In your blog Connect and Disconnect you pointed at a topic which we can observe everywhere and on different levels in the world around us. You addressed the problem of disconnection that all readers can recognize. As a response to your writing I like to mention a phenomenon of disconnection which I am concerned about. It is the endless stream of information about what is going on in the world: violent conflicts, people on the move, changes in climate, impact of fundamentalism, global political shifts, economic inequality. What is the meaning of this all? What are the steering forces behind, we can’t see? What is the effect of it on the soul of people?
Let me try to understand a bit of it. The amount of books about finding happiness, self-steering, time-management, mindfulness, therapy is without end. All those books promise grow and success by self control. And on the other hand we see on different levels in our society the raise of control by sophisticated technical forms of registration. Our healthdevelopment, our financial behaviour, our travel movements on the internet, everything of us is being stored in big data archives. One hidden steering force is the tendency to transparency. There is deep drive to know everything in our inner and our outer world. The German-Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han wrote an interesting diagnosis about it, calling our society being in a state of burnout. All our efforts on so many levels being in self-control makes us revolving around ourselves, cramping us in ourselves, unable to build relationships. It makes us depressed, tired, in resignation. A loss of connection.
As a result there is for example an increasing rift between lower and upper layer of the population. A lot of people who vote for populistic leaders feel aversion against the traditional media like television and mainstream newspapers, because they do not really listen to the people with low education. I was watching a late night talk show on the Dutch television a few weeks ago. A handful of citizens were invited to explain why they are willing to vote for the PVV, the political party in Holland that feels connected with Trump in the United States, Marine Le Pen in France, Frauke Petry in Germany, just some examples in a growing row of names. There was also a politician of an established democratic party at the same table. It was his very intention to listen to the people, as he emphasized in the beginning. But it was painful for me to see how easy the interaction between the participants of this talk show ended up with a discussion or a debate. All the opportunities to get in contact with each other were unfortunately lost. This small moment of disconnection is in my eyes a kind of a mirror of what happens in society.
The question that occurs to me in all the examples of the overwhelming stream of information and the fast changes in the world, is: What will I do? And behind this question I hear: What is right and what is wrong? And behind this question: Who can I trust?
You can trust the person who pays attention, who can observe, who can listen. This appears to be the opposite of that politician at the table as I mentioned above, because he has an agenda, he looks beyond the person to a bigger goal. And doing so he is using people for his purpose to spread his message. In a certain way it is the same strategy I see in situations of war, terroristic attacks and revolution: the use of violent means by not choosing for a dialogue.
The partner in a conversation who really pays attention to the other person is in connection to his question or his story. He is curious, he wants to know more and wants to listen from different perspectives. In the talk show a lady told about her aversion against asylum seekers and people from other countries, entering The Netherlands. Instead of condemning this attitude and contradict it with statistic information from scientific publications, as our politician did with an abundance of words, I think it would be more wise to connect to the meaning of her feelings. What lives in her soul and what does she want to express? Everywhere in the world the media shows us how political leaders immediately speak their judgements. This behaviour does not connect people and parties, groups and countries.
But when people are able to hold back their opinions for a moment and when they do not use their knowledge as a kind of a weapon, when they try to listen to their opponents, then there is a connection growing. And in this connection people can feel trust, on both sides. They feel free to be open to each other. And this is a good basis to articulate their standpoint as good as possible. Not with the attention to convince, but to come close to each other. The lady and the politician could disagree with each other, but in connection. The discipline to such a dialogue culture could save the world.