I’m swamped with our new graduate programs right now, so here’s a repost from 7/20/09 that I hope you’ll enjoy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways in which we humans seem to gravitate towards “either/or” choices. Either we protect Northern Spotted Owls or people’s logging jobs. Either we invade Iraq or not. Either we pull the troops out or stay. There are more. Either we trust our minds or hearts. Either we are Christian or Muslim. Either we are Republican or Democrat.
Yes, there are people who want to protect owls and jobs, think beyond either/ors and work creatively to come up with the wisest choices in Iraq, trust both their minds and hearts, see the connections between all religions, and consider themselves Independents. But it seems to me such people are the minority.
Among activists, the either/ors are sometimes cast starkly: either someone (or some company or industry) is good or evil. The CEO of Altria (formerly Philip Morris), of Exxon-Mobil, of Monsanto –- they must be evil, while the CEO of Working Assets/CREDO must be good.
It’s just not this simple. But complexity is, well, complex. Commitment to seeing both-ands instead of either/ors demands more from us. It may at first even appear wishy-washy, as if you’ve lost your passion and your commitment if you don’t immediately “take sides.” It shouldn’t. Instead, a commitment to both-and is a commitment to problem-solving at the deepest level. A realization that people have the capacity for dangerous, unwise, unhealthy choices, as well as compassionate, kind, and brilliant choices means that we can try to influence the former, rather than call people names and divide the population into us and thems.
There will be many times when taking sides is exactly what you need to do, but let’s not let side-taking become a knee-jerk reaction to everything that is presented to us in either/or terms. You’ll find either/ors everywhere. Listen for them. And then see if you can determine a more nuanced both-and…and a solution that works for all.
Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm and Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach“
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Filed under: critical thinking, third side thinking | Tagged: both/and, critical thinking, either/or, MOGO choices, power of choice, problem solving, third side thinking, us and them | Comments Off