John Lennon, Stephen Bannon and A Middle Way
The current turmoil in our country is not essentially about ‘us versus them’ but rather ‘us versus us.’ As Jochen Bittner points out in his op-ed piece in the February 23rd edition of the New York Times, both America and Europe are engaged in an internal ‘clash of ideologies.’ He presents a vivid, and I think helpful, way of understanding some aspects of this conflict:
The Lennon world is that of the liberal cosmopolitans, summed up in the John Lennon song “Imagine”: “Imagine there’s no countries,” he sings, “a brotherhood of man.” The Bannon world is the opposite: a place of walls and rules, run by uncompromising strongmen.
We will see this conflict played out in the French elections in May and the German elections in September. Bittner, who is German, presents a brief quote from Chancellor Angela Merkel in her first interview after her decision to stand for re-election:
The question is, ‘What can I do for the cohesion of such a polarized society?’
This is our question as well. Simply shouting louder than our opponents is not a solution. Bittner points us in the same direction that the Buddha did: the middle way.
This middle way should not be confused with a watered down compromise position. This middle way or third way, must somehow include and go beyond the wisdom inherent in all the previous positions. In order to do this, we need to continue to listen and appreciate parts of the world we have not noticed before.
We are all responsible for finding and creating this new way and it must begin with each of us. Waiting for ‘them’ to change, is a recipe for stalemate and stagnation. If we are truly committed to healing the polarization in our society, we have to be willing to change more than anyone else. This change is not a giving in, but actively seeking out that which we do not yet understand and then behaving in new ways.
Gandhi had it right when he said: “We must be the change we seek.”