“What do we want? More of the same! When do we want it? WHENEVER… WE’RE NOT THAT BOTHERED!”
How often do we turn on the TV to see protestors with placards saying that?
The status quo does not galvanize people into action (unless we’re talking about the rock band, who opened Live Aid in London in 1985).
When people do hold a stance opposing my own my natural inclination is to push back or shut down / run away; we have a fight or flight response. The more passionately I feel about something – the U.S. presidential election, Brexit, gun ownership – the stronger my reaction, but there is a third way, and it’s something we find at the heart of the martial art, Aikido.
In Aikido, you have a partner rather than an opponent whom you disarm rather than dismember. That disarming commonly begins by manouevring yourself until you’re aligned with them or by manoeuvring them until they are aligned with you: their stance becomes yours, their point of view becomes yours… you even take their hand (wrist).
Exponents of this martial art might point out that the analogy breaks down after this point because you can then proceed by slapping them to the mat like a bitching sack of spuds (but you would only delight in doing this if you’re a dick or an arsehole).
By taking a step to the side rather than forwards or backwards, by standing with them, by seeing from their perspective and by taking their hand, confrontation and opposition has disapperared.
We need to do this outside of a dojo. We need to do this so often that the Aikido way becomes instinctive and our lizard brain’s fight or flight response recedes.
Let have a stab (as it were) with the three topics I mentioned at the beginning of this post:
“I recognize that Republicans have a reputation of being fiscally prudent but I feel the same way about Democrats. And yet I was reading that every president, regardless of party, has left the country with a debt level greater than when they came into office. What are your thoughts?”
“I agree with you that the EU is a bloated bureaucracy that seems to be indiscriminately pressing people down a path of harmonization without respecting their individuality or that of their sovreign nation. I also think it’s easier to change things from within than without. Mainland Europe will always be our neigbour, and I think what the EU does will affect us whether we’re in the club or not. How do we move forward in concert with them?”
“It feels like crime is rising and that there are more and more mass shootings. I don’t know the answer but I think that if more guns is the answer then the USA would be the most crime free nation on planet. How do we protect our own children without increasing the risk of someone else’s dying?”
And so when certain friends and family members next come to dinner, DO talk politics, DO talk religion. We will never come together if we sit holed up in our own own view of the world, ready to hide from or attack anyone that sits outside it. And if it helps, show them the Aikido way.