Why Do We Sabotage Unity?

Unity is an interesting meme.

It’s something we all claim to want.
We all want our teams, companies, towns, cities, states – the entire world – to be in firm solidarity.

Double-exposure: Union Jack and some street in London. Shot on Fuji Provia 100; cross-processed.
Double-exposure: Union Jack and some street in London. Shot on Fuji Provia 100; cross-processed.

This idea has been on my mind since… forever, basically. I touched on it here in terms of the American Dream and how it’s no longer working as a unifying myth. I sort of got into it in my last full post, with regards to identity being an illusion, and it has been egged-on by various media I’ve encountered recently.

I re-watched The Matrix series. I listened to Tribe, by Sebastian Junger, on audiobook. I watched some videos on Centering Prayer, did some guided meditations, and did some very light research on non-duality.

It’s absolutely fascinating how much is out there on the idea of unity.

How many times have we heard it mentioned within the storm of words surrounding the current presidential election? And yet, how many times has the flag-bearer of unity gone on to blame some generic group of people (liberals, conservatives, Muslims, businesspeople, immigrants, etc.) for the disintegration of American solidarity?
Doesn’t seem like a great strategy.

Maybe we aren’t as interested in unity as we think we are?
I don’t think this is true, but I do think our appeals for unity are repeatedly hampered by our royally McFucked-up allegiances and insecurities.

The stereotypical Donald Trump supporters want unity for everyone except liberals, politicians, LGBTQ people, Muslims, and Mexicans. Almost there.

Stereotypical liberals want unity for everyone except for Donald Trump supporters, anyone with more than a million dollars, and anyone who strictly adheres to religious doctrine (though it is, of course, their right to practice any religion they please).

Many of us want unity for everyone except for criminals, people with mental disorders, fat people, dumb people, meat-eaters, hippies, homeless people, non-Americans…
The list goes on.

We all have some classification of people in our minds that we deem unworthy of inclusion. And yet we still proclaim that unity is the answer to most of humanity’s ongoing issues.

I agree.
It certainly seems like a valuable investment if we support the idea that life is about more than “me” or “you” or “them” as individuals.

I think if we could stop being such extreme douchebags to each other, the path to greater changes would be cleared. It’s not a magic bullet, but it’s a start. Walk before you run and whatnot.

How to Not Be a Douche

I’m pretty prone to judgement myself. Who doesn’t like to assume they’re smarter and better than everyone else? Actual smart people, of course. But that can be hard to recognize through the fog of self-aggrandizement.

Here are some tricks I’ve found to cut through my own shit and be a little less douchey towards other people.

1. Chill the fuck out.

Ask yourself, “Does assuming superiority over a large group of people actually make me feel better? Or does it simply make me more prone to anger, impatience, and haughtiness when I encounter individuals from this group?”

Since the answer is always the latter, chill the fuck out.

You’re making yourself angry while short-changing a lot of people. Being a smart person, you know this is a shitty strategy. Just stop.

To those of you who might be thinking, “Well what does that mean to ‘chill the fuck out?'”:
I think it’s related to the common advice to be more childlike.

Kids, while they can definitely be dicks, are more prone to laughing at dumb jokes, talking to anyone who will listen, and being impressed by stories they’ve heard 17,000 times. They’re good company. You might even endure changing inverted parachutes of shit hanging off their asses because they’re such good company.

2. When encountered with a contrary opinion, try to find common ground.

You don’t have to end up agreeing completely. That’s not what I’m suggesting. The intended result of this exercise is very simple – to recognize that your adversary is a human.

This is especially important in electronic communication, where you don’t see a person right in front of you.

Rather than trying to “win” an argument, I’ve found it much more satisfying, and less exhausting, to aim to agree on one thing.

This does two things:
1. Helps with chilling the fuck out.
If you aren’t bent on winning some random ideological argument, you are allowing yourself way more chill from the get-go.

2. Gives you hope for humanity.
If you can engage in civil debate with a Trump supporter or a socialist or an atheist and walk away agreeing on some basic fact of life, you won’t feel as defeated about the state of humanity in the 21st century.

If you can’t agree on one thing, why waste your time with the argument/debate at all? Go look at funny pictures and remember it’s not all bad.

3. Talk to someone to whom you usually would not.

This is kind of like the last one, but not.

The point here is to give yourself that feeling of hope for humanity without the argument, to proactively challenge your biases in non-ego-threatening situations. If you engage someone in regular conversation, you don’t need to worry about defending your point of view – you can just talk like humans.

Just think about a group of people to whom you don’t give a fair margin for error – people you are quick to label as dumb, lazy, hateful, violent, bad drivers, etc. Engage someone from that group in a friendly, low-stakes exchange. Even if it’s something egregiously dumb,  like, “I guess that’s why they call it Sin City!”

If you’re not ready for full-fledged civility, try some nonverbal good deeds – hold a door, pick up a dropped coin, give a dollar to a homeless person you’re sure is a crack-smoking swindler despite knowing literally nothing about them. You can do it.

4. Catch yourself being a douche.

If you don’t know you’re being a douche, you’ll keep doing it. So this really precedes the last step, because until you realize you have a prejudice against a group of people, you can’t address it.

When you get cut off on the highway and then speed up to confirm it was a woman driving, teach yourself to raise the alarm. You want to develop a kind of automated error message: “Error: logic module disabled. Actively trying to confirm biases, like a douchebag. ”

Check this video. The music makes it feel cheesy, but there are some great analogies, and thus some great mental tricks for unburdening yourself of prejudice.

Another way of approaching this is to think about your pet peeves and then catch yourself doing them. So it doesn’t necessarily have to involve sweeping prejudices, but any sort of bullshit hypocrisy. Like when you refuse to make coffee at the office because no one else does it…

It’s an easy way to increase your self-worth because you’re actually trying to be less of a dick, and it also makes people enjoy being around you.

If everyone does it, we got ourselves some unity brewin’.

5. Don’t write a blog post telling people how to live.

Makes you look like a douche.


What are your thoughts?