Enlightened Conflict

one of those dumb days where

June 13th, 2017

do nothing sloth impossible every day jo

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“We are dying from overthinking.

 

We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything.

Think. Think. Think.

 

You can never trust the human mind anyway.

It’s a death trap.”

 

Anthony Hopkins

 

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“It’s one of those dumb days where nothing’s really wrong but nothing’s really right either and the sky can’t even choose to be white or gray.”

 

Andrea Portes

 

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nothing neon sign

 

“Nothing” days.

 

 

Its hard to believe with all that shit we always seem to have to do and all the shit that seems to be happening around us and all the shit society, people and culture claims we are demanded to pay attention to … there can be nothing days.

The dumb days in which nothing happens <albeit lots of somethings actually happen>.

 

I think this is one of those things I didn’t think about until I actually thought about it — how can a day be nothing when you actually did a shitload?

 

Sure.

 

There are some people who get busy doing nothing <I actually call this ‘the art of looking busy’ and have a piece on his coming up>.

 

But the majority of us do a shitload of something on the days which we tend to i expect nothing still too muchview as having done nothing.

 

And I am not sure that is particularly healthy.

 

You can surely assess what you have done and apply some value less than what you wished you could assess … but even that “lesser value” is not zero, therefore, it is not nothing.

 

Personally I think this happens because the majority of us have a natural resistance to nothing. What I mean by that is being associated with “nothing”, particularly in a country that extols doing, creates some sense of diminishing or diminished.

 

And no one likes to feel either diminished or having whatever we actually did do be diminished to … well … nothing.

 

Anyway.

 

What that means is we will apologize for ‘nothing’ with a variety of reasons – distracted, bored, tired, etc. – because in the end our internal integrity compass wants to point toward something to make us happy.

In fact … someone created something called the Nothing Day which has been commemorated since 1973. The day is literally about doing nothing at all. There is absolutely no purpose or intended structure for this pointless celebration.

 

especially if its nothing days

 

My point isn’t that we should celebrate nothing or doing nothing or even the feeling we actually did nothing but rather that we see “nothing” where there really is something.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

This is even making my head hurt.

 

Let me try this.

 

Far too often we fall into an all or nothing assessment with regard to our day. What that means is we could actually do a shitload but if it doesn’t meet some “something” standard it then falls to a 100% nothing value.

That is nuts.

 

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“Either I reigned supreme or sank into the abyss.”

 

Simone de Beauvoir

 

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And I can honestly say its nuts because I do it. I can reach the end of a day with a long list of shit I have done and sit back and say “shit, I did nothing.”

And I don’t think I am that different than a lot of people.

 

I could speculate why we do it but I will not.

 

Mostly it is because we think, think & think about the shit … and overthink it … and it is a death trap.

 

Mostly I think society & culture seems to put an extraordinary amount of value on tangible recognizable outcomes therefore if you just do shit … but the shit doesn’t offer some trophy outcome you can hold up for everyone to see than … well … we think we have nothing to show for it. That is also a death trap.

 

That’s dumb.something and nothing sign

 

Not only is that dumb it is the foundation for one of those dumb days where nothing’s really wrong but nothing’s really right either and the sky can’t even choose to be white or gray type feeling … which is a pretty dumb feeling to have.

 

All I can say is that the next time you think it is one of those dumb days where you did nothing … maybe stop overthinking and make it a simple thought — I did some shit today. I will do more shit tomorrow. And eventually some good shit will happen.

the false comparison trap

May 30th, 2017

compare-iridescent-person-colorful-special

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“As with events, so it is with thoughts. When I watch that flowing river pours for a season its streams into me, I see that I am a pensioner; not a cause, but a surprised spectator of this ethereal water.”

 

—–

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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“The sphinx must solve her own riddle.

If the whole of history is in one man, it is all explained from individual experience.”

 

——

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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“Comparisons are a shit way of evaluating things.”

