Deb Reich
It's not the people... it's the paradigm.

Partnership (not Zion) is the Promised Land

Come to your senses
'Come to your senses' --The late Abdalla Abukatish at the sea in Jaffa. Photo courtesy of the author.

Well, the spring holidays have arrived, marinated in civil chaos! What a travesty!

Mahatma Gandhi is supposed to have said, “Our only true enemies are in our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought.” (At least, Ben Kingsley said it in Richard Attenborough’s majestic 1982 biopic. If you can find that quote anywhere in the written record from, or about, Gandhi – something I’ve been unable to do – please send me a note with the source.)

So, for the last four decades that statement has stayed with me. It seems profound. But what is it really saying?

As the years go by, the more I learn about human neurobiology, in articles in mainstream publications written for the ordinary reader, the more it seems to me that the one thing all humans on this Earth unequivocally have in common is the flawed blueprint shared by the entire species. Our basic homo sapiens equipment and programming. Whatever you want to call it. All differences between us shrink to insignificance in light of that fundamental commonality.

Science has suggested that a long evolutionary process has molded us in certain ways because those directions helped us survive as a species. But a clear-eyed look around should be sufficient to demonstrate that some of those once-useful tweaks are now obstacles to our further evolution… beyond the zero-sum adversarial behavior that’s gotten us this far but arguably isn’t working any more. To save ourselves while being sufficiently compassionate to the planet and all its other creatures, because we’re all in the same boat, we urgently need to learn this one, crucial thing: how to function, when it counts, if not all of the time, in a win-win partnership mode that transcends our many differences and puts us all on the same problem-solving, solutions-crafting team.

How might we get everyone on the same team?

I think there are two hacks that could help us.

One would be to somehow create a meta-faith for everyone to share, regardless of their current belief system: something beyond what we think of as religion, politics, language, or culture – so that it that could unite us all. My sense of it is that this new shared meta-faith must elevate partnership to the most supreme position on the scale of human values. If this were to have a slogan, the slogan would be something like: Embrace your adversary; partner with them now, and reconcile later. Forgive each other later; for now, just work together. I am optimistic that today’s young people, if they make up their minds to do it, can find a way to walk that path; their impressive cyber literacy has allowed them to understand that time is not linear and that the future is now. Indeed, it is now or never.

The second hack is also about time and the future, and it is this: We need to think bigger and much farther ahead. I wrote about this in my 2011 book No More Enemies, as follows:

Think bigger! Think transformational!

Think bigger! Think several generations down the line. We can consciously help to evolve the species over successive generations from homo sapiens into partnership people. Taking a leaf from physicist Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance theory, the more partnership-oriented people there are, growing together in partnership mode, the easier it should be for others to join them.

This is another answer to a variant of “the prisoner’s dilemma” – the question of what happens if we all give up violence, and then the last violent group, the last one with weapons and no scruples about using them, the group we are most afraid of, takes over and rules in the end. Well, in the meantime, we can help evolve ourselves so that humanity will outgrow that. Why not?

I won’t pretend that the evolutionary graph will necessarily be an ascending straight line. Setbacks will happen.

So how badly do we want to be part of this transformation, and how sturdily are we prepared to face the sacrifices demanded of us along the way?

Think transformational. Your enemy is not your enemy, but your ticket to a better future. He or she is waiting for you to “get it”! Then you can get to work together, building the shared future for your great-great-great-grandchildren….

–So, when you look around at the people you have elected to lead you (or have had thrust upon you), in Israel, in Palestine, or on some other continent entirely, ask yourself this question: Are these leaders guiding us forward on the evolutionary journey, away from reflexive hate and fear, fight or flight, and the brutal win-lose practices that will kill us all unless we wise up? Are our so-called leaders ushering us into the emergent era of win-win, into partnership mode – the only collective pivot that can save us from the consequences of the flawed human blueprint we must urgently outgrow? And are they sincerely respectful of international law, however imperfect, as the best current consensus on how civilized nations should behave?

If the answer to those questions is no, then it doesn’t matter what those folks claim, what they call themselves, or what they call their party or their plans. They are the wrong leaders and they are not going to take us anywhere we need to go. What we need is for them to go! To go home! And the sooner, the better.

Chag sameach.

About the Author
A native New Yorker, by profession a writer, editor, and translator, my passion after nearly forty years in Israel/Palestine is to explore how we might craft a better shared future by discarding the paradigm of enemies – an obsolete social design, now highly toxic. Read more in my book, No More Enemies, available on my website or from online booksellers.
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