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  • Writer's pictureNancy du Tertre

Wishes for a happier new year in 2024

Many people, friends and strangers, have commented to me at various points during this year that the world seems to have turned upside down. It certainly feels that way. Nothing in our world is simple. Nothing offers the obvious solution or complete answer. It seems that every solution fails to address other important problems. Just look at the mess! For instance, how do we address the Israel-Gaza war; Ukraine's need for military funding against Russia; abortion rights; the January 6 uprising; the unbelievable unchecked flow of illegal immigrants crossing into the U.S.; the threat of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) to human survival; climate control; space weaponry; and so on. We have become a nation of single-issue promoters and haters.

Unfortunately, we have developed a culture of treating every major threat or issue with a single-solution. This approach is too simple.

Because the issues facing us are so big, we have all become terrified. We feel the need to take immediate action to solve the problems. As a result, we adopt self-righteous, non-negotiable, unilateral positions about everything. In this frightening world, people cling to simple solutions. It is easiest for us to assume all solutions are binary - right/wrong, good/bad, moral/immoral, effective/ineffective, or my opinion/your opinion. In a binary world, if I'm right, you must be wrong. But this won't solve anything.

We need to understand that binary thinking is a just a manipulation.

Over the last few decades, our minds, opinions, preferences, emotions, and private thoughts have been stolen by corporate algorithms and then marketed to those who wish to manipulate us for their own purposes. We have been tricked into behaving like mind-controlled slaves who believe in single-solution thinking. The algorithms have been taught to identify how to play with our egos. We feel good when we are told we are "right." We feel good when we feel we are agreeing with lots of other people. We feel more powerful when others agree with us. Once we're told we are right, that means anyone who disagrees with us must, by definition, be wrong. We get fixated on "winning."

We can fix this problem.

First, we must learn how to listen instead of talk. This is extremely uncomfortable. It's not easy to listen to someone's "wrong" opinion. It makes you want to scream! But it is an essential skill. Make a point of listening to opposing points of view. Don't assume you need to argue your position. Don't assume anyone who doesn't share your point of view is the enemy. Your opponent is trying to solve problems just like you. Listening opens new doors. you may be able to horse-trade different solutions for different issues with your opponent. You may actually gain their trust just by giving them the respect of listening. Everyone needs to be heard.

You may be able to form an alliance. At bare minimum, you will become smarter, more aware of other problems, and thus more creative as a problem-solver.

Second, we must assume the best, not the worst, in your opponent. In recent years, we have focused on a culture of blame, shame, and snarky sound-byte put-downs and come-backs of those who don't share our views. We assume that anyone who isn't "on our side" is either stupid or trying to manipulate us. it often comes as a surprise to us that our opponent can actually be intelligent and sensitive to issues that concern all of us.

Third, realize that our desire to impose our solutions on others is based on our own fears. We are afraid - with good reason - that our world is falling apart. We therefore feel a strong need to take action. As good, concerned citizens we rush to do something - anything at all - as quickly as possible. However, our sense of urgency is what causes us to be intolerant of any other solutions or alternatives. We are afraid any other solutions won't be as effective as our own, and will fail. We feel we don't have the time or patience to test out our opponents' alternative solutions. We can't risk failure! Bottom line, we just need to realize our fear is driving our thoughts. Our fear makes us unable to listen to others or assume the best about their motives. Our fear controls our logical minds.

My prayer is that we come together with a common purpose to serve the 8 billion people on this planet as best we can. Democracy is governance by majority of people who have diverse opinions. Fascism is governance of everyone by one person's opinion. If we want to survive as a democracy, we need to begin by respecting each other's diverse opinions. We need to get comfortable testing out solutions that seem at odds with our own beliefs and assumptions.

Many roads lead to Rome - we just need to accept that fact and put it into practice.


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