 

—-

Bruce McTague

 

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So.

 

life explained tat awkward moment birth deathWe LOVE using the past to try and explain shit. Past people, past events, past words and past … well … everything.

When we are faced with something new, or someone new, we immediately start sifting through the scrap heap of the past to start creating some semblance of a jig saw puzzle to explain what we are facing.

 

There are a number of problems with doing this.

 

The biggest is that scraps are scraps. Oh. And the scraps used to reside in a completely different context <which is impossible to recreate>.

 

And, yet, we continue to try.

The problem is that in doing so we elect to not judge the present on the merits of the present. We decline to judge a person as they are, the circumstances as they are and the decisions on the merits of what it is. We do this with everyone and everything … how money is spent, decisions we need to make, new people we have met and even leaders. We do it all partially well intended <we want to make sure we make a fair assessment of hat we are seeing & hearing> and partially because simply examining something and stating “this is good” or “this is bad” <or acceptable or unacceptable> seems … well … flimsy.

 

Comparisons tend to make things look more solid.  And, yet, we tend to absolutely suck at creating the proper comparisons.

 

And, that happens for a variety of reasons – also some well-intended and some not so well intended.

 

I will start with the well intended.

 

As Emerson once wrote: “our being is descending into us from know not whence.” And we struggle with that truth. It makes us uncomfortable … uhm … no … REALLY uncomfortable.

If we don’t know where things descend from then we begin to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find comparisons to do so. this all comes at the expense of judging what is, the beings and such, on the merits of what exists. And this is where the shit hits the fan. We either dip into our own memories or a slew of people start telling us what memories to take a look at <the latter is part of the not so well intended>.

 

Well.

 

Here is an unfortunate fact … our memories, which is how we tend to judge and create mental comparisons, are constructive and reconstructive

 

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“Many people believe that memory works like a recording device.

pico memory key thumb drive

…….. our memory chip ……..

You just record the information, then you call it up and play it back when you want to answer questions or identify images. But decades of work in psychology has shown that this just isn’t true.

Our memories are constructive.

They’re reconstructive.

Memory works a little bit more like a Wikipedia page: You can go in there and change it, but so can other people. “

 

Elizabeth Loftus

 

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“You can ask the universe for all the signs you want, but ultimately, we see what we want to see when we’re ready to see it.”

 

——

(via 1112pm)

 

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We desperately want to define things through comparison and continuously ask the universe for signs to show us what we want.

 

We desperately do so because in the absence of some comparison we would then have to judge what is on the merits of what exists — the good, the bad and the indifferent .

 

That doesn’t mean a shitload of people around you aren’t gonna try and affect how you will build your comparisons and encourage you to compare in some fairly creative <sometimes absurd> ways.

 

What do I mean?

 

I go back to the psychologist Ebbinghaus who studied memory construction <his published essay Über das Gedächtness in 1885> where he realized that memory and recall of continuous passages of prose or verse would be affected differentially by people’s experiences and prior knowledge.

Memory is a snare, pure and simple; it alters, it subtly rearranges the past to fit the present.

 

Mario Vargas Llosa

 

 

What that actually means is that the memory you tap into to create the my-worst-enemy-is-my-memory-projectcomparisons you seek are slightly mangled by yourself <in how you remember it> and can be manipulated by devious not so well intended people around you.

 

The Constructive and reconstructive nature of memory:

 

  • Memories are distributed; not unitary

 

  • “remembering” involves retrieving and reassembling

 

  • memories can be revised over time

 

  • Reconstruction is filling in “missing details” on the basis of logic, assumptions, what “must have been the case”

 

  • More common reasons for forgetting: Lack appropriate retrieval cue = something you attach to a memory, can use to recover it>

 

  • Reliable retrieval cues are key to access <and multiple retrieval cues are best>

 

  • Existence of older memories blocks access to newer ones

 

Ah.

