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Worse Than Bad?

We know things are bad — worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. … So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out, and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!

– Howard Beale (Peter Finch from the movie “Network”

You may recall the above tirade coming from veteran news anchorman Howard Beale (Peter Finch) within the classic 1976 satire “Network” when he discovers that he’s being put out to pasture, and he’s none too happy about it. After threatening to shoot himself on live television, instead, he launches into an angry televised rant.  Here’s the actual scene:

If you didn’t know Network was released in 1976, you might think the glorious rant Finch gives in it is a commentary on more recent times. From our vantage point, it may very well be deja vu all over again when it comes to “worse than bad” and “mad as hell” when it comes to open, honest and candid discussion. Not just about conflicting views across the political spectrum. Not just about conflicted views when it comes to the racial divide. Not just about the conflicting views under the pandemic umbrella (maskers, non-maskers, vaxxers/anti-vaxxers.) Etc. Etc. Just about anything seems to trigger the “attack and destroy” venom spewing these days among friends, family, and complete strangers.

We see it in the headlines and the bylines. We see it across social media (censored AND uncensored). We see it in the essays coming across our publishing desk. We see it in the feedback triggered by all of the above. What happened to the art of listening to understand. What happened to (respectful) free speech? Take a moment to stroll through these essays as recent examples just released by us this week, authored respectively by Melissa Hughes, Carol Anderson, and Michael Laitman.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent

The Pain of Being “Unheard”

Can We Bridge a Chasm that No One Wants to Bridge?

The underlying theme here ranges from simmering anger to our fundamental inability to have “adult conversations” absent fear of personal attack, judgment, and fear of reprisal. Quoting from the above “Chasm” Article:

Like it or not, different people have different views. There will never be sameness of ideas in any society at any time … So how do we determine who is right when we are destined to be different? Why must my opinion be right and the other’s opinion wrong if neither of us can convince the other? Is there a bug in the system? … How can we not realize that it is precisely the opposite opinion that makes our own opinion matter? How can we not realize that it is my ideological adversary who gives my ideology merit? … If we silence one another, we will not only silence ourselves, as well, we will silence our minds, our hearts, and will eventually destroy our society and our lives. Nothing can be more dangerous than the belief that only I am right, and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong.

How did we get here? Where do we go from here? What happened to disagreeing without being disagreeable? Why can’t we seek to understand versus seek to convince, debate, and marginalize differences of opinion? What happened to intentional listening?

No silver bullet answers here of course. But in the words of Howard Beale with the opening of this essay, ponder this:

“It’s time for all of you [us] to get up out of your [our] chairs… and go to the window, open it, and stick your [our] head out, and yell, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

And then let’s begin to have (real) adult conversations, starting right now. With your next conversation.  One conversation. One person. One thoughtful word at a time. And all wrapped up with an extra dose of intentional listening. Because we’re better than this. And it’s about time we walk the talk when it comes to doing more and (actually) doing better than this.

Your (respectful) thoughts?

Dennis Pitocco
Dennis Pitoccohttps://www.bizcatalyst360.com/
DENNIS is Founder & CEO & Reimaginator of 360° Nation, encompassing a wide range of multimedia enterprises, including BizCatalyst 360° —an award-winning global media digest; 360° Nation Studios —dedicated to reaching across the world in an effort to capture, produce, and deliver positive, uplifting messages via game-changing productions such as HopeFest 360°, and; GoodWorks 360° —a pro-bono consulting foundation focused entirely on providing mission-critical advisory services to nonprofits worldwide. Everything Dennis does is carried out "for-good" vs. "for-profit", reflecting his belief that it’s time for a renaissance of pure, unbridled wonder. Time to renew in both our hearts and in our souls more joy, more kindness, more compassion, more understanding, and that magical sense of truly belonging to something greater than the status quo. And time to bring the spirit of “humanity at its very best” back to the forefront. More about his "backstory" HERE. Dennis is also a contributing author to the Best-Selling Book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change.

