Political Column - Common Ground

In a lonely, isolated society, lacking connection and belonging, a feeling of powerlessness whelms up in people, drop by slowly overwhelming drop. Meaning lacking, frustration growing, the complexity of the world beyond capacity of understanding. Human defiance seeks resistance, human fear seeks escape. How do you live in a broken structure? Trapped within peace and prosperity without knowing it, crumbling. Trapped with choice without choosing it, faltering. Middle class decimated, center politics evaporated, common ground lost and retreating. An old man named Civilization stands on a street corner holding a jar in his outstretched hand labeled "Gratitude", empty. A black, matted dog named Chaos watches from the shadows, hungry.


Thus is our situation. An unbalanced society balancing on the edge of a precipice. Balance is needed, within individuals and between individuals. Calm emotions, common ground, logical communication, mutual understanding. Rather, we see the unraveling of the thread. The breaking apart, the being divided and being conquered and being distracted, within and without.

To get a sense of belonging and identity and meaning it only makes sense to join: a group, a club, a party. Now you have something to believe in, something to fight for, something to talk about, something to say, something to live for. Too much information bombards us, an infinite amount of data, an unlimited number of people trying to recruit you to their view, their way of thinking, their ideas, their beliefs. To consider everything is impossible. To know everything even more so. But your group already has people that know things, people that have considered things. You can outsource your thinking. It feels better to be confirmed than denied, to hear the echoes of your own affirmations rather than to be challenged. To hold tight to what you know rather than to change and be lost upon seas of doubt, bobbing with waves and hoping for the sight of land. Alone you are easy prey, alone you will be trampled by the herd, alone you will be erased. With a tribe you might win, others might even win for you, or at least you can get lost in the crowd and ignored. And left alone, once again.

Two clubs, if opposing each other, promote the other as outsider. If the groups fracture internally they promote the other as enemy, intolerable. To distract, to bring in-group unity by out-group hate. The self group as sacred righteousness, the other as profane violation. Unworthy of being at the same table, unworthy to converse with. The ideas split, definitions split, perspective splits.

Lacking shared referents, shared perspective, shared grounding, shared symbols, shared definitions, understanding too becomes a thing not shared. Hearing the out-group becomes offensive, seeing the out-group becomes offensive, their existence becomes offensive. The groups seek to offend each other, and to be offended, and they are. Outrage becomes the norm. Good intention based on empathic sentiment warps into resentment and deception absolved of guilt by self-righteous assumption of the same projected onto the other.

Thus our situation rolls on. The question is, how can we make a positive difference with what's within our locus of control? What is a positive change that the township can make? Individual thinking, healthy conversation, and appreciation for the history of the systems that exist to hold chaos at bay. By having greater access to true information we can have shared referents. By dispelling rumors we can shed division and seek common ground. That's why I release so much information in board packets and bring transparency. That's why I record and post meetings. That's why I'm getting better systems to access our ordinances, website, and meetings. That's why I release videos addressing issues and rumors. That's why communication and conversation is important.

When we feel like things aren't being hidden from us, even if they are uncomfortable and unpleasant things to know, when they are revealed and when we feel like we have the opportunity and chance to be heard and informed, then maybe we are able to have calmer and more rational discussions and move away from division. We plant a seed of goodness so that it can sprout. Water it and watch it take root. Even in bad circumstances life tries to reach its potential, growing bent and warped, but still growing. Imagine what it can do in a good environment.

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