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This post is dedicated to Matthew M. Martinez, and Rayne Jane Winter-Day, two young adults who are seeking to understand some of the issues surrounding #Ferguson, and the broader implications for our society. Whether you believe in the cause, believe in the protests, believe in the mass media reports, believe in the injustice, or believe justice has been served, I hope to get you to question your understanding of some of your current believes about our “Shared World,” and to realize that you have a part in building shared sustainable solutions. Do I have all of the answers? Absolutely not, yet I hope to bring to you some more questions that hopefully will allow you to consider various perspectives, which I always believe will lead to personal and compelling growth. It is all about each one of us, our effect on each other, and it is always personal!
We All Share this World: So Why Not Have Shared Ideas, Shared Responsibility, Shared Understanding, Shared Sustainable Solutions to Salvage our Humanity?
We all understand that we have but one world we live in, and yet, in each of our arenas, we often believe that we live in the one “right” world. We also often apply our perspectives to not only our one “right” world, but to the multituude of worlds that actually exist. Thus, it is often extremely difficult to fully understand the complexities of events that are occuring outside of our world as we tend to apply our perspectives, our ideas, our understandings, and our thoughtful solutions onto that world with hopes that we can fix every situation. I offer this piece with the hope to expand perspective, ideas, responsibility, understanding, and sustainable solutions that can be shared my humans of multiple perspectives across multiple communities. I believe that as individuals, as collaborators, as builders of communities we can act as individuals and as groups of people to improve our collective and shared worlds.
In our recent shared culture many individuals have taken the dangerous step of generalizing the behavior of some onto the masses of a group due to a presumed shared characteristic. This process becomes presumed sterotyping. For example, individuals who more often than not good people, with good intentions, who, with good training and professional development, with skill enhancement, and specific education may become attached to a profession that has become discredited, and or disparaged by our society and broad scope media. Consider theses professions: police officers, teachers, lawyers, politicians, the list could go on and on. For the multitude of individuals who might have made decisions at an early age to become a member of each of these professions, do you really believe for a moment that all of their individual decisions were made with ill-intent? Do you really believe that someone truly set out upon a specific course to become the worst their is in their profession, or on the other hand did they make a conscious choice to serve, serve the public, serve people, serve their communities, serve with positive intent with the hopes of making a difference?
In each of these professions, and in others far too many to list here, what our shared reality should tell us is that the vast majority of these professionals strive to do their jobs appropriately, to work for the betterment of our shared society, to keep their behaviors within the parameters of legality, hold onto their integrity, and actually believe that their impact on society is a worthwhile endeavor. Unfortunatley, due to some of the negative or inappropriate actions from some within each of these small minority of wrongdoers within each of these professions, coupled with a lack of informed, forward-thinking, progressive leadership at the helm of some of these groups that they belong, the entire collective of a profession can and does easily becomes a target for the masses especially at the hands of the mass media.
Consider that number of media stories that are provided time on the major news channels. Many, if not all, are filled with negativity, are focused on wrongdoers who may have absolutely done inappropriate things, and that are played over and over ad-nauseum with added conjecture, embellished truths, and half-truths. This type of media coverage, when left unquestioned, could lead us to believe that the only things occurring in our world are these negative events, over and over, and over again. What we don’t see are 95% of real life activities that the majority of public servants are engaged in on a daily basis, or for that matter general people. What we don’t see are the heros that are taking care of children, the aged, the weak, the poor, and working to protect all people of a community, all people at the mall, all people at the park. What we don’t see displayed are the acts of human kindness, thoughtfulness, positively purposeful acts that the vast majority of public servants provide to our collective communities at any given time. What we forget is that just because we didn’t see it on CNN or FOX, or whatever, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. What we forget is that most of these heroes go through their days, time after time, with limited acknolwedgement, little fanfair, little more than the meager pay that is provided to them for their service doing what is right!
Could it be that we have allowed the media to take advantage of our ability as humans to be manipulated? It is so easy for our minds to accept the presented stories that convey negativity that most of our public servants are engaged in inappropriate activity, rather than to understand that most are well-intentioned, positive, caring individuals, who with the training they have received are attempting to do a really good job? Could it be that each of us shares a part of the responsibility of recognizing that this could be the truth, and that we actually should become the tellers of the positive story? Shouldn’t we seek to share the positivity of our public servants and provide positive feedback for those that are doing it right? Could it be that by sharing stories of actual positive events, and positive works by progressive organizations, we could actually empower much needed change in the leadership of some of our worst wrongdoers, and build support for those organizations and individuals who are doing it right?
Please don’t get me wrong. Where there is malfeasance, where there is inappropriate behavior, where there is wrong-doing, it must be recognized and corrected. Where there is prejudice, discrimination, degredation, and dishonesty, it must be ferreted out, and fixed, and for those individuals and for the organizations that have fostered these types of innapropriate behaviors to occur, there must be change, significant restorative practices to fix what is wrong, and a true commitment to improve what is wrong, and real efforts to make things better.