16 COMMENTS

  1. I just had an interesting email exchange with my stepson who, until the last four years, was on the opposite side of the political fence from my husband and I (Joe and I shifted). I sent him the article I wrote, above, to get his thoughts. He made a comment that got my attention….he said that he was always willing to talk about topics that have logic, like taxes, defense spending, trade with China or immigration. But the sheer demeaning of other human beings simply because they thought differently was too much.

    When there is no rational conversation about the equality of humans, there is no understanding. And his point was, he wasn’t sure that bemoaning the growing diversity of America can be a topic for a rational conversation.

    Just thought I’d share.

  2. If learning to listen is essential for anyone, to learn, to decide, to advise, etc. it is even more so for those with governance and leadership responsibilities. In fact, listening to / involving citizens responds to the need to put different tools in the system to make it possible to compare and dialogue with citizens as a constant and continuous practice of organizational life.
    Listening is not enough, however, to rebuild social cohesion when it is crossed by forms of individual insecurity and the fragmentation of communities, caused by social, cultural, demographic and economic transformations. The increase in episodes of indifference or even hostility towards certain categories of people is an indication of insecurity and a symptom of an ongoing process of social disintegration and a drift towards attitudes of closure and selfishness.
    What counts is the quality of the response to discomfort (latent or overt) and the effectiveness of prevention and protection mechanisms for situations of need. Action is needed aimed at recognizing the value of an extended inter-class and global cohesion; it is necessary to work on the relationship between efficiency and effectiveness of public policies, on the empowerment of citizens with respect to the management of public affairs, on the inclusion of peripheral realities, both in geographical and social terms; work on developing forms of responsibility and a common response to needs.
    This is the most important challenge of a ruling class.

  3. Appreciate all of your comments here, as it’s time for us to step forward one voice, one person, one thoughtful conversation at a time. Let us together start “walking the talk” by coming off the sidelines and moving onto the frontline of adult conversation. Kudos to David Burrowes response to this article (on LinkedIn) which bears repeating here:

    “It all seems to come down to fear and a threat to our existence. We don’t want to say things that people will disagree with. When they do, it makes us uncomfortable, uneasy, and wondering whether our position is truly correct. This leads to questioning ourselves and more uncertainty creeps in. This makes us less willing to share our perspectives because we start to shrink from confrontations. This isolates us.

    Or, on the other hand, we become more and more confrontational and don’t care what the other person thinks. We become combative because we fear that things are spiraling out of control, and we are trying to fix them. Since nobody shares my opinion, I intensify my efforts to make sure that everyone knows what I think and that they should believe the same way. When they don’t, it isolates us.

    The well-balanced adult is one who can thoughtfully consider issues and not react, but rather, internalize them and deal with them in a healthy manner. S/he realizes that the issue doesn’t define them and doesn’t threaten them. They realize also that their viewpoint when presented rationally and respectfully, can lend valuable insight to the issue at hand. Then others can do likewise. Only then will we see meaningful change in society.”

  4. In my experience, after great turmoil comes great peace. In order to get ourselves to the point of peace, we’ll need to go through this terrible time. I think it’s going to be years until we get there. There are so many moving parts. But I think we will. And I’m happy to be alive for this moment of history. In my experience, it’s been a pretty tricky run in my adult life, (Recession, Housing Crisis, Pandemic …) but if that is setting the world up to be a better place for my kids, count me in.

  5. I have been writing about this great divide in America for quite a while now. Last night, I kind of wrapped it up to give Joe Biden and the country a real chance to address a lot of what you wrote about here. When you live in a democracy, one of the things that is, or should be a given, is that the will of the majority of people needs to be respected. What you folks have gone through over the past 4 years is an almost total disrespect for that given. I’m hoping that this is an aberration that will be corrected. But the wounds have been inflicted, and the wounded probably won’t go away. The idea is to listen to them, try and figure out what they are so pissed about and address it. The problem as I see it, is that a cult of personality has been created and it will be very hard to get people to drop the worship of their (false) idol. It’s really up to the current government to prove that they are indeed a government for all the people. And it’s up to individuals and groups on both sides of this divide to start talking to each other, and as Van Morrison says ‘get down to what is really wrong’.

