In awe of the growing distance between political parties, belief systems, and ways of viewing the world, we face the daunting task of naming Good and Evil. How does one judge without losing our compassion? We re-examine our default positions on "good" and "evil", and how those judgements interact with our advocacy, own belief systems. To fight evil, we must 1) know intimately it's nature, and 2) not use the same "evil" tools to counter. But how? Join us as we figure it out.
February 2, 2021 Reflections on Learning (by Julia)
Good vs. Evil...where to begin but the beginning. These characters, Good and Evil, are not only woven into humanity, but we embody the battle: we hold the ebb and flow in our veins. The eternal question that motivates philosophers, politicians, religion: what is good and what is evil? While not all cultures and belief systems are unanimous even in how to ask this question (isn’t it all ego/opinion anyways?), the presence of creation and destruction persist.
We focus on the moment we decide: is this good or evil? We use words like “conscience”, “right/wrong”, “intuition”, “gut feeling”. The concept of cognitive dissonance seems apparent in the course of anyone’s equity experience: The struggle to convince that harm even exists, the tendency to debate even in the presence of mounting evidence is too common. “They” deny harmful and traumatic truths. But why? How could humans be so blind to what is evil? As an example: Violence against children is pure evil. Yet populations default to truth, to believe that politicians and law enforcement(?) have our best interests in mind. People lie to themselves; and children cry themselves to sleep alone, in cages as a result. Yet, we default to truth even in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary: cognitive dissonance.
But who's confused? What mounting evidence have I been presented and yet I persist? After decades of diversity workshops, equity seminars and conferences, very little has changed for the marginalized person. Yes, we have institutions now who state a commitment to equitable change, but we continue to experience harm and with impunity. The approach of changing hearts and minds, of persuading those who cause harm to voluntarily stop has not worked: cognitive dissonance.
Understanding that I too am experiencing a form of cognitive dissonance in the face of mounting evidence, it is time to change my mind and adjust my strategy when it comes to equity work. It’s time to value our intuition, our conscience, as equal to our rationality: I need to trust my gut. To understand this new directive, we asked:
“In the presence of mounting evidence, what do we need to trust our intuition?”
In response, we found common ground:
Safety: A kind (good) person doesn’t want to cause trouble, or hurt others’ feelings. And, the rational expectation of push-back is fact. Combined, we forego justice for the comfort of others. We “don’t...” when harm is present even when our gut is telling us, screaming at us, to act. We also fear humiliation as weaponized accountability for making a wrong move, a too common retribution from those we should consider allies.
Community/Kinship: For us to feel more safe exploring the cause of discomfort, we need trusted people to confirm or deny our gut feeling. “Hey, I got this feeling, I’ve got this need, is it true? Is it a worthy need?” One gut is a lot, but it’s not enough. We need to say it together for it to become true. Feeding the gut feeling. Feeding the stomach we believe money thrives in communities where trust exists. And, without it, money becomes, in one too many ways, the root of all evil.
Flexibility: A lack of safety in expressing a gut feeling is attributed to inflexibility: if we say something contrary or act according to our gut, the environment is unwelcoming to change. We need to slow down, or even stop “moving forward”. And, we call a state of emergency. To say, "Enough!" Accountability is the sibling of flexibility: to acknowledge must now mean a commitment to action.
Presumption of innocence: The burden of proof is squarely placed on the person harmed: Harassers are presumed innocent. To trust our intuition in this environment also means to document, document, document. We widen our “default” to include guilt, without losing our humanity: If our intuition says, “Don’t trust”, we must respect that voice and of those we trust with this hard truth.
In closing and going last to answer this question of what is needed to trust our gut, The Equity Consortium introduced the genesis of a new service: The Equity Investigator (f.k.a. Adjudicator). The Investigator, invited not by organization but by person, is tasked with simply determining either the presence or absence of unresolved harm based on discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation. The Investigator conducts a brief investigation including interviews and conducting an anonymized Peer Review Case Study. After hearing this, the closing round expressed relief, an ability to sleep better knowing there shall be someone to call for help, after generations. Sleep. Better. We grow confident as we face forward into the unknown. We may be scared of the power of listening to our gut, but we persist and in tandem. For more info, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or stay tuned!
To the participants, we extend our gratitude in participating in the creation of The Equity Consortium. We institutionalize equity, and our services grow where your light shines. Next month Listening Circle: Truth and Grace.
Julia Ismael hosts monthly Listening Circles for the masses as a way to stay informed and to find new and meaningful ways to create connection. Julia is the founder and Head Architect of Aspirations of The Equity Consortium. Monthly Listening Circles are held on the 4th Tuesday of the month, and what is learned from these circles is shared here. Please enjoy our stories.