The news media and political pundits tire me with their views about the current state of the negotiations around BREXIT. Be it parliament in debate, the news channel live reporting or commenting, newspaper opinions, twitter and facebook barrage, it is tiring. One can speak of BREXIT fatigue. Around Parliament it looks an A&E site. What next? Who to listen to? Will there be a ray of light through the logjam? Father Brown (GK Chesterton’s amateur sleuth) observed that “what we dread most is a maze with no center” . The road towards BREXIT feels like being lost in a maze. What can our living together well, giving current exhaustion and the feeling of inability, look like?
We are in situation of impasse and impasse drives us to a raw cry for help. Is impasse here due to resistance to workable solutions or is it simply exhaustion of creativity – to imagine something different? Can more of our politicians gather around the issue rather than their party’s view? It may be the case that this impasse has been taking shape over many years as part of a larger trend in the political life of the UK. What is going on? Is politics in the UK falling apart? When will this march of folly end and where will it take us? How can we imagine ways around the gridlock? Are we staring into a dystopic reality where, to paraphrase Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben, politics melts into the managing of a permanent disorder? It may be the case that ‘things are falling apart’ – and why not?
This may be part of the process of moving forward. Many do hope so. But moving forward asks of all a commitment to be mutually inconvenienced for something larger than each strongly held position – the common good – a shared goal. From my location, that common good has to do with equity, justice, the well-being of the most vulnerable and much more. There is clearly a need for a change in public discourse, in the naming issues, in reconsidering how people engage with each other, in intentional self-interrogation of those in leadership, and certainly a need for the media balancing freedom of expression with responsible/accountable reporting. I suppose the immediate question is what will leaders do to offer anew promise, hope and sense of security?
The gridlock, anger, frustrations, disappointment, anxiety will not disappear through massive changes. Trust, renewed political will, and confidence will take time to rebuild. The places where we become “stuck”, are often the limitations of our own myopic perspectives. Am I able and willing to see the alternative outside of what I am accustomed to see or comfortable with? I wonder if we can each enter in the other shoes/position and with deep empathy dare to see the situation from the perspective of the ‘other’. Demonstrating empathy and the gift of listening in a situation of impasse may help us to be kinder, and who knows, may enlist the help of the ‘other’ as an ally.
Alfred Brendel, the Austrian musician and poet, noted, the word “listen” contains the same letters as the word “silent.” There is a profound relationship between intentional silence and our capacity to listen. When we get quiet we become more aware of all the noise around us, between us, and within us. Time in silence, both personal and collective, prepares our hearts for conversation. Silence helps us grow to recognize and distinguish the still, small voice within us from all the other voices in our lives. Perhaps, what we need currently is a moratorium on talking and more investment on indicative silence and listening. This will demand visionary leadership. And to draw on the late Vaclav Havel: “Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.”