The world is divided. Left v Right. Up v Down.
The good news is that all this can be resolved. All we have to do is convince the other people to think like we do.
And here in lies the problem. We see our differences as individual choices.
“Those people are racist/hippies/communists/(insert group you disagree with here)”
We blame individuals rather than society.
I’ve been very fascinated by the work of Gabor Maté for the last few years. Apart from winning the lottery on having one of the coolest names, he is a leading expert on addictions and childhood development and trauma. Gabor’s work specifically looks at the effect our childhoods and trauma has on our later development. His theory is that the trauma a person is exposed to as a child causes them to seek ways to process and deal with that in later life. In the bigger picture this manifests in the form of addictions and crime, but can also be much more subtle in the way we interact with others, our self esteem, and decisions we make in life. Having worked with at-risk youth for a number of years, who often had high levels of trauma, I have found his theories to be extremely accurate.
Looking at the world through Gabor’s eyes changed my interpretation of addicts and criminals dramatically. The general view in society is that these are bad people who make bad decisions. His approach allows us not to ask “what’s wrong with this person?” but instead ask “what happened to this person?”
It is an empathetic way of looking at the world that is wholly refreshing. I would encourage you to check out his website here, read any of his books or for a quick fix listen to this podcast with him and Russel Brand. I also plan to write more about Gabor at a later date.
I’ve been looking at his work recently through the permaculture and natural living lens. If our past can affect our likelihood to become a criminal, can it not also affect other aspects of our lives? Can it not in fact affect all aspects of our lives?
If we expand the Gabor theory, every aspect of our lives is arguably a direct correlation to that which has happened before. We are simply a product of our experiences and environment.
People who grow up surrounded by right wing views are much more likely to have right views.
People who grow up surrounded by left wing views are much more likely to have left views.
Instead of seeing people as different to us, instead we can look at what their environment has created.
Instead of asking “what’s wrong with this person?” we should be asking “what environment did this person grow up in?”
This can be quite a freeing way of looking at the world. It removes the feeling of anger towards people who hold opposing views and beliefs from ourselves.
The reason we are who we are is a culmination of all the experiences that predated this moment in time. The decisions we make today are somewhat inevitable. The words that I’m writing now are a direct correlation to all of the experiences that have happened prior to this moment in my life.
This doesn’t mean that we can’t do anything to change our path. It means we can observe and interact with our environment and understand why our views, values etc might be the way they are. This might allow us to understand other peoples view points and be open to hearing them and understanding why they think that way. It also means that once we understand what our environment was like, we can design ways to modify and change it.
In much the same way as Gabor Maté works with people to understand their addictions and change their behaviour, we can do the same.
If we want to make change we need to change the environment and the individual will follow.
If you have ever grown food you will understand the importance of creating the right environment for your seeds. Too much water and they may mould, too little and they dry out, not enough light and they grow too spindly.
But, if you create the right environment; healthy soil, enough light, shade and water, ideal temperatures, then those plants will thrive.
We are all seeds.