A woman's house is raided by a squadron of uniformed police brandishing weapons. The woman, dressed still in her dressing gown, who organised peaceful protest is handcuffed and taken away under arrest. This is not Saudi Arabia or China, but Australia.
Police shoot dead an out-of-control 13 year old autistic child whose mother has rung police asking for assistance.
The top seed of a tennis tournament is thrown out because a ball he swipes to the backline accidentally hits a court official.These are some of the stories I've heard over the past few weeks in the media
A student is put on detention for saying the word "gimp" and describing its meaning when asked by another student-I witnessed this as a trainee teacher.
In the 'western' world today I notice an increasing intolerance of other points of view and mistakes; partnered with an increasing severity of response . I'm guessing this is to do with fear and our belief that we all need to do whats best for 'our country' and 'our planet'; and the anger when we go against this. I observe the maintenance of a punitive culture, which believes at its centre that punishment makes us, the victims, feel better, and will make changes in the perpetrator. There seems to be alot more at stake in making what is perceived to be 'right' choices and not making mistakes. This cause us to contract. I believe it's not healthy to live under such pressures.
I would like to say that we could develop a sense of compassion for our humanity and its frailty and incongruity and patchiness in behaviours we sometimes exhibit. From where does compassion and empathy arise? I would like to explore that in a essay in the future.What I do notice though, through my extensive reading and using myself as an experiment is what happens in its absence; that if you have had this done to you ie if you were colonised, abused, not held and rocked as a baby, or any trauma relating to your sense of security and trust in others you are likely to be the ones for maintaining systems and behaviours which are intolerant of difference and punitive in nature.
Quite a few years back, when I was a secondary school teacher I had a couple of students come to me and tell me, over the course of a couple of weeks, about a teacher who was ridiculing them in front of the class.In effect they had had jokes made about their friendship being a gay one. I knew the students well and felt they had confided in me something which was very painful to them. I listened without judgement. I asked them what would they like done about it . They didn't know but they wanted something to change. So in my professional capacity I took what they said and thought, the best thing I can do is to talk to the teacher, and get her perspective. So I rang her and this began a cascade of defense, denial, tears, statements that I was 'on their side'-this was all despite my best made plans to explain why I was ringing. It wasn't the conversation I'd hoped for.
For me if I have a problem, the best thing to do is to talk with the person directly. Its far to easy to take the route of talking behind their back, building resentment, spreading stories, or going straight to management, or as we see commonly at the moment, phoning the police. Now, I'm no feisty scrapper. I avoid confrontation. I'm scared of it. And I love peace and harmony. But I'm true to my values of fairness, openness, honesty and communication. This conflict of authenticity versus keeping the peace does leave me frequently in a bind! But in saying that, speaking up has brought me some amazing results and partly because of that I'm going to continue to respond that way. Sometimes it has brought me closer the the person i had a conflict with. In contrast, reaching for the sledge hammer has left me sometimes abandoning a relationship altogether, or alot of work to do to repair damage done by bringing in the heavies.
You know yourself that when the big boss or a cop visits you over something minor you feel shocked and disappointed that they (the other party) didn't approach you. You thought that it could have been easily resolved- usually you didn't even know there was an issue!
The point I'm getting to is that in my community and beyond, its becoming common to reach for the authorities and management before you've talked to the person you have a problem with. This reduces my ability to actually connect with that person in the future. Usually we want to connect and for something to change. We seem to have developed the point of view that talking something through as old fashioned, weak and ineffective.
Talking and listening are powerful. Beware of detractors from this truism! They are powerful when the artform (because it seems to fit the concept of an art; being something to practice and master and being in essence, beautiful) of communication is skillfully enacted. When we stop looking for winners and start to perceive the beauty in the other and their requirements for living a good life as the same as mine. We need good training. We can learn theses skills. I believe they are not innate or intrinsic. They were passed on just as mothering and fathering were once passed on.
My story ended up with the deputy principal reprimanding me for not having gone straight to the top. Although she was, on the surface, sympathetic, she asked me that, in the future would I come straight to senior management. I felt angry that I wasn't supported and I was unrepentant and told her that I would do the same thing again. Sadly, the story had an even worse outcome for the young men involved. I won't go into that, but suffice to say it led me to an even speedier exit from the state secondary school system.For the young men, it was a lesson in unfairness and the broken nature of our connections and trust. I remember saying this to them, and the feeling of sadness in the room at that time.