One of the more frustrating things about being a community activist is the number of people that tell you and others what can’t be done or why X is not possible or won’t work. I’m all for a “reality check” and no question I am a bit too optimistic about things sometimes. However, the core of my frustration stems not from people who have taken new ideas seriously but those that either flippantly reject them out of hand or offer none of their own.
From my vantage point, humanity is in a very precarious position. A good number of people in my community don’t disagree with this sentiment. However, where we tend to disagree is how we should go about doing something in response to it. I tend to want to act more than think deeply and others prefer thinking deeply first. I am comfortable with this continuum and actually think diversity of thought is something we should value rather than extinguish. However, diversity of thought doesn’t mean that negativity (or, worse, fatalism) should trump positivity, optimism, or “out of the box” thinking, most of the time.
Einstein is famous for saying many things, but perhaps the most relevant to this conversation are his definition for “insanity”: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” and his related insight, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” We have created lots of problems in the last two centuries and many ecological systems are at their “boiling” point. We have to begin thinking differently and doing things differently.
Spend some time watching how people interact with each other and how often people will “shoot down” someone’s new idea. This mentality is so pervasive we often do it to ourselves as a reflex action. Self-censorship is off the charts. I hear it from my colleagues and friends, who say things like, “it is too risky to say X or Y,” “it might identify me as M or N,” “I might be wrong.” In this cultural environment, isn’t it time to say what we think and feel and be open to honest responses? And, isn’t also time to listen to others more fully, especially those that are trying desperately to make things better before criticizing them or their ideas. Perhaps, a simple, “maybe, that seems plausible” or “perhaps that can work” will be that contribution that keeps us moving where we haven’t been.