If only we could pull out our brain and use only our own eyes.

But, not surprisingly, this is the exact same issue new ideas, “white space” theories, fresh thinking, true <not made up> disruptive people & things face.

 

All tat said. I will point out that something doesn’t have to be truly new to face false comparison challenges … it can simply be a new person in an existing role or a common problem or question just in a different time.

 

Suffice it to say anything new, or any change, is being asked to be defined by the past. And there will never be a lack of people stepping up and suggesting they can define something through a variety of comparisons <many of which you spend more time trying to fend off than is worth the time>.

explain with rational mind

This is a mistake. This is a fundamental error we make. It assumes what is can somehow be extrapolated by something by what was <the past>. In reality, as I have noted numerous times, I cannot exactly extrapolate the past because I cannot exactly replicate the past … which means <in harsh terms> there is nothing there and nothing from nothing is … uhm … nothing.

Yeah.

Most comparisons end up meaning nothing <although they look like something>.

Yeah.

This means most comparisons we create are just plain and simple false comparisons.

 

Without trying to be flippant with regard to what I believe is a fairly standard operating procedure for people … we need to stop. Stop false comparisons.

It is a trap.

And a dangerous trap.

 

Comparisons normalize that which should not be normalized … just as comparisons can de-normalize that which should be normalized.

False comparisons wielded by the devious can construct almost any “normal” you could desire <even if it is hollow & not really normal>.

 

Anyway.

 

In today’s world there does seem like there is a lot of crazy shit happening. And in our desire to veer away from the “crazy shit” feeling we seek some comparisons to normalize the situation <thereby calming the ‘crazy shit feeling>.

 

Just a couple of notes of warning on that.

 

<a> Finding comparisons, if done well, you can actually be convinced there really isn’t crazy shit happening even though there is truly some crazy shit easter crazy kidshappening.

 

As a corollary to <a>,

 

<b> if there is truly some crazy shit happening there will be no shortage of people ponying up false comparisons trying to convince you that there is no crazy shit happening <and some of them will be quite effective>.

 

The only reason I point out the warning is that there really is some crazy shit happening and we need to stop finding comparisons to make today, and some people, look a little less crazy than it really is.

 

There you go.

 

I will end where I began … “Comparisons are a shit way of evaluating things <and people>.”

We should invest the energy judging what is, people, ideas and things, based on their present merits not some false comparisons from the past.

 

that tempt you to believe your critics

April 30th, 2017

criticized no matter

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“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong.

There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs.

 

Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”

 

—–

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

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So.

 

Several people have asked if I will ever lighten up on President Trump.

 

oh my god cover mouth silence do not speakWell.

 

Here’s the deal.

 

Yes. I am a harsh critic of Donald J Trump.

 

However … almost all my criticism & critique is done from a business perspective and not a personal perspective.

 

I do not know the man so commenting on him personally would seem silly.

 

But I do know business.

 

I do know some of the better senior business people.

I do know what good leadership and leading looks like.

 

I also know what business principles would be transferable to attempting to be a president <in a political system versus a “CEO” business system> and I know that I do not know shit about politics <but from afar I can see the maddening aspects and have no desire to work within the system>.

 

I do know that I am a harsh critic of myself … I am self-proclaimed perpetually dissatisfied business person.

 

I do know I am not a big self-promoter, tend to dislike extreme self-promoters and I value confidence … but quite confidence.

 

And that leads to my criticisms of Trump.

critical blame responsibility asshats credit

First and foremost Trump falls squarely in my criticism cross hairs. As the graph to the right indicates when someone is in the asshat space I will be harshly critical.

 

I would note that I assume everyone makes mistakes so if you view this chart as “emphasis of my criticism depending on where you fall on this chart” my level of criticism will naturally dial up based upon the behavior of the participant and not their actual actions <this can translate into some minor criticism even if something is done right and harsh criticism when a mistake is made>.

