Over the last few weeks, many of us Internet people – progressives, left leaners – have been thinking deeply about how we’ve managed to screw the pooch in what is commonly being called The-Year-of-Suck-2016. We’ve been working so hard to create equity and move our world towards a better future, but we somehow managed to miss the mark. So Brexit is happening and there is an air of fundamentalism and intolerance and a bonafide, ego-maniacal, stupid face is about to be the President* of a superpower. There are a thousand thoughtful articles and posts going around discussing how we failed. We didn’t listen to people, we didn’t empathize, we generalized, etc, etc, etc.
And it’s true. Because we write for ourselves. We don’t use common language that “the masses” can understand. In fact, that we think of people as “the masses” at all is part of the problem. And we know we do, I’ve met us. But don’t worry, we don’t have to feel bad, we just need to work on our compassion a little bit.
Awareness is the first step. Once we’re aware of our idiosyncrasies, our social and cultural norms, we can begin to question ourselves. We can start to look at “the other side” as our families and neighbors. So how do we become aware? Well, at Greenpeace, for example, we’re studying and considering the various personas that interact with our work. We’re thinking about it through the perspective of renewable energy and separately through the Planet 4 project. We’re trying to look at our own metrics. Trying to understand why people like us support Greenpeace and how we get outside of our bubbles. I’ve said it a million times, we need to be intentional about diversity, and more and more evident is the fact that we need to be intentional about cognitive diversity as well.
It’s more valuable to have 3 people change their minds than to gather 10 people who already agree with us to raise their hands. —Joe White
The organization is working to become aware of its own bias and push forward as a courageous and daring organization that does what’s right for our planet. The Framework laid out a global 10 year strategy, and now a group of people is getting specific about what the actual programmatic goals the organization will strive towards in the next one to three years. In our recent Engagement Community Call, we discussed this work as well as the above.
The goals are supposed to help us experiment, to focus and to look for big impact. They are not check boxes of our issue list, but ways to create deeper change and help us create the type of mind shifts that need to happen if we’re going to keep the planets temp down.
But even within this current work, our community sees cognitive dissonance. We’re mostly middle class, we’re safe, and to stem climate change we need a consumption level that is much, much less. We need to face up to the fact that some of the stuff progressives more broadly ask people to do just isn’t feasible in the actual world. We have to do better at understanding cultural context before we say or write these sweeping proclamations to just “change the way you live”.
Everything we do needs to be based in truth, but how we communicate it needs to change. —Tsering Lama
We are inside an echo chamber, a filter bubble, a closed open network. I have a hard time breaking free too, but I’m working on it. I’m finding that talking to random people about the state of the world is a good way to build compassion. Go out today and talk to a stranger.
Come talk about these sorts of big ideas and what a group of us at Greenpeace is trying to do about it in our biweekly community calls.
* #Resist because, seriously, it’s not normal.