You know this person. You know this story…
Bad news comes on the TV, war, disease, famine…you’re standing next to someone, a friend, a colleague, a relative, they may be an educated professional, but they are far from being an expert on the subject being portrayed in the news, the news is probably thousands of miles away in a place your companion can barely find on a map…but that doesn’t stop them from having a strong opinion….
They comment on the news ever so confidently…
“It’s the _____ fault. Typical of him/her/them”
Fill in the blank with a religion, race, ethnicity, political party, President…you name it, it doesn’t matter…your companion has a magical gift of taking any complicated global problem that they likely know nothing about and quickly creating a simple explanation that usually involves blaming someone they don’t like. Ebola in West Africa? It’s Obama’s fault. Or the Africans’ fault (because Africa is just one big homogeneous country…). Or European imperialists’ fault. It is as if they are blessed with some type of divine power that lets them immediately assign blame for any problem in the world.
These special blaming-finding superpowers usually aren’t just limited to major newsworthy events, these special people can find someone else to blame for almost everything. Maybe they’re overweight…it’s evil corporations. Maybe they’re in debt and have a low-paying job…those liberal politicians and all those people on welfare caused this!!!
Have a problem? Yo, the blame-game guy, aka “the Dividers,” will solve it…just insert a religious, ethnic or political group that they are not associated with and Bam! Blame Assigned. World Divided. Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. Problem solved…..or not…
If you’re reading this blog, then you probably know that the Dividers cause more problems than they “solve.” They create blame and scapegoats, wasting oxygen, precious time and resources on their divisive theories…also often creating new problems in the mix.
There is another type of person in the world – a Maker.
Makers see a problem and want to fix it. They don’t waste time assigning blame. They roll-up their sleeves and get to work. They study a problem and look for root causes, understanding that it will likely be complex. Makers don’t care who you are, what your last name is or where you pray…they only care if you can get sh*t done.
I’ve worked in a lot of different countries, from Accra to Beijing and many in-between, and everywhere I’ve worked and lived, I’ve always noticed that the people I most enjoy working and socializing with have one thing in common: they are “Makers.” They are always trying to make something, build something, change something.
The best thing about Makers is how they define themselves. My dearest friends and colleagues around the world, the ones who I love working and socializing with, come from every race, religion, gender and social class…but they never let these traits define them. They are patriotic people. They love their countries and are proud of their heritages. They are often religious – Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindis, Buddhists. But these “definitions” are not their primary or only definition and, more importantly, they do not use these terms to define their world view. Instead, Makers usually see your religion or your nationality as an add-on, a detail that’s not important in this global world.
Here’s what’s important: Do you play politics and shift blame, or do you roll up-your-sleeves and say what you mean? Makers don’t make excuses. Makers don’t get caught up in minor issues – religion, culture-wars, politics and nationality games are distractions from creating something real.
I say “distractions,” but really they are worse. Dividers are the opposite of Makers. They don’t create anything but problems. They are often lost or insecure people and need an identity, so they latch on with great zeal to simple tribal identities that they are born with, e.g. their ethnicity, religion, race or literally their tribe. If the basics fail, Dividers then use 20th Century labels, like ideologies and political parties. 20th Century Dividers obsess over perceived “wars” between ideologies. These Dividers lack creativity and innovation. No matter the facts against them, they cling to an ideology like a drowning man to a piece of wood.
But Dividers are Every Where
Unfortunately the world is full of Dividers. They are everywhere, in every culture, in every country. They are on TV…a lot…24 hour news networks have become a 24 hour home Dividers. Politicians have always been Dividers. What better way to amass power than distract people from real, complex problems with blame-games?
Dividers can be incredibly dangerous…Rampant inflation in 1930’s Germany? It must be the Jews. Are you a disenfranchised Muslim youth in Europe? It’s the infidels keeping Muslim’s down…time to fight for ISIS.
But the less dangerous ones are also all around us, holding us back, preventing Makers from fixing problems and creating new problems in the process. Stagnant wages and rising cost of living in the US? Definitely the fault of all these immigrants. Your child has been diagnosed with Autism? Evil corporations and those money-making vaccines! Your political party lost the Presidency? Shut-down the government.
What Can Makers Do
If you’re a maker, resist by all means getting caught up in Divider game, whether it’s politics, religion or culture. As a Maker, you believe in science and data, not ideologies. Ideologies and political philosophies were invented by thinkers with anecdotal evidence before we were able to collect data and test hypothesis on grand scales. They are a hedgehog’s game.
To overcome the Dividers, we must first and foremost work together. Makers need to stick together.
Second, not all Dividers are lost souls. Some can be saved and there are ways of convincing them that they’re wrong…the hardened terrorist is a lost cause, but your average Divider can sometimes be saved. But the right tact needs to be used. Confronting Dividers head-on never works. As Mark Goulston writes in his great book, “Just Listen,” arguing with someone head-on only backs them into a corner and sparks their “lizard brain,” forcing them to cling to their argument no matter the evidence stacked against them. But there are some psychological tactics to getting Dividers to realize that they may be wrong. One proven method when challenging political ideologies is just asking “How?” – when pressed, most ideological zealots cannot explain why or how their beliefs “work.” If done right, this method can sometimes get people to change their mind or at least reduce their certainty and introduce some doubt.
Lastly, we need to fly the Maker flag. Dividers don’t know they are Dividers. They think they are rational human-beings. Sometimes they think they are Makers…like the trust fund kid who thinks he’s a “job-creator.” Or anti-GMO activists invoking angry mobs. Makers need to own the definition and not let the Dividers take it away.
This last point is one of the reasons I took a risk and spent the last year trying to help a failing Coexist charity restart their brand and launch Coexist Ventures. I am passionate about this work, because for years I worked as an entrepreneur in the Middle East. There, I worked with many different and exciting people from different backgrounds. Guys with beards. Women in full niqab (the face veil). It didn’t matter what you wore or how you prayed, what mattered was that we wanted to build something. To solve a problem To collaborate and create.
The 20th Century was for Dividers.
The 21st Century is for Makers.