 

Now.

 

My second basis of criticism falls on progressive scale. The higher the responsibility the higher the expectations <of what you should know, how you should behave and what you actually do> and, ultimately, the higher the volume of criticism for less-than-appropriate behavior. Correspondingly, the lower the responsibility, the lower the expectation and … well … yeah … you get it … my level of criticism diminishes.

 

What does all of that mean?

 

I think we are all much more forgiving of someone who shows some humility and accepts responsibility and admits mistakes and is confident without being overbearing. And the more someone doesn’t show those characteristics the more likely our pendulum of criticism will swing toward … well … highly critical.

 

Ok.

 

I heard someone say “Trump could enact a miracle and some people will criticize him.”

That is not true.

It approaches Trump criticism from the wrong perspective in that it ignores the context that HE creates. I would be happy to not criticize him and I even have edged into giving him some credit on occasion.

But I do so hesitantly.

And I think many others are hesitant for the same reason.

 

Just as he has a tendency to exaggerate … well … everything … he makes it say out loud oopsdifficult to compliment him. There is no counterbalance and our fear , at least mine, is that giving credit seems to take on an exponentially exaggerated level with him. And I seriously doubt that giving him credit will be thanked by offering up some humility or admitting some past mistakes.

Therefore, just as it is with the guy in your office who wants to take credit for shit he has never done and believes that people don’t give him enough credit in general or don’t recognize how smart/talented he is … they absorb credit and compliments as “it is about time” or “what took you so long to see what I have been telling you” rather than “thanks.”

 

These kinds of people are hard to give credit to. And, in fact, these kinds of people almost make us NOT want to give them credit for anything <and , if we do, it tends to be muted>.

 

Does that mean my criticism is too harsh? Shit. I don’t know.

 

I don’t think so.

Harsh, in my eyes, would be if he was actually a business guy who was implementing solid business principles and I ignored that and simply was harshly criticizing some of the ‘art’ aspects of business <and not the ‘science’ part>.

 

But Trump is implementing none of the ‘science.’ In addition, he is the Dolph Lundgren of the artistic portion of business. He has no ‘feel’ for business just one speed and one style and one way of doing things.

 

And that is the basis for my constant Trump critiques — he is failing to meet what I would consider the basic business leadership standards of … well … even a higher middle manager type leader in a larger organization.

 

To be clear.

I am careful about how I criticize anyone in any position. While Trump is most likely not familiar with Plato, Plato offers us some guidelines with regard to how to evaluate a business person beyond simple evaluation of what they do:

 

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“Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.”

 

 

Plato

 

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Behavior, business included, flows from these three things. It isn’t ‘good business instincts’ or ‘deal making skills’ or … well … any of the things Trump head-in-cloud-glasses-thinkflippantly tosses around with regard to what he believes <and he constantly suggests we all know this about him> is his incredible business skill.

 

And while I could take a stab at critiquing Donald J Trump on what his desire is <psychologically and tangibly> and I may be able to take a stab at what his emotional drivers are … I most typically do not. My critical evaluation mostly resides on ‘knowledge.’

 

His business knowledge and how he uses it.

 

All that said.

 

Yeah.

Sometimes I use some harsh words.

 

I have called him batshit crazy <hyperbole>.

 

I have called him a clown <he does portray some circus performer aspects on occasion>.

 

I have called him an idiot <misuse of a word to highlight what is actually ‘oblivious behavior’>.

 

Does that make my criticism too harsh? No. But what it may do is add unnecessary color to what should be a black & white issue.

 

Black & white?

grays black and white

As one article summarized it perfectly — Trump is simply a profoundly mediocre person tragically unfit for the presidency.

 

Criticizing chaos, or less than competent leadership behavior, or even less-than-principled foundational business acumen is simply pointing out unnecessary turmoil – or a situation which is at war with itself.

Maybe one should view my writings and critiques as the writings of a wartime journalist recording the battles, generals and strategies.

