When I was first thinking about running for office, I spent some time gauging interest and reaction from my personal network. I got asked, why politics, and why now? And my answer has always been this: I want to see less party politics, and more collaboration from all points of view to make the world better. Not just according to my own vision of how to serve the world, but where people's differing opinions and ideas actually strengthen our policies and cities rather than break them down. At one point I got asked this bombshell:
"Do you think it's possible?"
I paused to think about that. Yes! I wanted to shout. Yes, a billion times yes! But is it? It seemed such a chasm from where we are, to where I want us to get to. And it's beyond my control, technically speaking—I can't make people collaborate. There are examples aplenty of folks who steadfastly refuse to collaborate and coorperate despite the best intentions and actions from everyone else. Another added layer: the questioner was someone I looked up to very much as well, and I was worried I'd appear too naïve.
All that raced through my head in about five milliseconds. I ended up saying, a bit weakly, "I want to try it."
The questioner looked away, and I couldn't tell if they were satisfied with my willingness to try or if they were disgusted by the lack of conviction.
This question keeps popping into my head, and Mr Fishtron and I often go through scenarios and thought experiments along these lines. Is it possible to do public consultations where citizens feel heard and policy-makers are able to address their needs in a piece of coherent, effective policy? What if someone is just wrong, do we meet their need to feel right? (No. Especially if their untruths cause harm to others.) Can everyone have the right to have their needs be met? (Yes, as long as meeting their needs does not cause harm.) Do policy-makers have the obligation to meet everyone's needs? Is it possible to get there from where we are now?
I think there is a non-zero chance of it happening. I don't think the system will ever be perfect, or that everyone can be happy all the time, or even that we could meet everyone's needs where they are at all times. Ultimately someone else's happiness isn't something we have direct control over.
However, that's not a cop-out to stop innovating, or stop doing better, or stop fighting for fairness and representation and compassion and equality. Far from it! There are basic needs that I believe society could do better to meet. Health and happiness are linked to things like sense of belonging/sense of community, outdoor access, access to healthy food/clean water and air, less time spent commuting, and so on. There are ways we can and should improve on these areas to boost overall health and happiness of our citizens. That's not the same as promising that our policies can make or keep everyone happy all the time but, overall, we can nudge the number of good days up and bad days down.
Likewise, I think there are basic things that people around the table—any table—need to do better at. Stick to the facts. Be as neutral as possible. Learn and practice emotional regulation. Be aware of our own biases. Be aware of our own habits, triggers, and scripts. Show humility. Accept and own our mistakes with courage. Show compassion and grace when others make mistakes. Be a better, kinder human to our fellow humans, even when we disagree. Especially when we disagree.
I tell Mr Fishtron that I have to believe in each person's personal power to act justly and compassionately because I have to believe it to keep going. I'm an obligate optimist. If people want to call it naïvete, then golly, I say we need a bit more naïvete to keep our eyes on the prize. We can't let cynicism make us give up on a brighter future.
So my answer is always yes, it is possible. It has to be.
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