It is with these repeated horrific events, like the latest terror attack in Nice, that I hope we are going to have ONE long-term positive effect: To encourage us to do (more) things that are #MEANINGFUL . In the face of such wanton barbarity, there is an immediate flush of support and solidarity, an outpouring of laments, the creation of new #IamNice slogans and logos… All reasonable and appreciated. Yet, we tend to subside back into our slouched position all too quickly. For some, the ’reaction’ is that we can’t let such acts change our ways. Fair enough. For others, the hand-wringing yields to finger-wagging. Yet, we must brace ourselves for more. There are no signs that the radicalization and brutality is ready to abate.
The Power of A Cohesive Narrative
Many cite the “historical narrative” and homogenized ideology that al-Qaida and ISIS offer for lost souls. In reality, the western (i.e. the so-called evolved, free and democratic) ideology may be the one that is perceived to be lost — and not just by the outsiders. Those gravitating to Jihad and the al-Qaida cause are attracted to the hypnotic vision and sense of purpose that require action. What is needed on the Western side is a stronger sense of identity, a sense of purpose that offers an alluring alternative. Running after the next sale, buying the bigger car, drinking a 2009 claret, watching your favorite sports team play a match, or forking over a dollar a day on a lottery ticket are the kinds of activities that western society promotes. On top of that, there are the hauntingly recurrent and self-inflicted embarrassments (specifically in the US): the mass shootings, the excessive violence of cops against unarmed youths, the clamping down on abortion, the belief in creationism… Enough to reassure — if not make laugh — those sitting in the vile ISIS camp.
Finding an Active Solution?
What is the best or right response? It’s easy enough to put words onto paper. But, what actions can we take? Each person must, of course, find their own answer. This is especially tricky when religion is extracted from the equation. In the midst of all the hand-wringing, there is the inevitable question of why this is happening? Why such wanton nastiness? But, even if one is religious, this cannot be boiled down to a question of my god versus your god. In any event, just praying more and giving money to one’s dioceses will not resolve anything. What force can overcome the depressing and, sometimes, overwhelming sentiment of helplessness? In my case, I believe the need is to insert more meaningfulness into one’s daily life in an active way.
But, how does one find meaning and/or meaningfulness? As Daniel Dennet, Professor at Tufts, philosopher and cognitive scientist, said at the IntelligenceSquared conference, celebrating Richard Dawkins’ 75th birthday, in London just recently:
Inevitably, it is not about being 100% meaningful. That’s like searching for the holy grail or being 100% perfect. We need to give ourselves a break. However, ideally every day is partially and practically allocated to that “something” that is bigger than oneself.
Higher Laic Purpose
Importantly, the association of purpose to practical matters is relevant faced with the extreme ideology of religion. The mystical, abstract and unprovable notion of God is what animates these terror acts. I think that a terrestrial meaningfulness — rooted in actions — is most necessary countervailing force. We need a higher — and laic — purpose. Naturally, the tenets of the various scriptures will accord at least in part with acts such as “doing good to one another.” However, the association to a religious cause is not my preferred route. As Richard Dawkins proposes, we should consider the “cause” or purpose as humanistic.
Personal and Professional
Whether you are an entrepreneur, an executive at a company, a student, a homemaker or retired, we need to find a way to link what we do and who we are to something bigger. That way we will all find the force to overcome the cowardly, dark and cruel acts which, sadly, continue to litter our news feeds. For my part, this is the first time I have decided to cross into a more political post on my typically business blog. I felt the urge to make sure that my personal and professional stance were in collusion.
Will Business Step Up?
Brands and business need to play their part, too. That is why I am particularly fond of the mission that Giles Gibbons leads at Good Business. Aside from the daily work their clients, every Friday, Good Business provides a Friday 5 newsletter of good news. My friend, Stephen Gresty, has launched the 3 Good Things page on Facebook. Finding an action that is aligned with who you are and gives you a stronger purpose is a superlative and powerful driving force. What action would you and your company commit to?
For brands, I have generally called this finding one’s True North. I’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions!
This post was “inspired” by an earlier Facebook post that seemed to resonate with my community of friends.
*CREDIT: Featured image via Instagram, photo by Gilmore (@gilmorethedachshund).