 

Maybe I should think of myself that way with Trump. Why? I want peace. I don’t want this turmoil. It is tiring and mostly unnecessary. And any viable sane business person who has ever held any significant responsibility knows that this is mostly unnecessary turmoil.

 

 

That said. I will continue with criticism … as harsh as is necessary … because I seek peace <because I believe America deserves it and not this shit>.

 

Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them

 

I opened with the Emerson quote, purposefully, for two reasons.

 

The first was what I just pointed out. I am a business guy and I recognize that not only is chaos & turmoil bad in business it is, more often than not, unnecessary and a reflection of poor leadership. While I may be a small voice in the grander scheme of things I will continue to use my voice to criticize with an objective of ‘peace’ instead of what we currently face.

 

My second reason resides in listening to the critics. Emerson is absolutely correct in that if you listen to critics and criticism too much you can very easily lose sight of what is truly important. Someone will always tell you what you have done wrong and what you are doing wrong. However. Not even listening to critics, simply ignoring their thoughts as irrelevant is the path of fools. Good leaders sift through the criticism for the valuable grains of truth. And while Trump clearly listens, obsessively I may add, he does not ‘hear.’ And, yes, there is a difference between listening and hearing <by the way … I wish media would impostor syndrome what i know doubtpoint that out to Trump surrogate who incessantly claim Trump is a good listener>. Trump listens to criticism and finds ways to ignore the truths in any way he can.

 

That said … the conclusion to that thought isn’t “you are wasting your time criticizing” but rather ‘ongoing criticism enable enablers to corral bad behavior.’ Ignoring incompetence or poor decision making or even misguided organizational development steps is not an option.

 

Criticism offers opportunities for course correction.

 

What that means is I will continue to criticize, harshly when appropriate, until the country is on a course … any course <because , in business, you learn that there is no one course just a choice among courses>. And I will criticize until he actually starts acting like all the other CEOs I have ever met, because, once again, this is not how good CEOs behave.

 

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Author’s note:

 

I continue to suggest everyone who desires to know how professional foreign affairs and intelligence people and military assess the Trump administration and Trump behavior should visit www.warontherocks.com . My favorite author just delivered a blistering commentary, criticism, of Trump called “The Incompetence Doctrine” … a must read for everyone.

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that we contain our own future

March 26th, 2017

 look-to-the-future-principles-telescope-view-past-older

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“Life, too, is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward.”

 

—-

Abraham Verghese

 

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“It’s the one thing we never quite get over: that we contain our own future.”

 

 

Barbara Kingsolver

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So.

 

Thinking about what legacy you want to leave behind can make you start thinking a little bit about what you may want to stubbornly stand for and demand of Life … and what you may decide to compromise with Life to insure you have something … some progress to show at the end.

 

A significant part of this grand bargain we negotiate with Life is how we decide to compromise with those around us and those who affect the arc of our lives.

 

Ah.

 

That word “compromise.”

 

Therein lies maybe one of the most difficult topics of the current generation.

 

The topic is that the concept of compromise … meeting someone half way … is now a nebulous concept.

death of compromise

Why?

 

Because I am not sure I know where the hell half way is.

 

And I tend to believe a shitload of people are standing with me, on one side or the other, not really sure where the hell half way is.

 

And if you cannot even see the middle ground how the hell can you figure out how to make a stand on it?

 

Now.

 

This gets compounded by a massive online communal world in which we all live side by side where even the marginalized people <real or perceived> who now have a place to gather into likeminded groups, share as much a space as mainstream views.

For good, or for bad, online any group of people can organize & mobilize & challenge the status quo … or pick & choose which status quo fits their view.

 

The internet amplifies discourses critical of … well … any status quo you can think of.  And, as anyone could expect, all the critical discourse triggers a corresponding equal backlash from those who fear an uprooting of their beliefs the nature of compromise miserable<and the self identities that are inevitably attached to these beliefs>.

