** A charrette: “A public meeting or workshop devoted to a concerted effort to solve a problem or plan the design of something.”
**Oxford Living Dictionaries
Yes, I am referring to politics, and you may have guessed I’m referring to the Democrats. That’s because I am one, if often reluctantly. I say the last because just about everywhere I look there seems to be expediency and opportunism put before loyalty to a real sense of integrity.
As I see it, we in America need leadership to help us in cultivating the motivation and capacity to empathize with others often different than us, by learning their back-story as one avenue. We need tools to listen and to take those different than us seriously—something that for these times seems rather foreign. We need someone who can help us grow in terms of our own emotional literacy—knowing our emotions so we can integrate and tame them and so they don’t overwhelm us and cancel our capacity to think.
By emotional literacy in a leader, here a President, I mean someone with capabilities in the realm of understanding also how emotions trump (the word just works) facts. I suggest that someone worthy of being a real leader of the US be someone who can help the rest of us get in touch with the fears, as one example, that can crush any hope of change or provoke a desperate need to follow the lead of someone who has little appetite for equalizing the realms of social and economic justice, as one example. I mean to suggest that a true leader for our times could help us by leading a campaign to have psychology and the information it has available, become accessible not only to big corporations and political movements but to the rest of us so we don’t have to constantly be manipulated and frequently manipulated into fear.
Integrity, then, might mean that a person/candidate would care more about the country and its people than about getting elected. I know that this might even seem extreme if not just ridiculous, because the candidates with integrity would conceivably feel compelled to interrupt their own narcissism, never a very popular pastime. They would instead help the public get to know who they are and what they stand for. And they would have to listen to constituents and even those who live among us and cannot vote.
I get several requests for support, political and financial from a few candidates every day. Am I with them? Will I promise my vote and my donations? “We” can beat “them” and we are already dividing into teams, while I for one am not sure about any of them, and am not sure if any of them have this emotional literacy and intention of helping people instead of elevating themselves.
Those candidates that do have any integrity will talk amongst themselves and see what they can do as a group to work together to give the American people an alternative. This would be an alternative to what many of us see as the rampaging and boundless lack of self-discipline of our current President. Before you know it the number of candidates will become obscene, not because diversity is a bad thing, but because demeaning and attacking the other candidates or ignoring them completely, will most likely for many of us provoke a lack of respect for any and all of them. That is, if we don’t get suckered in to feeling pushed into premature allegiances and team sport mentality.
You may think it’s silly, or naïve perhaps to talk about emotional literacy in a Presidential candidate. But unless he/she realizes how there are forces that prey upon us constantly to seduce us to buy their products and religions and votes as well, the candidates will not even know us enough to help us.
One arena in which we need help is in realizing for the first time or again, that to run a country we need to compromise. We need means for—not merely debating and debunking—but speaking in ways that make for civil conversations in which the purpose is communication, not denigration.
A movie that I just about beg you to see is “Best of Enemies”. It brings home the power of a structure designed with the sincere motivation of helping people hear each other out. This promotes empathy, learning, and sometimes the changing of minds. This is a beautiful thing, the changing of our mind, when we have the freedom and flexibility to be moved by points and people in ways that are genuine and not manipulative.
The film takes place in North Carolina in 1971 and tells the story of an integration battle in which a mediator was called in, a black man no less called in by a white man. What seems like an impossible stalemate is interrupted by the hard work, stubborn yet feeling people who allow new ideas and realities come into their own fixed worldviews. The mediator in question introduces the charrette, several days with helpful structure to aid the process of discussing important points without demeaning as the key tool, and also having people sitting at tables for lunch with people of a different race.
I say: let’s try it. Let’s at least not be duped into feeling we have to have decided on “our” candidate for President or anything else, before we have some inkling about the factors that include emotional literacy, integrity and giving a damn about us, by which I mean all of us.
I am a generally unapologetic liberal though I do apologize for making assumptions too often and too many, that I was right (and innocent) and I was enlightened while the other side was not. I know a bit better now that I have practiced and written more about the shadow, the darker sides that all of us have.
Our emotions are killing us, just about literally. They blind us to climate change or make us holler endlessly citing dangers while few are listening. Why are we blinded and/or why are so many people not caring or listening or hearing? These are questions we should start addressing.
There are reasons. And beginning to look at the reasons that problems and people’s humanity aren’t addressed, is as important as anything else. If we ignore the emotions behind the impasses before us that we can ill afford, we will flail around desperately, running on assumptions and superstitions. We will evolve no further in terms of our capacities for understanding more deeply, the conflicts and capabilities of ourselves and others. We will be devoid of curiosity and empathy.
The latter alternative seems the saddest one.