Thomas Dart, Partner.
Around the world, in so many countries, we are witnessing the conflict which is created by the political party system. We pride ourselves on our democracy. Yet, many of us feel it is not working. No party seems to be able to fix the many problems currently facing us. Poverty, climate change, gross income inequality, all are dealt with differently by each political party. Some parties recognize it and propose solutions. Other parties ignore, don’t understand, or are ignorant about the problems. One party pits itself against the other in an adversarial bombastic battle in which, now, all rules of normal civility are tossed in the dirt. Leaders distort reality in order to win power. Each party ruthlessly attacks the other’s leaders and party members as if their opponents were the epitome of evil. The “Leaders” unfortunately provide an example which many in society begin to follow. Whether it be England leaving the European Union, or the US electing a President more than half the people of their country did not want, the adversarial nature of party politics is not making the world a better, safer, place. It creates “winners” and “losers” – more division. It does not make society whole.
In families, when conflict erupts, the same type of “political system”, on a microcosmic scale, also can kick in. Conflicts over finances, communication, children, intimacy – all tend to become ‘adversarial’. One “party”, in an effort to persuade or take control, begins to demean the other – “you always do that – you never do this!” The defensive party then, for protection, attacks back – “you never do this and you always do that!” The conflict escalates. If it goes on long enough, the “parties” may find themselves at war in the adversarial system we call the Family Court.
What if there were no political parties? What if we were able to elect our own chosen representatives to actually represent us and not their chosen political party? What if that representative could actually represent the interests and goals of our own community, without having to tow the party line? What if all the representatives of all our communities had to get together and figure out a way to address the interests and goals of all the communities: our city, our town, our province or our country? What if rules were set up which prohibited engagement in an adversarial battle and required the representatives to actually work together to understand and give priority to the interests of each community? They might actually find that there are common interests and common goals in each community which can be appropriately addressed without someone winning and someone losing.
What if, in our families, when conflict arose, instead of becoming adversarial, we asked why? Why are you so upset? What if we kept probing to find the source of the conflict – its root cause? When we see our partner verbally attacking us, instead of assuming we are the actual focus of the attack, we might find, if we ask, that the real focus is their own fear – fear of appearing inadequate, or perhaps of losing their job, or perhaps of being unloved. We might then respond very differently, once we understood. How many times have you started an argument only to find at the end, that there was far more to the conflict than, for example, just not doing your chores around the house? Were you able to get to the bottom of the conflict? If you were, you probably ended up, once the conflict was behind you, in a loving embrace, with true understanding and true forgiveness cementing your relationship once again. You also probably learned something about each other from the conflict and you probably learned that your decision to try and find the root of the conflict made you both better people, because you were able to gain greater understanding, greater empathy.
The governing of our nation and the governing of our family relationships should not be adversarial sports – can we find a way to eliminate this growing and rather frightening trend from our governments and from our families?