In couples therapy you will quickly realise (if you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it. It’s like an enema for your relationship. Scary at first, but has total benefits that bring about a major release) that any healthy relationship comes down to two things: listening to your partner and communicating in a constructive way. And let's be frank, neither come naturally to the human species.
These days I look around and am not only appalled by what I see and hear, but it’s dawned on me that we as a human race have totally stopped listening to one another and OH MY lord, do we need some major therapy. At the moment, we are all on our soap boxes (ahem, Facebook) preaching, demanding, screaming (guilty as charged on all counts) about how the rest of the planet should live their lives, steeped in a we-know-best attitude. And of course, what we’ve failed to do (some are more guilty of this than others) is take a moment to sit down, shut up and listen to the person on the opposite side of the proverbial table. Most governments fail at this in such a disgraceful way it’s not hard to wonder how anything gets done (ahhhh….I see, nothing does).
I listen to talk radio every day. It would surprise most that know me (outside of my husband as he lives in the house with me) that it is a conservative radio station. Gasp. A self-proclaimed liberal (with centrist tendencies) listening to the ‘enemy!’ How on earth could you? Well, funny enough, I not only do, but I find it utterly enlightening at times (other times, utterly infuriating). At first I was horrified by some of the hosts and calls that would come in on any given topic and I would find myself hollering at the radio as if it could answer me. And then after awhile, my writer brain kicked in and started to just listen and take it all in; And in that listening, I now find that I am actually learning about the people that are different than myself politically, socially and economically. I definitely don’t always like what I hear, and definitely don’t always agree with it, but at times, I actually learn something, and to my utter shock, occasionally agree with someone’s viewpoint or feel empathy, even though they hold a different fundamental belief system than myself.
In this, I was reminded that no matter how different we all are, or THINK we are, I hate to break it to you but we’re not that different when it comes down to it. As humans we fall foul of thinking about ourselves (whilst preaching that we’re solely thinking of others) far too often, we each believe OUR belief system is the only way forward, and we often have blinders on to anything else around us. On the positive side, we also want what’s best for our friends and families, we want to put down the struggle that life sometimes throws at us (or, let’s be frank, we create), and we want to somehow find some hope in a world that is often pretty bleak.
In light of what has been happening in my country at the moment (the UK that is…well, both my countries for that matter) I think listening to one another is the most vital thing we can do. And I’m not just talking about listening to your friends who share your belief system, that's far too easy; but instead, listen to those who do NOT share your beliefs and question why they feel the way they do (sometimes this is challenging I won’t lie) where they came from and what drives their viewpoint (ok ok, sometimes it’s going to be simple hate or racism, and there is not much one can do about that, but try to understand where that hatred and bigotry has sprung from).
From where I stand, it comes down to this, we can be Western about what plagues this world (and country) and just address the symptoms, or we can put on our Eastern minds and get to the root of the problem once and for all! There is an anger brewing out there and it is fierce (and it’s NOT, I repeat, NOT one dimensional, for those of you thinking it boils down to just one thing, or one class, or one religion or one ethnicity), and as much as I don’t always understand it, it is there and it needs to be addressed or else the top of our planetary kettle is going to blow right off. In this country there is a divide and it is getting bigger every day, and if we actively continue to ignore it, we’re going find ourselves in a bigger hole than we are now.
Moreover, what we don’t need right now, on either side of the aisle is more prejudice and discrimination. And living in England I am witnessing it in spades and it’s not only from the usual suspects that can be easily tarred with a racist or discriminatory brush. It can also be directed at those who encounter someone who dares to think differently than they do; instead of listening and giving some credence to another's viewpoint (or even the mere fact that they too have a right to that viewpoint), they are hurling the same prejudice that they are accusing others of possessing. Prejudice is a funny thing, it’s so easy to paint someone else as so, but sometimes very hard to see it in ourselves.
At the moment, due to the referendum that occurred on June 23rd, people are hurling generalizations fast and furiously without stopping to ponder the notion that perhaps things are more complicated than one thinks and they cannot always be boiled down to one particular issue. I have met and talked to so many people recently (as it comes up with pretty much everyone you run into at the moment) and each has had definitive reasons for their vote that defied much of what I thought (some varied, some simplified, some filled with contradictions and complexities, and some that downright surprised me) Moreover, contrary to the media, or what you may hear at the bus stop on the way to work, many of whom I talked to that voted differently than I did, did so with a thoughtful consideration and not a knee-jerk blindness based on ignorance, which I suppose was a pleasant surprise (obviously there are many exceptions to this and those of you that voted without doing your homework and just liked how an X looked in a box, shame on you).
Most importantly, throughout all of this, listening has been my biggest lesson. I won’t always agree, I won’t always like the argument, but there is a lesson in listening and I have definitely learned my fair share. Where we go from here, it’s too soon to tell, but one thing I know for sure, it’s time to start listening, start finding common ground, and start coming together on a profound scale.