Let's Stop Arguing About Who's The Worst - And Grow Better


We are not all the same. But we are within the same journey together, and not one of us is perfect.

When we challenge each other's ideas it often morphs into this contest of who is not the worst, or a zero sum game of Brother/Sister Superior. We have to acknowledge that human hands are bloody, but human souls contain the light. I am a neuroscientist and psychology professor using a word like "soul", so let me explain. When I use that word, I mean the neural network and its special relationship with the world. I mean the "I" with the "We". We make the mistake of thinking our souls are individual and self contained. They are not.

Patriotism. Nationalism. Colorism. Fundamentalism.

These words represent many sides of the same thing: The narcissistic idea that what "I" am is somehow better than what someone else is. This thought pattern says that not only is the "I" better, but all others should mold into the image of the "I".

STOP. Think about what we are doing.

If we are really dealing in truth - people have committed atrocities in the name of every powerful nation and major religion. In fact, if what you belong to has millions of members, I can almost guarantee you that what you belong to has tried to control someone or hurt someone.

Does that mean I am saying "don't belong to any group" or "shun all beliefs". No. What I am asking us to see is our narcissism. We have to be willing to revise. It is of no help to say "yeah, but at least we are better than you". That is an immature, knee jerk reaction to criticism that we all try to guide our children away from. Yet we seem to fall into the same pattern. Criticize America and people say you are "unpatriotic", or tell you to "go live somewhere else". Criticize your religion and you are called a non believer. Speak out about bigotry and you are called "soft". These are all the very old reactions of a childish bully, used as avoidance behavior.

Does this mean that I am saying that we should be spending all our time criticizing each other's "group"? No. I am saying - we all need to work on our shit, and each other's shit. However, those that have power and wealth, or are pursuing it, need to do more work on themselves, because the pursuit of power and wealth has a way of darkening the soul. Yeah, I know. Class warfare, right? Suck it up. The moment we find ourselves wanting to force someone else or something else in the image we conjure up, this is when the work starts.

Another mark of humankind's immature narcissism is this need to deflect what one group is doing by nitpicking and rationalizing. Our brains are very powerful, with a vivid sense of the self. This is dangerous, because it means we have a tendency to rationalize our own actions, or the actions of those who look like us. At the same time, we have the tendency to deny that their are valid and historical reasons for human behavior - especially the behavior of those we do not identify with. We need to address what is behind the things we all do without descending into rationalization and blame. We need to identify the roots of a problem and solve it like big [insert gender designation or not].

Just like great athletes, builders, farmers, and thinkers - we need to improve on the models we have. We need clear recognition of where we can and should change.

Recognize that if you are causing large swaths of people to fear you, no matter what weapons you use it is terrorism. Recognize that if a system is set up so that the "other" bears the brunt of the labor and has less freedom, you have a system that will tear itself apart from the inside. Recognize that whether you call it socialism, communism, or capitalism if the power and resources are controlled by a small group of people who enrich themselves in power and/or wealth it is trickle down economics.

Recognize that once you depart from self defense in the immediate sense, and begin to preemptively strike, you begin down a path of darkness you may not find your way back from. Recognize that once money becomes something that is worshiped over and above life itself, the soul darkens.

Recognize that prejudice and bigotry aren't just schoolyard insults. They kill internally and externally. Recognize that if you live in the same place as someone else that hates themselves, or you - it is only a matter of time before this descends into violence. Recognize those things that fuel hate. Hint: Talking about it isn't one of them. If someone talking about the ways in which they are hurt makes you hate them, you already did and were afraid to admit it.

Recognize that we have all been wrong, and will continue to be wrong. Recognize that when people are not invested, it is almost always because they have been excluded. Recognize that numbers don't lie, but people do. Recognize that population statistics do not outperform the experience of an individual in the realm of truth. Recognize that you don't know an experience you have not lived. You can't speak on it. I know your ego wants you too. It feels good for a second to tell someone "what's what" and feel like the smartest person in the room. But intelligence is not wisdom. We need to listen to each other. But the people who have to live in the house must decide when and how to clean it.

Finally, we must remember that we are young but also running out of time. This is an interesting problem to solve. We need clear eyes to solve it. So cry your tears and then wipe them away. Then roll up your proverbial sleeves and let's do the work to become the greatness we all so want to claim in our social media status updates.



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