addressing the symptom.

This is what we asked to attendees to do as a preparation of the session. And it is not rocket science. This is the example we gave them, very simple to understand for anyone.

Identifying the root-cause: Ask the five times why.

(1) Why is there a baseball bat in the toilet? Answer: because my son put it there

(2) Why did my son put a baseball bat in the toilet? Answer: because he has a violent disposition

(3) Why is your son violent? Answer: because he spent most of his childhood playing violent video games

(4) Why did he spend his childhood playing violent games? Answer: because I was a negligent mother and spent most of my time ironing, keeping home, and making ends meet

(5) Why were you a negligent mother? Because my mother was abused as a child and did not know how to show me love. I inherited this unresolved issue.

Conclusion: There is a baseball bat in my toilet because my mother was abused as a child.

Anger can come in many forms. It is easy to judge a judgement. We feel we owe it to our morals to do so. When we see unjust- we want to judge.
But. Only if we resist the temptation of judgement of anger, we start having a chance to resolve it. Anything else is an endless loop of hurt, that creates anger, that creates hurt, that creates anger, that creates hurt, that creates anger. Someone has to break the cycle, otherwise everyone is fucked.

In that example of the boy and the baseball this means: To take the baseball out the toilet and hug the boy.

In the example of dealing with angry right-wing, offensive and violent people this means to listen to the content, ignore the form and try to look for the root-cause of their anger. Work from there. And hug the boy.

Gillian Rhodes

I knew Marcel’s post was a ruse. Would I have felt differently about it if I didn’t know? Perhaps. As it was, it brought up two questions for me.

1/ Being a “tolerant” person is fundamentally, inherently hypocritical. Why? Because we find ourselves intolerant of intolerance. I have trouble dealing with this paradox.

2/ To what extent should I respect people? To what extent should I be tolerant even when the other party is attempting to be hurtful? To what extent should I extend the olive branch? I believe deeply and profoundly in peace, respect, love, and mercy, but to what extent am I prepared to live these values? Should I, even when the other side does not grant me the same?

Questions I have no answers to, only constant negotiations, day by day.

This is the third part of our November series on “The Future of Peace.” You can find the first part here, and the second here. If you enjoy this series, be sure to click the green heart to recommend and follow the publication so you never miss an issue!