  6. I may be naive as hell, but I think part of the way we dig ourselves out of this divide is through (1) a different approach to our history and (2) greater media literacy. I am a former high school U.S. history teacher, and I can tell you that the typical chronological romp through 200+ years of our history serves no one. Kids get lost in a maze of dates, and events, and individual biographies. A much more interesting approach is thematic – a narrative that traces various ideas across our past so that kids begin to see a clearer definition of who we really are, what we’ve traditionally wrestled with, what defines us.

    Second, given the explosion of “news” channels across social media, “media literacy” – the ability to discern bias, tell fact from fiction, understand motivation and argument etc – is critical. Along with that, we need to share a set of common political terms that many people otherwise throw around with abandon. When we use terms incorrectly, we inadvertently throw gasoline on the fire that already rages.

  7. Dennis,
    This is raw and full of human spirit. The very statement “I’m not going to take it anymore” is the verbal declaration we need to hear and state. The act of listening innately to what you are indeed feeling and then repeating…(for we surely know this anger and feeling of determination to make it less so…) is empowering and fundamental too. If one does not like the direction things are heading in…we can make a difference…we can choose to change the direction…starting with our own narrative. To listen to that and allowing it to reign. The fact that an open mind is one that omits judgement, is the fundamental allowance we need to remember….with the addition..that we all have the right to feel..and to know..that we don’t know…that no one is right and no one is wrong, but that we all do just belong

    Thank you so much Dennis, for the space you allow …for this to happen. I appreciate you my friend.

  8. Dennis – I have so many deep emotions when I look at what America has become because I spent 20 years in the Marine Corps knowing I had to be ready to lay my life down to defend the Constitution and the rights granted by this wonderful document. And now I ask myself – For what? Because it seems that even our “leaders” haven’t read this document. We seem to have forgotten that the Declaration of Independence states that we have the right to “… life, liberty, and the PURSUIT of happiness…” – happiness is not a guarantee – you have to work for it. But we have become an overindulged society that feels entitled to be happy (reinforced by parents who have forgotten that “no” is sometimes the right answer) and that we have the right to abuse anyone who stands in our way (because temper tantrums worked on our parents). So, until we admit as a society that we have lost our way and that values and the rule of law are important, we cannot fix our nation – it will get worse as long as our theme song continues to be “What about me?”. Alas, I feel empty.

  9. Perhaps I’m just a pessimist. But, I don’t really think that the old saw of “monkey see, monkey do” works in this case. Just because I try harder to be a better person, more understanding, and listen with an open mind to those that disagree with me doesn’t mean that those persons will do likewise. Life has hammered into me a serious doubt about the better traits of humanity.

    If I’m a better person will it change:
    The lock step of political figures that are moving us to socialism?
    The racism that exists?
    The disparity in wealth or pay rates?
    The hate and rudeness we so often see?
    The existence of the virus, or the lies we have been fed about it?
    Any of the other huge problems that weight on us day and night?
    No, I don’t think so.

    Having said that though doesn’t excuse me from trying to be the best human that I am capable of being. The wellbeing of my soul demands that of me.

