US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES:
Want To Get Elected In 2008?
Here is How:
USE AWARENESS INSTEAD OF POWER
By Amy and Arnold Mindell*
Today’s US presidential candidates are trained to be popular, take a stand and be powerful. But they are less good at modeling creating a national or international spirit of teamwork in the way they interact with one another. Today, we need elders who can create safe, battle-free local and global communities more than we need warriors to overcome their colleagues and global neighbors. We believe the world needs more wisdom, and less bloodshed.
As conflict resolution trainers, supervisors, and therapists, we would like to see more from our leaders than what we have seen on TV during the presidential debates. Candidates for the US presidency often seem to lack fundamental knowledge about basic communication skills. Of course: they must take a stand on issues, but without modeling the flow and openness of democracy, their words remain shallow and make us distrust them.
Democracy is something special. It is an idea, a method and an atmosphere that welcomes diversity and multiple viewpoints. We hope our leaders will transform the present day boxing-match style of political discourse and instead, model a deeper democracy. We want them to represent people, and also create an atmosphere in which our deepest feelings have room to emerge. Here are some tips (with a minimum of our own theories) about how to do that.
1. Use Awareness instead of Power: With the use of awareness instead of power, political discourse could be so inviting that even those US citizens who swore they would never vote again, would run to the polls to take the nation’s future in hand. Who wouldn’t vote for a leader who models awareness and a deeper democracy in the midst of a debate? Such a candidate might say for example, “So far, we’ve been engaging in battle on this stage tonight. That makes good movies but it doesn’t make good leadership or good lifestyle and is no model for our children. I am tired of only fighting. I want better relationships between us. I want to stand strongly for my ideas and also make you feel your ideas are important to me by somehow including them in the final solution. I want our country to welcome diversity, and become a world leader modeling a living democracy, one that creates sustainable futures. We can do it. We can create that special atmosphere where people feel important as individuals in learning communities, at school, at work, and in the government!”
2 Use Insight to Deal with Hostility. During one democratic debate, candidates spoke about how to deal with the so called, “hostile world leaders”. We would like our candidates to say, “We must first protect ourselves and not be naïve about the future. We need solid protection. But let me assure you. Strong borders are not enough. I’ll deal with “those hostile world leaders” out there, by protecting ourselves and also by not becoming just a “hostile leader” myself! Besides protecting our borders, I will also try to see the essence of their viewpoints. I’ll notice not just their anger, but their fear as well. I’ll see their desperation and secret longing to create a safer, richer, more sustainable future for themselves and their people. Don’t worry. I won’t be naïve about them. Still, I will model a more human global community and a deeper way of dealing with hostility. My point is that the “evil, dangerous, hostile leader” is not just out there. Without an insight, you and I can easily become the “evil other”, by trying to solve problems only with power instead of also with awareness. By awareness, we mean awareness of the essence of the other’s viewpoint.”
3 Learn to Cook. In one debate, Hillary Clinton quoted Harry Truman as saying, “If you can’t take the heat in the kitchen, get out.” The kitchen is a wonderful metaphor. It’s the core of a family, the source of teamwork. The kitchen is the heart that holds us all together. Democracy could be such a kitchen. We’re not just a melting pot in the US. We could be a great kitchen, one that creates an atmosphere where the rich diversity of American groups and individuals feels at home and works together. That diversity is our greatest “power”. We can cook together, turn up the heat, have various viewpoints, argue, laugh, cry, and use our awareness to openly discuss things and create new worlds. That’s a real democracy! That’s where we want to live.
When the question of who has the most experience to be president arises, we also ask, who is the best cook? Who has the best history of successful interpersonal and international communication? Who can model the world she or he wants? Any candidate who uses awareness instead of power creates a new page in world history. That’s the candidate we want.
*Arnold and Amy Mindell are therapists and community resolution facilitators.
They have written many books, work together as a team, consulting, facilitating, and working with individuals, organizational development projects for small and large businesses and cities. They have worked with government groups, Aboriginal communities and many groups around the world. For more, see www.aamindell.net.