politics and religion; worth talking about

Some days it is worth every cent of pay TV subscription. Today was one of them. That’s the good news. The bad news was that there were two things on simultaneously that I desperately wanted to watch – live.

On the religion channel the Navy Blues were back to their winning ways at the MCG. Too bad for Melbourne, but victory is sweet for us Carlton fans after such a drought. It was gripping stuff.

On ABC2 was the summary session from the 2020 summit. My Feb 4th post looked forward to this event with hopeful anticipation. Yes, there will be detractors … I note that The Age has already gone looking for a negative angle. However, if the vibe, even through the TV, was anything to go by, this was an extraordinary event for the nearly 1000 people present in their 10 streams.

More than once I heard people celebrate the spirit of listening and collaboration amongst robust dialogue. Each of the Co-Chairs in their verbal report outlined ideas to help make Australia an even better place to be in 2020. In the Governance report, there was talk of more collaborative government. This summit appears to be a good first step. I am looking forward to reading the initial report over the next couple of days. Download it here.

It reminded me again that addressing the challenges we face as a society and as humanity, will require collaborative efforts beyond what has been traditionally reasonable. More than ever, government, business and the community sectors will need to link arms and work together for the common good. As per the dimensions of complex problems outlined in my last post, the solutions to our biggest challenges lie beyond the scope of single sectors, let alone single organisations.

At Ergo, we can see ourselves working more and more to facilitate the coming together of people from a variety of contexts and perspectives to work through tough challenges.

Meanwhile, back at Carlton, as a headline read recently, ‘the strut is back’.

(OK, I know it is inappropriate indulgence to bang on about football on this forum … I promise I’ll hold back now I’ve got it out of my system.)

The Russians love their children too…

Some people seem oblivious to the needs of others around them. Twice in the last 20 minutes I’ve had the same bag, slung over a shoulder, knock into me as its carrier tried to weave his way to where he wanted to be. It wasn’t so much that his bag hit me … it was his complete disregard for the impact he was having on those around him that stunned me. Beyond that level of dysfunction, most people operate with at least a consciousness of the perspective of ‘the other’. But a normal appreciation of the needs of others will not be enough.

I have been pondering what it takes to go beyond empathy, to identify deeply with ‘the other’. In my last post I eluded to the realisation of prejudices I didn’t know I had. I am increasingly convinced that the capacity to identify with ‘the other’ is a fundamental competency for dealing with the major challenges in the decades ahead; human pressures on the ecosystem and climate, population, extreme poverty for 1/6th of the world’s people, and globalisation.

A few weeks ago, Maria and I watched Thirteen Days, the story of how close we came to nuclear war. In the wake of his extraordinary leadership through that crisis, President Kennedy delivered a speech that so impressed then Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, that it paved the way for a nuclear test ban. In that speech he said, “So, let us not be blind to our differences – but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. We are all mortal.”

On the eve of the collapse of the Cold War Sting released a song that ‘reached’ me in my relative naivety, ‘I hope the Russians love their children too.’ The words still penetrate my Anglo centric propaganda-ed view of the world. Or more close to my current context, Saudi women with only their eyes exposed also play aeroplane games with fluffy toys on planes to occupy their fidgety children.

We are facing enormous challenges. Our world has evolved so quickly that none of us are prepared. No-one has been here before. (…as Peter Senge reminded us at the SoL Forum) Our institutions are not ready to change as rapidly as is needed. Our collective and individual behaviour lags our consciousness by way to much. Our lifestyle inertia holds us back from action to bridge social and ethnic divides, from adopting the environmental practices we know are necessary, from curbing our personal preferences for the common good. And there are not only global problems, we are every week confronted with local community and personal ones too; work / life balance, young binge drinking and violence, rampant consumerism, loss of meaning …

Adam Kahane helps us understand the nature of these complex problems.

  • They have dynamic complexity. Cause and effect are not closely related in space and time. We need systemic solutions.
  • They have generative complexity. The future is unfamiliar and undetermined. It is not a matter of applying solutions that have worked in the past. As it is said, today’s solutions create tomorrow’s problems.
  • They have social complexity. No single entity own the problem of has the capacity or wherewithal to create a solution independently of all the stakeholders.

However, in order to bring the different stakeholders around the table, whether it be in the context of the Arab – Israeli conflict or a family roundtable about domestic expectations, we have to become better at suspending our own judgements and seeing the world through the eyes of another.

The rewards will be staggeringly significant.