Standing on common ground

/ 30 April 2017

I’m fascinated by two recent television commercials. One is for the Danish tv channel 2, and one is for Heineken beer. Both of them are pointing to what I believe is a central assertion of my faith — that we are all connected, that we share more than we realize. I believe — so this is the faith statement part of this — that God created all of us, gifting each of us uniquely, and with love we can encounter each other, honor each other, see the sacred in each other.

But today I was also alerted to the pushback against this understanding. Here’s one sharp example of that, a net essay by DiDi Delgado.

Delgado’s piece — in my mind — replicates precisely what the television commercials are seeking to draw us beyond. Her tone (“you’re just too stupid to know it”), signals an unwillingness to be compassionate.

I believe we have to find ways to move beyond the kind of polarization which takes an idea, a stance on a policy issue for instance, and attaches it to an identity. Because when we do so, we come to see each other only as compilations of such stances, and in rejecting the stance we reject the person.

This is the worst stereotype of what some people call “identity politics.” That is, creating political constituencies by taking an idea and making it the whole of how you see another person. Doing so risks turning someone with an understanding, a worldview, even just an idea, different from yours into an “other.”

Instead, I believe we need to come to a stance, a way of being in the world, which on a very deep level — some call this a form of nondual knowing — we live into our interconnectedness. That kind of knowing forms a basis upon which all else is relativized.

Remembering, for instance, that there are multiple ways in which we can connect, in which we can acknowledge that we have experienced similar emotions, is very challenging to a status quo that wants us to remain apart, in our highly segmented and targeted market spaces. Political coalitions that are capable of deep change always involve people with vastly differing ideas, vastly differing commitments, who nevertheless come together around a specific goal.

I think it’s possible that DiDi Delgado and I may actually agree on a lot of things. On how rarely cis white women, for instance, throw ourselves fully into activism on behalf of people who are oppressed through racialization, or who are transgender. Or how highly problematic it is that in our current neoliberal, capitalist nation-states it takes a commercial entity seeking to sell something to us (tv, or beer, for instance) to create a compelling short story that reminds us of our shared humanity.

But her essay makes me wonder if she would ever be willing to be in a conversation with me, simply because I found these commercials not only powerful but worthy of sustained engagement…