I had a vision this month: Everyone’s a mediator! This vision has been growing for a while, as issues, causes and people are becoming increasingly polarized.
My daughter recently wrote a paper for one of her University classes about “ingroups” vs “outgroups.” An outgroup is any group you don’t belong to, while an ingroup is a group you associate yourself with. It is commonly acknowledged in social psychology that the social group we identify with (our ingroup) is quick to denigrate others who don’t fit into our group. We tend to see members of our own ingroup as capable of having differences (called ingroup heterogeneity) yet when we look at an outgroup – we see them all as similar (called outgroup homogeneity).
So, from a basic human animal point of view, it makes sense that we are becoming more polarized as stress increases through realities such as global and environmental issues increase. Climate change is making a real impact in all our lives and is cited as the root cause of some of our global mass migrations. There are diminishing resources generally as our populations continue to increase. We have the deterioration of the middle class as more wealth concentrates in the hands of a few. All these issues (and more) are painful and cause us to want to band together in our ingroup.
It will take the outliers in each of our ingroups to challenge our thinking and to reach out to the other – the outgroups. The outliers, or mediators, will be the ones to remind our own group that the “other” is not a demon, not evil to the core, not out with only nefarious intentions. These are our peacebuilders. They remind our “side” that there is another “side” – in fact these peacebuilders are our “third side.”
Let’s “arm up” the world with peacebuilders. It starts with an intention – the intention to be a peacebuilder – the intention to notice the nuances and differences that also exist in the outgroup. Not everyone in the outgroup thinks in one clump. They are distinct as we are distinct.
How can you reach out from your own ingroup to be that peacemaker? I heard of a story last week where a few people in a New York subway train took the initiative to remove hate graffiti off the subway they were in. One person suggested it, another acted on it, a third and fourth and fifth joined in. In about 5 mintues, they’d wiped away all the graffiti with a collection of hand sanitizers.