The Convenience of Conflict
I'm going to say what no one else wants to say. Conflict is convenient.
When we choose to adhere to a mainstream set of political beliefs, in many ways we free ourselves of having to think or do our own research. Choosing to be a Democrat or Republican, for most people, means that their positions on various issues are already decided for them. And conveniently, by choosing one side or the other, it gives us a much needed target for blame and perhaps our enmity - "idiot Republicans" or "kook Democrats." It also decreases our need to be aware of current events – the recent cable news ratings for the month of May demonstrate that a) people are consuming less information on political issues, b) are turned off by the base level of discourse that has become cable news, or c) both (a) and (b).
There is nothing in the preparedness manifesto that requires someone to choose a particular political party or belief system. in the last few years, I've met a number of folks from across a wide spectrum of political beliefs , all of whom believe we need to be focusing more on self-reliance, sustainability, and decentralization of political and financial power. These are pickup driving conservative gun owners, left-wing environmentalist homesteaders, urban dwelling African Americans, rural elderly, straight women and gay men. From a cultural perspective, these groups share little in common. However, many within this movement have demonstrated a willingness to set aside their differences and to share ideas and conversations … and in doing so, many have found common ground with those much different from them.
When we are willing to reevaluate our own positions and beliefs, great things happen. Since 2005, our nation has made great strides in the reduction of homelessness in America. Utah – a state whose political leanings peg the GOP litmus test meter - expects to end all homelessness in the state by 2015. Utah leaders were able to do this by re-examining he data and their previously held notions about the causes of and cures for homelessness. I think it's worth noting that a large portion of the population of Utah belongs to the Church of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) - a denomination which puts a high priority on both spiritual and temporal preparedness.
I do not have any data which suggests that the preparedness mindset of many in Utah led to this positive change in policy towards homelessness. I would submit to you, however, that the fundamental changes that need to happen in our society will come not from the leadership of the establishment political parties, but from people like us – people who are willing to set aside their preconceived notions, build relationships with others who may not be like them, and find common ground. Our movement is particularly adept at that, and as such, we need to be mindful of the fact that preparedness is not just about being ready for hard times – it is about finding workable and perhaps unconventional solutions to everyday problems.
To that end, we cannot fall prey to the convenience of conflict. This business of engaging in ad hominem attacks does nothing to improve public policy and our nation's level of preparedness. It merely fuels the coffers of the interest groups who stoke the flames for that very purpose.
And so my challenge to you this month is fairly simple – start reaching out to people who are in a different demographic than you are. Build relationships with them. Find common ground. And if they are not well prepared for basic emergencies, be a good ambassador for our cause.