The Alchemy of Tribal Politics

What’s a tribe? A collection of people that share space, desire for a specific change, and action toward that change.

What’s alchemy? The ability to ingeniously turn what you have into what you need in order to overcome challenge and seize opportunity.

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multiple-perspectives elephant

The day before super Tuesday, it’s clear that our nation remains divided.

I bet you’ve heard the last four words- of the sentence above-scores of times over the last year. I suppose you’ve heard it, because it’s true. What’s unfortunate is that those four words create a frame (a way of seeing) that makes it difficult to find a common way forward. We are divided; and that is that.

Tribal Alchemy is a framework any tribe can use to ingeniously turn what they have into what they need. We could use a little tribal alchemy in our politics these days.

One of the first actions an ingenious tribe executes -on their way to alchemy- is

“multiple perspective taking.”

Without multiple perspectives, the possibility of tribal alchemy diminishes. Why? When a tribe dismisses multiple perspectives -or disenfranchises those with differing perspectives-  group think reduces the push and pull on ideas that is required to see well together–and consequently act well together.

We actually need to be divided. Well, divided is not the best word. We need to see different angles into issues. But seeing issues differently will only lead a tribe to alchemy when they are willing to listen, suspend judgement, respect “the other,” and layer a variety of ideas together into a common plan. This common plan won’t satisfy every itch of every sub-tribe. That’s impossible. But it could lead to real solutions that move us forward.

What’s often missing in our political landscape is the willingness to listen to opposing ideas without immediately dismissing the ideas and those suggesting them. Doing this only creates more division. The wrong kind of division. We intuitively know that “dismissing” and “disenfranchising” is part of what’s broken within our two-party system. Simply put, there is currently not much “layering” of opposing ideas into to better  (alchemized) ones. It’s so rare that when this kind of alchemy of ideas occurs (between political tribes), it makes the news. “The gang of eight did this or that.” “In a bi-partisan move, congress did this or that.” Embracing multiple perspectives seems so rare that it’s worth it’s 15 minutes of fame within the news cycle.

Until multiple perspective taking is no longer such a rarity that it’s newsworthy, we are likely to remain…divided.

2016-02-29T12:54:39-04:00

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Written by Dave Fleming