Social Behavior

Against negative “otherizing” – TEDTalk by Elizabeth Lesser

“Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” ~Rumi

A cite from the Persian poet Rumi are the closing words for an amazing TEDtalk by Elizabeth Lesser. She just had been talking ten minutes about one of the most fundamental challenges in our world – the problem of otherizing. And she has an idea.

Others are people, who have a different understanding of a problem. They are our enemies, if it is about arguing in favor of convictions and objectives. It is part of our culture to demonize people, who are not following the common understanding.

Societies tend to give the voice to those, who are fighting for our understanding, which ought to be the most divisive among us. Looking back in history even though, we can see that some of the worst eras started with negative otherizing. They often have morphed into violent extremism.

“I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be” ~Martin Luther King

Now Elizabeth Lesser introduces the metaphor of the mystic warrior. It is the introduction into her concept to fight otherizing. People who “devote live to humanity with the grit of the warrior and the grace of the mystic” are the archetype of persons we have to look at and learn from.

Mystic is being derived from “the optical delusion of everydays consciousness”, a quote of Albert Einstein. Warriors, because those people still are concerned and worried about what’s happening in this world right now. Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, and Nelson Mandela are those type of people Elizabeth Lesser is referring to.

(the concept of ubuntu – “I need you in order to be me, and you need me in order to be you.”)

Initiative: Take “the Other” to lunch

Elizabeth Lesser has made this a goal for herself: get to known to one person out of a group you may have negatively stereotyped. Don’t persuade, defend, or interrupt – be curious, be conversational, be real, and listen. She has made this her own initiative: Take “the Other” to lunch.

The initiative is something every one of us can follow-up if we just consider the following conversation guidelines:

  1. share some of your life experience
  2. what issues deeply concern you
  3. what have you always wanted to ask someone from the other side

Let’s try to make this our guidelines. We might not be able to avoid negative otherization as such. But we will contribute to an improved consciousness. Enjoy the talk!

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