Here's looking at you.....
The English language is full of euphemisms, words and phrases which we use to avoid saying what is obvious. We have only to consider our vocabulary of death, so well parodied in the famous “parrot sketch” in Monty Python.
Words can be used to promote peace, but are, perhaps, more regularly used to create division as we know to our cost here in N. Ireland – a place where even the way we pronounce certain letters can be used by others to stereotype us.
As we try to move ahead towards building a united community it is important that we not only say what we mean, clearly, but more significantly, that we place more weight in our discussions on choosing our words generously rather than measuring success in terms of winning arguments against “the other”.
We may feel we have done well for “our side” if we succeed in using our words to win an argument but arguments are won while discussions are shared.
Have you ever considered what it might look like if our political and civic engagement was laced with generosity rather than infected with the lack of charity which so often pervades public discourse? Generosity is a disarming trait, which often has the unintended consequence of gifting “the other” some room which might just allow them to move into a new, more creative space - one where neither they nor you might have ever imagined they might find themselves. It creates new opportunities by not perpetuating “the old ways”. Generosity humanises “the other”, by including “them” in your future.
It is clear than we can’t change the past, but together we can change the future. How would this work? What if we looked back and considered how we currently locate the story of “the other” in our past? Could we imagine how things today might have been different if we had acted in another way, if we or our community had been more generous to “the other”. The window in today's picture offers new ways to see "the other".
In this context, could we re-imagine a shared future in which our future narrative has a space for “their story”.
In order to re-imagine the future, we need to ensure that our future embraces the needs of the “other” and so we should seek common values, common goals, the common good. This is a big ask, to embrace the other, equally, in generosity of spirit. Are we up for the uncomfortable conversation, are we up for doing things differently?