Transcending Left Versus Right: Possibility or Pipedream?

September 1, 2003

In this issue:

1. Newsbrief: New Speech Topics Being Offered
2. Readers Respond to Last Month’s Editorial
3. August Editorial: Transcending Left Versus Right: Possibility of Pipedream?
4. Newsbriefs: New Book by Former Medtronic CEO
John Talks to MBA Students
5. Next Month: Ending the Underground Conversations


New Speech Topics Being Offered

John’s new speaking topics have been announced and can be viewed at
Talks; nine different topics in four
domains – leadership, the future, organization cultures, and the human
spirit /self-actualization – are being offered now; anyone interested in
booking John for a keynote presentation should contact Stephanie Holmes.

Last month’s editorial generated considerable responses, mostly ego-boosting pats on the back (for which I am most grateful). A couple of readers pointed out additional dimensions to consider. “It is well-known among therapists of abusive families that this family system is commonly drawn to dogmatism of fundamentalist religion…the family’s distortion of rules and guides for living into inflexible, inhumane judgments,” said one. Another reader stated that she had been part of a study where they found that “a core ‘great divide’ between these groups was the degree to which they were or were not willing and able to embrace ambiguity.” I was also informed of a statement of Sigmund Freud’s, addressing fundamentalism in religion, that goes (paraphrased in part): “Religion is born from man’s need to make his helplessness more tolerable…” Thanks to everyone who sent along comments.


Are you sick and tired of all the blustery rhetoric and finger-pointing that goes on between conservatives and liberals day after day, week after week, that has degenerated into ideological warfare? Whether it is the host of a talk show shouting at one of his/her callers, the pontificating beltway pundits on Sunday morning, or the politician at a press conference, I have become really bored with the predictability, righteousness, widespread disrespect and fundamentalism (see last month’s editorial) that both sides
of this widening divide are demonstrating.

Many people tell me they feel the same way – weary of the constant bombardment that goes on between the two sides. This weariness of the noise, rudeness, disrespect and blame is similar to a malady soldiers contracted after enduring long exposures to
front line action in World War II, Korea and Vietnam – what was then called “battle fatigue.”

Call it social cynicism, mass resignation or collective Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, many Americans are suffering from a 21st Century strain of this malady and have dropped out of the participative process that is so essential to a vibrant democracy. One
bit of evidence for this is that fewer than 40% of our voters bothered to cast ballots in the November 2003 elections.

The insults and disrespect being shown by both sides is a form of violence which causes pain and suffering much like the wars that go on with missiles, bombs and bullets. I don’t see much difference in principle between the armed conflicts in the Middle East, Northern Ireland, and Southeast Asia and these wars of words we see in the media every day.

Some people listening to this verbal violence get so stirred up that they feel the need to do something extreme. So someone gets shot, or lynched, or firebombed, or assassinated or suicide-bombed or who knows what. And then we wonder why these so-called deranged persons take such violent action. “He seemed like a regular guy,” they say. “I never would have imagined he could do something like that,” say others.

Like terrorists, extremists are everywhere. They exist in the media, and the military and the electorate. Religious fundamentalists of all factions are the primary instigators – militarily, politically, and socially. While the conservative right in this country seems to be mostly fundamentalist Christian, the left appears to have a more secular fundamentalism – perhaps the Church of Green – which can also be quite extreme. Muslim fundamentalism thrives in other parts of the world. But whatever “religion” the fundamentalists believe in, they are the true believers who carry the fervor and conviction of their righteousness

Looking at the faces of many of the liberal activists shouting for their idea of justice and the religious fundamentalist pounding a desk about his point of view, I see expressions of anger and rage on both sides. Let’s look at a few similarities of the extremists on both sides:

  • * Both sides espouse superiority for their beliefs;
  • Both sides insist that they are right, as if Divinely pre-ordained;
  • Both sides are extremely proud of their positions – wallowing in their own self-importance;
  • Both sides insist they are acting consistent with the founding principles of this country and the other side are traitors;
  • Both sides can be extremely rude, especially to one another;
  • Both sides would rather engage in trading insults than in civil dialogue or genuine debate;
  • Both sides perpetuate the adversarial paradigm they both operate in;
  • Both sides refuse to be persuaded by any facts or evidence that they could be mistaken or misguided;
  • Both sides believe they are better than their adversaries – that they are better people;
  • Both sides would rather be right than have serenity and consensus; and
  • Both sides are absolutely convinced their beliefs are superior and are strictly adhering to them (see last month’s editorial on fundamentalism).

Things change big-time when we get so fed up with them that we insist on something entirely new. People have to get really sick and tired of the status quo, then sick and tired of being sick and tired. The fall of the Berlin Wall is one example of this. This is change through suffering – a major motivator for human beings.

You and me, individual citizens, can bring about the change we all want without continuing the battle. We can recover from the “battle fatigue” so many of us seem to be suffering and reinvigorate ourselves. We can insist on a new way for reconciling differences. We can withdraw the legitimacy we are giving to this violent, extremist and vengeful battle of ideals – either military warring like in the Middle East or warring of words like we hear each day on the television.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Harlan Cleveland writes in his most recent book – Nobody in Charge – that “Ideas that will eventually become the basis for some major innovation in federal policy are first put into circulation by individuals and small groups..It is more and more obvious: Those with visible responsibility for leadership are nearly always too visible to take the responsibility for change.”

Despite popular opinion, each of us has enormous power and influence because we are giving legitimacy to the status quo. Our silence condones it. We have control over whether we remain silent, start questioning, or become proactive in challenging the way things are or creating alternatives. We can remove that legitimacy we give to the way things are. It only takes a moment to do it.

Like the Berlin Wall that came down so seemingly suddenly when the masses refused to give it any more legitimacy, we can tear down the old system of disrespectful, vengeful, violent conflict and create a new system based on our interconnection as human beings, respect, human dignity and reconciliation.

When enough people insist on doing things differently – trying something new to reconcile differences and recognizing our need to live together – the legitimacy for continuing outmoded and ineffective ways will end. With the battle over, we can transcend this left versus right warring and begin a new era of conscious evolution.

Next Month’s Editorial: Bringing ‘Underground Conversations’ Out Into the Daylight


New Book by Former Medtronic CEO

Recently-retired Medtronic, Inc. CEO/Chairman Bill George has written a book
which has just been released – Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the
Secrets to Creating Lasting Value
– from Jossey-Bass.
in 1994, George wrote the foreword to a book John and Bill DeFoore compiled
entitled The New Bottom Line – a collection of essays debating the principle
of spirit in business.

John Talks to MBA Students

On the evening of August 12, John addressed an ethics class of MBA students
at the University of San Francisco; the invitation came from Professor Mike
Whitty, a visiting faculty member from the University of Detroit; of the 35
students in the class approximately one third were from countries to the
West of California, including China, Korea and Japan.


About John Renesch

Better Future NEWS is prepared monthly by John Renesch, a San Francisco writer, business futurist, and consultant/executive coach.

His latest book is Getting to the Better Future: A Matter of Conscious Choosing. For a list of all the SERVICES John offers, go to Services.

Join ASAW Today!

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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