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.
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?