Enemy: it is the ascending relationship of our time. Terrorism, a Presidential election, and racial strife are but some of the forces that propel "enemy" as today's hot stock in a turbulent relationship marketplace. The list of enemies seems to grow endlessly...Increasingly we are defined by the enemies we hate. We express love by how much we hate our common enemy.
We risk becoming an enemy-mongering culture as our ability to wound overwhelms our ability to heal. When our political engagement is primarily animated by our disdain for enemies, civil communities transform into angry tribes driven by endless conflict...
In fact, research shows that those most educated and informed are the ones most staunchly divided and least susceptible to influence. It seems enlightenment has been hijacked for the cause of division.
Hate always carries this risk: that we become what we disdain in others. A person recently posting on Facebook asked everyone who supported Donald Trump to de-friend her adding "we have nothing to talk about." In the name of wanting more love and inclusion of other religions such as Islam, this post expressed contempt and exclusion of supporters of Trump. Hating haters is still hate.
There are three keys to reversing this course.
We need language that outs those who mass-produce hate and enemies. Let's invent a word that captures what is going on. 'Enemiation' (enemy+ation): the process of transforming differences into hate, objects of our differences into enemies, and the wounded into victims by blaming those enemies for all that is wrong.
'Enemiating' leaders probe wounds and seize power by trading on victimization. History provides many examples: Hitler blamed Jews and Russians as the source of Germany's ills. 'Enemiating' leaders are dependent upon wounded followers as emotional fuel for their own empowerment. Time to call them out.
The decision to disagree is a completely different decision than to hate. To reverse our state of hate requires a new intention regarding our differences. It is simple: we don't condemn the color red because it is not blue. We don't hate one of our children because he is different from his sister. We don't criticize our hand because it is not like our foot. Differences have the potential for great synergy - hybrid mostly outperforms in-bred. A culture that espouses love of racial and ethnic diversity must apply it also to political and religious thought. If boxers, football players, and basketball players can physically battle for a couple of hours and then hug afterward, surely we can embrace our differences without making bitter enemies.
New Leadership Model
A new direction will require new leadership. We must upgrade our broken 'enemiation' leadership model to Relational Leadership - intent on engaging diverse groups/stakeholders to build productive relationships and outcomes. Relational Leaders prioritize bringing people together versus being wedge-merchants promoting issues designed to produce division, victimhood and dubious outcomes. Oracle's Meg Bear calls empathy - standing in another's shoes, acknowledging their perspective even if you disagree - the critical skill of the 21st century. Unfortunately empathy scores among college kids has declined 10 percent since 1979. As voters we can start by electing a President with Relational Leadership skills including empathy and rejecting 'enemiating' leaders who use leadership as a weapon to grow hate.
We must lose our love for hate and find our love for productive relationships and leaders who help produce them.
Based on an article in the Huffington Post by Robert Hall, an author and consultant and recent speaker at the Relational Thinking International Conference.
Photo: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (By Gage Skidmore from Flickr)