Quite frankly, there must be intentional, purposeful, thoughtful, supported, actionable, planned change that has been provided resources applied to that change! Does this change start at the top? Should it be embedded in the collective leadership? Should it be fostored throughout the organization? Should there be a way to measure and monitor this much needed change? The answers are of couse, yes! Should the change needed be discussed openly, discussed across the stakeholders of the community, and then embedded throughout a continuum of change that will be clearly recognized as the resulting change? Yes, of course! Can each of us begin to understand the importance of seeking to declare the need for such change in our lives, our communities, our organizations, and do so by appropriate measures without infringing on others rights that we are actually seeking to protect? Yes, I hope so!
I understand that for many in our society, there is mis-trust. Mis-trust of public servants, mis-trust of the organizations in which they work, mis-trust of the leaders behind these organizations, and mis-trust of any form of government. Some of this mis-trust is well earned, and some maybe not. On the other hand, there is some growing mis-trust that is now felt on the part of the very public servants that are committed to supporting our society. Our public servants have mis-trust of the media, who tend to report on the negativity as discussed above, mis-trust of the leadership that guides their organization sometimes with hidden agendas, and dare I say, some mis-trust from those they serve, who will often mis-judge their intent, and tend to believe the negativity without seeing the reality of their positive efforts.
I suggest that there must be new perspective building, new avenues of trust that need to be developed, and a questioning of current perspectives and motivations by all to allow for growth, shared collaborative perspective, and a renewed spirit of collaboration that seeks to build communities, not tear them down. If we consider the true need for public servants most would agree that as a society, when things are working well, there is an absolute need for well-trained, considerate, effective public servants. Thus, when our behaviors are incongruent with this thinking, and we begin to discredit the collective professions due to the acts of a few, we have given away our personal responsibility to provide credit where credit is due, respect where respect is due, and thanks when thanks are due! We must be aware that each of us holds a responsibility to be part of our communities, and to strive to make better any events that that cause us grief.
Do we desire improvement, or do we expect others to improve themselves to make our lives better? Do we consider our personal challenge to be intentional in our idea building, purposeful in our actions, thoughtful in our approach, create support for the change we want, and work to empower our community leaders, and to offer those currently in charge with the information that they need to recognize that we expect change without shutting their ears to our real messages? Do we act in a manner that pays homage to those that have come before us, or do we discredit their stories with socially inappropriate behavior that clouds our message? Are our efforts built on positivity or negativity which results in repulsion by those we are trying to change?
Do we initiate, support and employ workable sustainable solutions that don’t simply result in a power shift, but result in a synergy of power to create a new way of thinking, interacting, and growing the communities we actually want? I suggest that it is a better use of our energies to work smarter and with more resolve to build the types of communities we want rather than to use a considerable amount of energy to simply protest what it is that we don’t want to continue! To create a new society, one must be willing to actually be part of that society in ways that might be different, and even uncomfortable. To build new societies we must be ready to understand that our way of thinking just might not be the only way or the right way of thinking. To build new societies we must be ready to accept our personal responsibility within that society, and find ways for those enfranchised in the current society to realize that they too would benefit from the new ways of doing business. To build new societies we must finds ways to be inclusive of those that have failed to previously participate, and build capacity for each person to add their view and perspective to the whole.
Some might argue that the only way to change a set of circumstances that currently exist is through power plays, hostility, disrupting the status quo, or damaging things that are representative of the way things are, however, given the power of communiction, words and actions, righteousness, and a true belief that things can be better, individuals, and groups of individuals do have an enormous level of power to change the world. Oftentimes however, their energies are misplaced, and don’t lead to actual, sustainable change. One of these first steps that is needed is difficult, as it requires that each person who actually wants to see a better world seeks to understand that the current world is neither good or bad, but is result of our collective history, thoughts and actions. I mean that we must first realize that our impact on the world is significant, our ability to share the world as we see it and as we would like it to be, is meaningful, and that we have a responsibility to see, create and acknowledge the positive world that might be right before out eyes. Would we really want to toss it all away? Or, would we seek to evolve the world with natural progression to ensure that the change we actually want is fully embedded into our new world.
Do we currently see the positivity in our world? Do we feel the power in people? Do we recognize the efforts of those in our community, the public servants that are really trying to do a good job? Do we promote the ideas of positive change when we find them, and share these perspectives with others? Do we participate as a positive stakeholder in our local environments? Do we vote? Do we attend local meetings? Do we enlist the clergy of all denominations who are also hopefully trying to create positive environments? Do we thank our public servants, privately or publicly?
When I hear some talk about protest as being the only way to mak a point, I am saddend at the lost opportunities for proactivity that these people leave at home! Be proactive! Be positive! Be part of your community! Be part of the solution! Be connected to your public servants! Be part of the conversation! Be wary of the mass media’s presentation of the facts! Be engaging and interactive with your local authorities! Be a protagonist for righteousness, for truth, for respect, for integrity, for change in a positive manner! It is too easy for people to believe they don’t matter, and to hid in the anonymity of a crowd, a protest, a movement, rather than to stand as an individual for what you want to create, and to include others in your ideas to build a new society.
Take the challenge! Be a part of the solution! Build your personal perspective, and work to allow others to see how you view the world!
Robert A. Martinez, Ed.D. is a trained school psychologist, a life-long educator, and a sincere believer in the power of people, their resiliency, and the need for individual’s to step-up and act in positve ways to assist others.
Folow Dr. Rob on twitter @ResiliencyGuy and @DrRobM_FSUSD