Twenty-twenty has been a challenging year yet restrictions and lockdowns have merely been the icing on the cake in triggering many tensions that have long been baking. We’ve seen a massive increase in extreme actions, behaviors and opinions in the digital age. ‘The Social Dilemma’, currently playing on Netflix, highlights industry insiders calling alarm bells of a greater dystopia looming if we don’t take action.
We’ve certainly seen an increase in the use of absolutism or extremism: not in reference to ideologies, states or acts of terrorism. Some of the most dangerous weapons these days are the words and communications magnified through audience amplification or reach.
We even see leaders in positions of power amongst those that understand the power to manipulate social media by creating ground swell through repetition of distractive and divisive tactics. Planting extreme messages with consistency against anyone they wish to bring down. Lies hollered loud enough and often enough have a good chance of finding audiences willing to echo it.
Yet there’s equally the looming potential of a calmer utopia. In fact when a greater number of people embrace a few simple concepts, that power is also compounded through your actions, communication and the tech in your hands.
There’s a classic illusion, young woman or old woman (dating back to the late 19th century). People may see an old woman with a large hooked nose, her chin tucked into chest. Or they may at first perceive a younger lady, with a daintier nose, face turned away, wearing what seems to be a small fascinator.A more recent example is the vase,’Message d’Amour des Dauphins’, by the artist Sandro del Prete. Again people perceive very different imagery. Many adults might see a couple engaged in a passionate naked embrace whereas children are more inclined to perceive 9 playful dolphins.
Remember our perspective is not always the only way or the right way.
- Slow down and digest
Your grandmother may have told you frequently, I know mine did, to slow down when eating and chew properly. These actions increase the alkalinity of food and reduce the chances of acidity, acid reflux or burn otherwise associated with indigestion.The same is true in relation to the digestion of content and news. When we learn to slow down our judgements or responses to click bait headlines, or when we go deeper than skim reading, we stand a greater chance of perceiving different perspectives, opinions or even basic context.
- Avoidance increases extreme reactions
Edmund Burke, an Irish statesman from the late 18th, is accredited with a shorter version from a longer speech along the lines the only thing necessary for triumph to evil is for good people to do nothing.When we bury our heads against greater injustices for too long we see those tinder kegs eventually exploding or weaponised. There are those who may leverage even the noblest of causes as an excuse to wreak havoc and destruction.
We can make a stand for worthy causes yet protest loudly, powerfully, peacefully, without spewing vitriol or venom, without fists, guns or fires.
- Avoid extremes in emotion or language
When disagreeing, arguing or expressing anger and frustration it’s easy to let emotions gain an upper hand or slip into accusation or victim mode: you always do this or never do that! Always and never are extremes themselves yet often inaccurate. Frequently or rarely, often or sometimes, may be leveraged to express personal opinions without escalating head to head arguments or further lighting conflict bonfires.It’s also exceptionally powerful to very calmly state, without raising a word or eyebrow, ‘you have no idea how angry or upset I am right now.’ Calmly stated upset is perhaps more disarming and intimidating than hurling words from an escalated decibel state coloured close to beetroot.
- Choose love over hatePerhaps it is worth pondering the approach of Auschwitz survivor, Eddie Jaku. Now 100 years old, he carries the label of the happiest man in the world.
He lives by a philosophy of living well, enjoying life and singing in the shower. At the same time every week, he continues to share stories with school children so that important lessons from our past are not lost. In interviews he said “you can say you don’t like a person, but I teach you, don’t hate. Hatred is a disease that first kills your enemy, then kills you.”
As Eddie Jaku knows better than most, extremism and hate come with a hefty cost and that the words driven by them are dangerous. Let his words guide us in the fight against injustice, to drive positive but let us do it minus the hate.
Written by Mark Carter.