I am sad. Yes, I am. Seeing the disruption at all levels is sad for many people around the globe, particularly for those whose family or friends have been beaten up or have died. The more I witness what’s happening and observe how language alone can fuel extreme emotions, the more I believe that unless we understand how the brain works, we’ll never get rid of the biases we all have. It is not just about viewpoints, philosophies or personal interests.
The brain is a marvellous organ. It helps us decide, focus, behave, feel, prioritise and many other activities we do daily. However, the brain can also get sick or be ‘out of whack’. It can make us say stupid things, act delusional, create chaos and make decisions that affect millions of lives, depending on how much positional power one has. Much has been said in the past ten days and the past four months with the COVID situation. Much more is still left unsaid.
People will continue to fight with each other about differences in perspective based on their understanding of the issue unless we take a different approach. At the end of the day, what comes out of our mouths is merely the reflection of what we are thinking. Our thoughts are filtered by the many experiences and beliefs we accumulate in our life in combination with our genetics.
A good example of this is a recent clip of an African-American woman arguing with a white protester and stating she feels free even though she is black. “This is an issue of violence, not of race”, she cries.
How she feels and what she says is right, based on her unique life experience and how her brain sees the world.
The white woman hurries to defend her position of supporting the people who are protesting about the unjust death of George Floyd. This is also right, through her eyes and her brain.
If two people without any hidden agenda, fuelled by their emotions and biases, disagree in such an aggressive manner, what can we expect from those whose brains are overtaken by power, competitiveness, greed or narcissism?
The reality is no matter what the fight is about—race, salary, gender inequality, neighbourhoods, power imbalance, etc., we ALL have different perspectives on things. Our brains do.
Unless we start to understand this and challenge these biases which are continuously generated inside our brains (most likely as a protection mechanism), we will continue to see divisions of all kinds, lack of compassion, break-ups, civil unrest, wars, abuse of power, torture and victimisation.
Unless we educate our children so they can manage the only organ that gives us common sense and judgement no matter what profession we choose, we will continue to repeat the errors of the past.
That’s why, more than fifty years after Martin Luther King Jr, we continue to see the same patterns of behaviour happening over and over. We can do more with our brains than just repeating what happened in the past.
Those in positions of leadership who have the opportunity to do more and be better should educate themselves on the simple science of leadership. People who don’t have the possibility of being in a powerful political position, at least deserve leaders with better brains.
We are not makers of history. We are made by history.
Martin Luther King Jr.