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Something we need to talk about.

This has caused much pain. It is super sensitive. And it is time.

Something we need to talk about.

There is something that we need to talk about…….

This has caused much pain.

It is super sensitive.

And it is time.

What happened to us all during COVID in relation to the vaccine?  How could it be that people with full tummies turned on each other so quickly?  How could we become so divided, so polarised, so quickly?

The polarization was heightened by social media feeding on what we already believed while ridiculing and dismissing those who disagreed with our viewpoint.  Politicians added further fuel to the fire with comments like that of the NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, who said that she would not socialise with anyone who was unvaxed. It reminds me of the schoolyard bully saying she was not going to play with anyone who had plaits, or who smelt. 

Eddie Jaku, Holocaust survivor and author of ‘The Happiest Man on Earth’, in one of his last public talks before his death said that he still, so many years later, could not understand how his neighbours and friends could turn on him and his family with such horrific consequences.

We also turned on each other during COVID.  Suddenly, we were not all in the same boat; there were those against and those for the vaccine.  We all have it in us.

Many have sought me out to discuss the challenges around the way COVID was handled and the vaccine roll out. The issues include loss of long-term friendships and even no longer seeing family members.

How did we get so lost so fast?  What role did you play in this?

Were you anxious and thought the vaccine was the right thing, asking no questions, believing surely the authorities knew what they doing?  Or did you see it as simple – there is a solution so just do it?

Were you feeling pressured or uncomfortable about having the vaccine?

Did you get vaccinated because otherwise you could not work but you resented it?

Were you concerned about the vitriol and loss of ability to have an explorative conversation?

Where are you sitting with it now?

What was your experience of this situation?  Has it left scars?

One experience shook me. I was out for dinner and a discussion arose about being vaccinated or not.  I mentioned that I was concerned because of Pfizer’s track record as the company that has received the highest fine ever in human history for unethical behaviour. I observed also that if I were a pharmaceutical company on the brink of making more money than most can imagine I would also be inclined to see my product with more favourable eyes and overlook the risks.  That is human nature.  This was met with statements about how I was obviously not very bright as I didn’t understand basic statistics and I surely must be a Trump supporter.

This is the first thing that happens when conflict escalates: we fuse another human with the problem.  As soon as we label another as stupid, anti whatever, or a sheep, we no longer see the other, and it is ok to say hurtful things.  The other has in effect become the problem, the enemy. This is poor and dysfunctional thinking.  It is undifferentiated thinking that occurs when we are in Threat mode where we no longer see nuances but just collapse all that is dangerous to one and the same threat. In Logic, this is called the ad hominem fallacy – attacking the person rather than their argument or ideas.

This is what happened in Nazi Germany.  The Jews were fused with all the problems in Germany, everything that was not good.  This scapegoating is what enabled the torture and killings.

This kind of thinking is also part of cancel culture.  A comment is made that is politically incorrect and a whole human, a whole life is cancelled.  A good example is JK Rowling.  She went from being extremely loved to being banished.  Agree or disagree is not the point.  The point is that we judge a life, a human, on one comment, on one area where we might disagree, and we fuse the person with the problem. In a society that purports to value diversity, we can be very intolerant of unorthodox views.

Once we have done that, not only can we justifiably abuse the person but we also see them through the lens of our label: he/she is an anti-vaxer, anti-trans, a racist, a bigot.  Our inner barrister is activated, seeking further proof for our theory about this person.  And from now on anything the person does is seen in the light of our judgment.  In the meantime, we are sitting in the glory of self-righteousness, having dealt with the enemy.  Much cruelty takes place in the name of dealing righteously with an ‘enemy’!

During COVID we saw the best in humans and we also saw an ugly side.  How do we learn from this?  How do we make amends?  How do we make sure this does not happen to us again? Can we accept that we can dislike, even hate an idea without hating the person who expresses it? Perhaps we could recall the quote that describes C18th Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire’s commitment to free speech: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

  • Someone once said that anything that is divisive is unhealthy, so watch it.  
  • I would also say that at any time we cannot be curious and ask questions, we should be watchful.  
  • Be aware that the mind functions in delusions.  ‘All descriptions of reality are only temporary hypotheses.’  All beliefs are to be held lightly. 
  • Anything extreme is a simplification. The Buddhism notion of ‘The Middle Way’ means understanding different viewpoints and not positioning ourselves in the extremes.
  • Finally, we can ask ourselves how we ideally would like to show up, versus getting caught in the moment.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Love Charlotte

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