 

It just becomes one huge mosh pit of criticism and cocooning of likeminded people.

 

People … all who are angry.

 

Within all of this situation & anger … it seems like no one is civil to one another. And maybe worse is the fact there is this ‘digging in’ aspect where we refuse to see any merit in other people’s opinions.

 

Sadly, I can only conclude that we have lost the ability to converse, discuss, debate and have a dialogue with one another.

 

It seems obvious <at least to me> but if we could figure out how to come together and compromise, that we could go a long way toward not only creating a better version of society in general … but it may give me, and all of us, at least a fighting chance with regard to where we make our own personal stand … and where we compromise … and how we attain the future that we contain.

 

As long as people cling to unbending attitudes & beliefs, the divides between us will not deepen … but will remain an unbridgeable divide.

 

I tend to believe most of us want better that that.

I tend to believe most of us would be willing to work to make this a better and more civil world to live in.

 

And if you do not embrace this thinking?

 

I would remind everyone that America is representative of a great compromise. The U.S. Constitution is possibly the greatest Compromise ever negotiated <it created a nation>.

 

 

But as a first step to bettering this entire situation we need to figure out how to better define Compromise.

 

compromise not an act weaknessFar too many loudmouthed people have ripped the meaning out of the word,  twisted the value of the word making it seem valueless, and ultimately created an environment in which  we demonize the entire process of trying to reach compromise.

Compromise no longer means understanding your differences and working together toward a common goal but now it seems to represent weakness, losing and not being strong enough to get what you want.

 

This unwillingness to work together has wrought havoc to society where the unwavering stance seems to be “don’t compromise, stick to your guns, don’t give in to the other side”.

 

Sigh.

 

Look.

 

I find it hard to believe that the majority of America is really that selfish and that stubborn.

 

Sure. I know the people most passionate about any issue tend to be the ones less willing to compromise on them.

And, yeah, I would guess most of us are fairly passionate about ourselves – what we decide to stand for … as well as what we will decide to sacrifice within compromise to attain some progress.

 

But within this wacky world where no one seems to want to compromise anything on anything … well … shit … some of us are trying to think a little bit about what you may want to stubbornly stand for and demand of Life … and what you may decide to compromise with Life to insure you have something … some progress to show at the end.

 

It seems like the situation we are in has arisen because we have permitted the stubborn voices of the radical marginalized <real and perceived> to drown out the pragmatic voices of realistic positive compromise.

 

If we want society to start working again we need to embrace compromise — and let it retain the positive definition which has served it well through time.

 

To end this I will go back to the beginning.

 

The “I” aspect.

 

I tend to believe all of us, with the intent of finding the best version of ourselves from which our ultimate legacy will be defined, will seek to find the balance of being stubborn and demand that Life bend to us and our principles and compromise where we make a grand bargain with Life in order to continue progressing.

 

Uhm.

 

If we believe this … then why wouldn’t we want this in Life and in business and in politics and in … well … everything.

 

There was a book that discussed this. In The Spirit of Compromise <Amy Gutsman and Dennis Thomson> they note that Americans support general compromise as an idea and like the idea of ‘other people’ working together to get stuff done <statistics support this in a variety of studies & polls>.

 

Oh shit.

 

However.

 

The authors then note that support for compromise breaks down when it addresses specific issues <Americans are much less likely to support a compromise life good want you theycompromise on a specific issue>. As with most things in Life we enthusiastically embrace the conceptual behavior and balk at the actual behavior.

 

Compromise is complex … and simple.

 

What I do know is that we contain our own future and building that future demands that we will have to make some compromises.  That is simple.

Making the specific choices is complex.

And while I am mostly interested in my own future and making my own compromise choices … I tend to believe we would all find the better version of ourself contained within … if the society as a whole were more willing to refind the value in compromise.

 

Enlightened Conflict