Politics Stream of Consciousness Part 2: Learn to Listen.

Politics Stream of Consciousness Part 2: Learn to Listen.

I want to write a little bit about listening to others. Basically: do it. Even though you are absolutely designed not to, you have to override your human programming and do it anyway.

Humans are tribal by nature, and without higher direction fall into groups of in and out.

This is literally written into our nature, our brains, our DNA. Humans are basically super-social walking plains chimpanzees. In The Third Chimpanzee, Jared Diamond details the incredible proximity we have to chimpanzees not only genetically but behaviorally and socially. The differences between us are a few degrees here and there. Humans, and especially civilization, have taken some behavioral aspects of chimpanzees and turned them to 11.

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Chimpanzees betray Ayn Rand, collectively groom each other.

Chimps and humans (absent civilization) roll around in tribes which are loose collections of social and familial relations. People come and go, mate into other groups, start new groups, but there are clear social barriers between groups. For chimps, the size of these groups can go up to a couple dozen. For humans, multiple hundreds. One feature in humans that was turned to 11 is the ability to store, organize, and understand both identities and all the relationships between up to ~150 people. From this is the adage that you can only really have 150 true friends. Beyond that and your resolution of the interpersonal relationships break down- they become acquaintances. Social media farms out the mental power needed to maintain this social web, so in effect scrolling your facebook feed literally feeds a primal urge to digest social networks. But I digress.

Furthermore, the relationships between human tribes vs chimp tribes is also turned to 11. Chimpanzees are naturally wary and possibly violent with outsiders. Humans are as well, but with the gift of story telling and long multi-generational lifetimes, relationships between tribes go from banal to epic. Instead of just a random stranger, that person from the other tribe is a demon whose grandfather cast a spell on the whole valley; avoid if possible, kill if you must.

Maybe you see where I’m going. Using the qualifier “absent civilization”, humans are basically super social, super paranoid walky chimps. Fortunately (though that is debatable) we have civilization, which has selectively muted the innate tribal behavior of people, left to seethe under the surface. Instead of absolute discrete tribes, tribal behavior retreats into relative social areas of life. It is always just under the surface though, and many times starkly above it.

Anytime you see someone completely shut out dissent, treat insiders better than family, outsiders like blood enemies, you are seeing classic human behavior. This shouldn’t surprise you. You are that way too. Yes you are. YES YOU ARE. I don’t care what you say!

This behavior is intractable because it’s so natural to exhibit and feels like a warm blanket of certainty to those who wear it. Coming up and actually listening to and considering the merit with the benefit of the doubt is like sticking your head out of the igloo.

Rising above tribal behavior itself is a behavior, which like all behavior is borne out of habit- and habits can be formed with disciplined intervention. It is possible through a concentrated effort on mindfulness to push tribal nature away perhaps six inches. I’m telling myself this right now as I am getting mentions on twitter for spouting off on some Trump fan’s tweet. Namaste. Be the change Clark. Don’t reply.

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          Constructive nuanced dialogue across political divisions typical of Twitter.

The ability to achieve a modicum of mindfulness to actually listen to alternative interpretations of politics is paramount today. We must learn first how to listen without mentally grinding our axes. We must also learn how to speak with compassion, but man I’m not getting into that at this point.

I’m trying to set this up for the next edition sometime which will be about looking for merit in your detractors argument vs looking for holes to poke. We can’t move forward by dismissing the concerns of others- we have to bring them with us. So next time I’ll talk about how I’m trying to do just that. Perceived facts may as well be real when votes are. We have to understand the perception and enlighten it.