Tuesday, October 2, 2012

When it’s My Way or the Highway

Whether it’s corporate business, election politics or even life on city streets, a distinct lack of compromise exists among people. Why this is, I am uncertain. Perhaps it’s the economy. Or maybe the TV shows and movies which graphically demonstrate that lack of cooperation. Whatever its origin, it’s a sure bet that if this apparent disdain for working together doesn't change, neither will the eroding values and conditions of our society.
It’s a fact that cruel and surly people have always been present in our communities. What’s alarming is the rising number of nonproductive encounters. Speaking figuratively and in some cases literally, we’ve become a culture of shoot first and ask questions later. Trigger-happy groups readily advocate ‘the nuclear option’ to address difficult relationships rather than seeking solutions both sides can live with. A lot of this thinking no doubt trickles down from the international front, where common rhetoric includes (and in a growing number of cases lead with) the threat to launch a first strike. That type of posture used to remain in a country’s back pocket. Today it feels more like a go-to strategy.
In politics, negative attack ads rule; candidates say and do whatever to defeat their opponent. Once upon a time, give-and-take was the phrase of the day. No more. Today’s competitive business environment seems to encourage a take no prisoners mentality. Workplace backstabbing, false advertising, bait and switch – it all serves the pursuit of increased quarterly profits for impatient stockholders.
And don’t even think of doing the right thing on the job by blowing the whistle on wrongdoing. That kind of move puts a person on the breadline faster than socking the boss. There’s a similar code of silence on the streets. People prefer taking the law into their own hands. Apparently there’s an unspoken code against snitching and besides, they say, the judicial system only works for those who have money.
But violence begets violence. Tit begets tat. Wrong begets more wrong. And so it goes.
All this doom and gloom is not to say we’ve always been this way; there are scores of occasions when we’ve collaborated to improve society. There also are instances when the mean streets have come together. In many places, gangbangers have put aside their petty animosities and chosen not to fight.
When communities decide it’s in our best interest, we have proven we can readily put aside issues to cooperate. So the question becomes, what will it take for us to come together now during this period of uncertain economic, social and political change? How extreme must the crisis be? Who must be affected and how badly before people decide enough is enough? When will we realize it's time to work together rather than separately?
Somewhere, someone said, “Compromise is the language of the devil.” In some ways that might just be true. In others, compromise might just be our last best hope. Only one piece of bread at the table and two people are hungry? It hardly seems wrong to compromise and share.

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