Cutting through virtual paper with the open blades of vertical fingers mimicking scissors singles the beginning of a debate. It is so hard to be binary in these complex times and the introduction of just three simple variables in this most ancient of games. And while there are three choices there are still only two players. Having choice brings the potential for strategy through observing your opponents behaviour and it is a little less random than being subjected to the toss of a coin. Building in explicit choices may begins the process of self-determination yet the winner and loser divide keeps the real choice of success binary. This temptation to feel like you have agency over your decisions, yet you may well be in a simple us vs them or me vs you set of circumstances over and over again. Sometimes it will be the rock over-riding and smashing scissors, the paper covering up the rock we don’t want to see, the scissors cutting through the red tape – these are choices open to us before many debates.
What have you done this week to cover up, smash up or cut through? When were you a winner and when were you a loser? And what would happen if you through your hands up in the air and decided not to play – resistance and civil disobedience are back – although they never left the scene for those on the margins who had already opted out or offered the rest of us cultural alternatives.
Building a culture of compassion goes beyond two players and three choices and necessarily embraces complexity and ambiguity. The maxim of leaving no-one behind, in the vernacular of the military, is an instruction for our times. The pleas from our Senate by a woman once on welfare who was also a soldier somehow captured the mood of the nation this week by those who were the least likely to look to her for leadership and guidance. Yet she spoke from the heart and called out her peers in the chamber. The cuts to women and children as they are the losers always in these decisions are significant. The day the cuts to single parents went through in a past administration was the same day the only female Prime Minister of our country gave her famous misogyny speech – so this is not a political point I am making. This is a point about building a culture of compassion. To bring heart, head and soul to decision making has to be an act of engagement of all those parts. As Atticus Finch told Scout:
“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (3.85-87) To Kill A Mocking Bird, Harper Lee
We need more climbing into each other’s skin to feel what it is like to be in it and walk around in it. Then the choices may not seem so obvious, the place of resistance will appear before your very eyes and the false dichotomy of winners and loser will evaporate. If we aren’t all in this together on this little blue planet, then we will all be losers.
Holding on to the promise of building a culture of compassion starts at home, right close in with yourself and walking around in your own skin and noticing the decisions and actions you take each day to leave no one behind. This is a big ask, a big promise and a lot of everyday practice.