One of the biggest problems with people is that we tend to try and address the most important decisions that affect our lives as individuals, families, communities, nations and ‘global citizens’ using those parts of the brain that are not only incapable of seeing the ‘big picture’ solutions to our biggest challenges and threats, but that often enlarge, escalate and encourage their growth.
Whenever we REACT to a situation we are pretty much at our ‘dumbest’ in terms of our ability to create long-term solutions because, well, our threat-brain doesn’t truly care about the long term.
It wants a solution now.
And it doesn’t care what that solution is as long as it leads to us, in some way, shape or form feeling safer.
And in truth, that’s how it SHOULD be.
Because the threatened brain shouldn’t be bogged down with the morals, the rights and wrongs of a situation that it finds itself in. It SHOULD run on autopilot and ‘go animal’ in the presence of threat such that it fights or flees those things that could harm it.
Both anger and fear are BRILLIANT strategies for dealing with a ‘right here — right now’ threat that endangers us but pretty crappy ones for living life when the actual threat isn’t present.
As in, most of the time.
To put it simply, the threat brain is an AMAZING tool for ensuring survival but a truly SHITTY one for creating a life of thriving.
Yet sadly, far too many people seem stuck in the threat brain believing that their ONLY solutions to long-term threats are to either run away and escape them or ‘come out fighting’… even when it’s been proven not to work.
See, if we’re unable to bring our human brains to bear on the CAUSES of the problems we’re facing then we’ll be forever stuck with dealing with the EFFECTS.
It amazes and saddens me that with all the resources, knowledge and skill that we currently possess as a species that the best we seem to come up with to solve our problems as a global community is the idea that exclusion, expulsion and execution are suitable methods for creating peace.
That we should accept that our only redress for all those things that we consider ‘bad’ in our world is to either either fight them or to flee from them by ‘locking out’ all those that we believe MIGHT be a threat to us.
It saddens me because it causes us to do the one thing PROVEN again and again and again to allow those things that causes us the greatest threat and fear to persist and is PROVEN to ensure that we, in turn, become a threat to those we aim to ‘teach a lesson’ to.
Read just about any serious study on violence, whether serial killer, gang member, civil war or national or global conflict and you’ll see that what is perhaps THE most important element that sponsors the use of it is the process of ‘Othering’.
As in, making yourself as sure as sure can be they ‘they’ are not like ‘us’. And because of their not-like-us-ness are ‘unworthy’ of the very same treatment that we, in turn, DEMAND they give us.
It’s Othering that made slavery possible, that both created the holocaust AND that enabled MILLIONS of German civilian woman, children and non-combatives to be obliterated in World War Two, that allows modern day ‘patriots’ on every side of conflict to travel to places they’ve never heard of to fight people they’ve never met and for reasons that they don’t understand and it’s Othering that has sponsored every crusade, jihad and holy war ever fought.
Simply put, neither governments and the nations they claim to represent, nor organisations, religions or fundamentalists of any type can tolerate or allow any ideas that make ‘us’ like ‘them’ for if they do they lose their justification for carrying out the many deeds that most of us in our more inclusive and human brains would find intolerable and reprehensible.
At some point in history, people HAD to be told that native Africans, native Americans and those peoples from what we now call ‘South America’ were subhuman and unworthy of our care or else we would have seen ourselves as monsters for doing what we did to them.
So we ‘Othered’ them and somehow, in doing so, it was ok to steal and murder and enslave them for our financial gain.
It would have been a completely different picture if those who first encountered these amazing aboriginal cultures wrote home and circulated stories of their love for their wives, husbands, daughters and sons and how ‘like us’ they were despite being so geographically separate, don’t you think?
No soldier or sailor would have set sail to ‘conquer new lands’ had they believed in their hearts that they were going to murder the equivalent to their own loved and cherished ones.
So we Othered them.
And we’ve all seen the impact of that and all (but a few for whom the Othering runs too deep to change) look back on the decision to do so with a mixture of shame, guilt, embarrassment and feelings of ‘how could we have been so blind and so stupid?’
The how is simple, we were ‘out of our minds’ when we were taught about them. Those who shared the news shared it in such a way that is created threat and fear so that instead of seeing them as ‘like us’ we wanted to either run from them or kill them.
That’s what happens when you ‘go animal’ around decisions that demand the attention of the human brain.
Not sometimes, but often. In fact, pretty much always.
The world deserves better of us than to address the biggest challenges we currently face as a global community than to do so from our stupid, reactionary ‘fight or flight’ brains, don’t you think?
People aren’t ‘radicalised’ through any particular religion or doctrine.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Sikh, a Buddhist or a Christian or whether you’re a communist, a fascist, a republican or a democrat.
Your theology has nothing to do with with whether you’ll use violence as the solution to your problems. No holy book or manifesto has that power.
Don’t just take my word for it.
Just look around you and you’ll notice that MOST people regardless of race, religion or creed are essentially good people who want nothing more to live their lives, experience love and watch their children grow up to do the same.
The only way to radicalise someone is to force-feed them the stories of inferiority, stories of injustice and stories of inequality that cast them as ‘Other’ and they simply ‘cease to be human’ (or at least, AS human as they are) and ‘deserving of everything they get’.
Einstein said “you cannot solve problems with the same kind of thinking that caused them” yet that’s exactly what we’re trying to do with so many of the world’s problems including the sharing of global resources and the wealth created by them, caring for our environment, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, addressing racism and homophobia and, of course, ending terrorism.
All of the above are sources of conflict and all are used as justification for violence based on the simple premise that ‘we’ are somehow superior and therefore more entitled to our views and means of expressing them than ‘they’ are.
I’d love to see people using their HUMAN brains to address the causes of those things that hurt and harm us as a global community rather than continuing to ‘go animal’ and react to every issue with fighting talk.
Don’t get me wrong, if I’m in the presence of anyone trying to do harm to ANYONE I’d be the first to physically react and do my best to stop it in that instant, but if that’s all I EVER do and if that’s all WE ever do as a society, what good would that do?
Only my animal brain would consider that a smart way to live because that animal part of me cares nothing for the future, only my ‘right now’ survival.
But I want so much more than to just survive.
I want to thrive.
And I think that’s true of all of us.
And that simply won’t happen if we let the animals run the show.
It’s time to ‘Human Up’ and stop being part of the Othering that’s at the cause of so much of the struggling, the suffering and the shit that we see in the world.
Because if we don’t then WE allow it to continue.
And we’d have to be out of our minds to allow that, don’t you think?
Truth, joy and love
P.S — lest you think that I have a ‘live and let live’ approach to those who would bring harm to others, let me steer you right and tell you that I’ve used extreme violence in the defence of others numerous times in my life and would do so again without the slightest hesitation if the situation called for it.
But this post isn’t about how we deal with clear and present danger, it’s about how we reduce the causes of that danger in the first place.