  10. “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Okay, I think we each think that, at least on some days. However, the question that begs an answer is what are we going to do since we are not going to “take this” anymore? That comment poses several questions before we can answer what are we going to do? What exactly are we not going to take anymore? The threat of violence? The potential of getting the virus? The being housebound? The need to wear a mask? The common rudeness on social media sites? The drift of government toward socialism? Just what is it that we are not going to take any more of? I’m not sure we can all answer the question. There is just that underlying anxiety that the current conditions foster and as time passes those conditions become less and less tolerable. While some suggestions are presented above, we still must face the reality that as individuals we can’t really change the conditions that we “can’t take anymore”. Yes, of course, we can be more open and more civil and more kind. That should be the norm anyway, but does it really change those conditions that we “can’t take anymore”? I suspect that hoping that everyone will wake up tomorrow and do those things is naive and unlikely. So, perhaps our only answer is to learn to live with the conditions that we “won’t take anymore”. Is that a defeatist attitude or is it simply the grim reality?

  11. Dennis, I appreciate the emotion in this post because I’ve been feeling it so much lately. I made a comment on LI yesterday that I don’t believe brotherhood and unity is possible in the short term, but that it’s going to take a million little steps in the same direction to heal this broken nation. For me, the conversations are hard and exhausting. But maybe more than the dialogue which often seems like a nonstop journey around the mulberry bush (undoubtedly for both sides), it’s the disappointment we feel in each other. I have received terrible, nasty, and disrespectful responses for my views and I’ve seen others who’ve been disrespected for speaking out, as well. Clearly that will not get us closer to the goal. Equally as troubling are people I love and respect as “thought leaders” who have chosen to hit the mute button, shut the camera off and disengage from the conversation altogether. I submit that won’t get us closer to the goal either. And then, I’ve had productive conversations with people who don’t agree with my position but DO agree that the only way to get through this divisive state is to be more intentional about the way each of us stands up for what we believe in.

    It is easy to have hard conversations when the group is in agreement. And one of the things that I was trying to communicate in my piece is that many of us have spent the better part of the last few months avoiding hard conversations with people we care about. That simmering pot didn’t cool down. Quite the opposite. The challenge, as I see it now, is to continue to work on meaningful dialogue, listening and respectfully requesting to be heard in exchange, but also to work through the disappointment we feel in others.

    Relationships aren’t easy and this political chapter has certainly taken a toll. But I do believe that how we work through the challenging times define us far more than how we celebrate the good times. We each have a choice to make when faced with difficulty. We can run from it, hide from it, or fight it. We can try to find the meaning and the lessons, or we can outright dismiss it.

    We are all perfectly imperfect. We are all guilty of something. We are all capable of being both the bully and the person being bullied. The challenges don’t define our character; what we stand for and how we defend that stance does.

    • Your response here, Melissa, reminds of a small group conversation we had a year or more ago about gun control. While we did not agree, we were able to share our views and ideas respectfully and without fear. The space was safe as it was well understood we all cared for each other, and the margins of difference were not in conflict with the myriad of commonality we shared.

      Generally speaking, there is certainly work to do, yet Dennis nailed it at the end “And then let’s begin to have (real) adult conversations, starting right now. With your next conversation. One conversation. One person. One thoughtful word at a time.”

      It’ll take millions of baby steps, but I do believe we are better this, and those small conversations, those small steps, will keep us moving forward. As the absolutely AMAZING Amanda Gorman shared yesterday~
      “In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country,
      our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.
      When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
      The new dawn blooms as we free it.
      For there is always light,
      if only we’re brave enough to see it.
      If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

    • I am sorry that you have had to read nasty comments, Melissa, your piece didn’t warrant that. When people resort to name-calling and disrespect, they probably don’t have more valid arguments to share. Is that a consolation? Not really, in the moment.
      But as Brenee Brown says, we shouldn’t let ourselves be defined by trolls when there are others who believe in us, and I am sure you have plenty of people believing in you, yours truly included.

  12. Yes, Dennis – We are better than this! And its starts with each of us. You said it perfectly: “One conversation. One person. One thoughtful word at a time. And all wrapped up with an extra dose of intentional listening. Because we’re better than this.”

    Thank you for sharing your voice and your platform inviting us all to take that one step in being better humans. #intentionallistening.

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