By: Isabel Nuesse
well-be·ing | \ ˈwel-ˈbē-iŋ \
Definition of well-being : the state of being happy, healthy, or prosperous : WELFARE
It’s a tumultuous time in the United States. With an ever-divisive political arena, our sensitivities have the wheel and it’s much easier to stick to our corners, and talk amongst ourselves.The outcome of the upcoming federal election could further exacerbate political polarity. If this trend continues, I expect few will applaud the result.
Writing this piece, I’m a little scared. I do not want to over-simplify, offer a blanket solution, cause offense or seem uninformed. I know I’m not alone in this. These worries are everywhere. Due to our lack of trust for the ‘other’, we’re losing our ability, or more specifically, our desire to communicate honestly with each other.
Conversations on topical news stories can often end with the warning of, ‘don’t make this political’, because it’s almost guaranteed that one side will lash out at the other. Or, we spew ‘facts’ back and forth. But are we sitting with the complexity of these issues, thinking from other perspectives or challenging our own thinking?
I see both the left and the right disengaging entirely. ‘You’re threatening to take away my abortion right?’ ‘You’re threatening to take away my guns?’ It’s a yes/no, a this/that, either/or. When in reality, it’s almost all grey. But are we willing to believe in the grey? It’s much easier to stick to our corners and hold a hard line.
A transition toward an economy centered on wellbeing may only be possible if people are willing to and capable of having patient conversations with one another.
It’s true that sometimes patient conversations cannot be had, due to deep rooted histories of oppression. In this instance, my suggestion does not apply.
I do believe however, many people are capable of having these conversations. But they’re hard, uncomfortable and can be extremely emotional. If we don’t start to shift more of the conversation to be inquiry-based, with a focus on the core issues, do we run a risk of escalated unrest?
I found some hope in seeing this video the other day, of two candidates running for Governor in Utah.
I’m not sure this has ever been done before…but as our national political dialogue continues to decline, my opponent @PetersonUtah and I decided to try something different. We can disagree without hating each other. Let’s make Utah an example to the nation. #StandUnited #utpol pic.twitter.com/Tkr2sDCYTB— Spencer Cox (@SpencerJCox) October 20, 2020
It is not perfect. But, it’s somewhat refreshing to see the two sides trying to move beyond the hyperpolarization of our current political state.
In my own life I’ve tried to facilitate some of these conversations. 7 months ago, I moved back in with my parents in a small town in Massachusetts. Twice a week, I walk with a friend of my Mom’s: a ‘fiscally conservative’ voter, who is curious enough to engage me in conversations on current events. From police violence, racial justice, supreme court nominees, climate change and Jeff Bezos’ trillion dollar salary, we cover it all.
We can agree that local community resilience is paramount, that wealth inequality is an issue, that police often act above the law, that women are the future and that nearly all political parties can act immorally. While these agreements are not revolutionary, they are telling.
These topics are complex. I can see from her perspective and have been forced to ask myself questions that I would not have thought of before. It can be refreshing to chat with her, because she is so hopeful about the future that it can sometimes dampen my worry.
Most importantly, these conversations have solidified the fact that we do have similar visions for the future.
Meaning, we can likely find common ground to work together towards a country we’re both proud to live in.
My vision for a Wellbeing Economy in the US starts with us. Compromise is not impossible. And having compassion is important. One way to transition toward a Wellbeing Economy is to start in the community to better understand our neighbors, and to be open to question our individual perspectives. We have to remind ourselves that the ‘other’ isn’t evil. We can co-create an economy that meets the needs of all people. And we don’t need to be filtering our conversation to do that.
There is not one blueprint for a Wellbeing Economy; the shape, institutions and activities that get us there will look different in different contexts, both across countries and between different communities within countries. However, the high-level goals for a Wellbeing Economy are the same everywhere: wellbeing for all, in a flourishing natural world. Visions of a Wellbeing Economy is a series highlighting voices from the diverse WEAll global network on describing their visions of what a Wellbeing Economy might look like in the context of their countries and how the meaning of the words ‘wellbeing’ and a ‘Wellbeing Economy’ in their respective language impacts this vision.