Or are we a democracy? Or is this something we have been aiming toward, but haven’t achieved, since the Constitution was formed?
How do we create a more perfect union?
It seems we must do it together. What will it be? A democracy or a dictatorship?
If we are going for a democracy we must organize policies and laws that benefit the majority, as well as the individual.
Martin Luther King, Jr has said, “We begin to die the minute we become silent about what really matters.”
A democracy consists of all beings finding a harmonious way to relate to each other. Not one of us lives in a vacuum. Our every word affects the whole.
Even though guns appear stronger than words let us remember this famous statement: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”
Words create worlds. Words have histories. And they mean different things to different people. Ideas are filled with words.
This may be the time to learn new ideas that lead to a democracy if we truly want one. If so, let’s begin with a democratic conversation.
A democratic conversation (according to Krista Tippett in BECOMING WISE) is described as listening to each other so attentively and respectfully that we can articulate at least two points the other person shared that we can agree with.
We will not form a democracy by holding our breath waiting for our turn to denounce the other and state our opinion.
This practice requires much patience.
I have begun noticing how I impatiently resist what another is saying when I disagree. Then I become blind to the value in another’s ideas.
Instead I revert to my old patterns of judging what I consider wrong. I look through the lens of right and wrong. That won’t bring forth a democracy.
With judgments come arguments, defenses and shutting down. These behaviors certainly won’t create a “more perfect union.” This describes the old fight, flight or freeze methods of survival.
Margaret Wheatley has written in A Simpler Way that Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory has been gravely misunderstood.
Many scientists now recognize that Darwin was implying that evolution doesn’t necessarily proceed through competition, but instead through those who learn best how to cooperate—how to share workable methods. The systems that learn the art of collaboration survive.
That is a huge shift striking down the idea that competiveness is the way to personal excellence and survival.
John Nash’s “Games theory” (for which he received the Nobel Prize in physics) proves that the best idea is the one that most benefits both the individual and the group.
This takes cooperation—not competition.
Science is showing us that when we work together to create a harmonious environment for all, we will not only survive, but thrive.
Democracy is government by the people, for the people. This insures that the policies and laws will bring forth the greatest good to the greatest number, as well as to the individual.
This requires working together—being open to the ideas of others, and sharing thoughtful, caring responses.
When we draw another out through considerate questions rather than condemning their ideas we learn more about their values.
By asking different questions rather than hurling our opinions at another, we listen with empathy.
Deep listening requires compassion—stepping into another’s heart—as well as their mind.
One of my meditation teachers taught us to listen by keeping 80% of our attention inside ourselves, attending to the sensations in our body and noting our emotions, while dedicating 20% of our attention to what the other is saying.
By doing this we become aware of anxiety, defensiveness or antagonism.
Only by listening to ourselves, can we really listen to another. As we acknowledge our mind states while listening to another we can choose a compassionate, kind response.
This can lead us to common ground. We will note if we are trying to convince—or understand.
A democratic conversation includes hearing all sides with a compassionate ear, and being able to articulate two or three valid points in what others are saying.
My favorite therapist reminds his clients to slow down, helping people to understand that slowing down helps to speed up—to make progress.
Life has its own rhythm, and it’s often SLOW!
Listening has a slow speed.
Evolution doesn’t hurry. And neither does a democratic conversation.
Our every thought and word is influencing the whole. Our words are important!
As Gandhi has said, “What we do may seem unimportant, but it is vital that we do it.”
My intention is to use words that reflect my values. Instead of condemning what I consider wrong, I first do my best to name what is happening within me, and then remember that the other may also be frightened and doing their best to cover it up and sell their ideas. But I don’t have to buy.
What is required is compassion. I ask for the best way to communicate my values.
We might remember that other people have good ideas too. Much is lost by not finding some value in what others are saying. They have reason for their opinions, just as we do. There are underlying attitudes and mind states that underly the words.
By listening we may find helpful ways to connect so that pain and misunderstanding are relieved.
We all have survival needs. Survival demands that we love or perish—that we cooperate with that which most benefits both the individual and the group.
As our founding fathers said, “We will either stand together or hang alone.”
We are not here to have dominion over another. We are here to create a world that thrives and survives, that evolves and brings forth the best ideas. And they won’t always be our own!