There is an epidemic of fear in our world today.
In nature, fear is brief. Things go back to normal when the danger is past. But we live in a state of prolonged fear - our view of the world and each other is restricted by fear.
Fear keeps us in a state of tension. Potential adversaries are everywhere. We never know if we have enough of what we need. We put everything into broad categories - safe or unsafe, for or against. Our focus narrows, we’re quick to anger and react without thinking or asking questions. We seek strong leaders who promise to keep us safe.
Fear has become part of how we see our world and each other. Increasing divisiveness, conflict, and violence can be traced to fear as can escalating rates of anxiety, depression, and youth suicide.
How did we get here? It starts young. Traditional children’s stories present a life full danger where evil characters wait in the shadows. Movies, games, and videos highlight adversarial relationships where violence is often presented as the best way to solve problems. News outlets generate fear by emphasizing what’s wrong in the world. Politics fuels division and misunderstanding by focusing on blame and disdain. Our world view is so full of threats and problems that we no longer see possibilities or potential.
What can we do? Fear dissipates through understanding and connection. I’ve dealt with dozens of violent incidents, including threats of mass violence. Seeking understanding and making a meaningful connection worked every time.
How can we do that? It starts with courageous conversations. Courageous Conversations RI is designed to help us understand how messages we receive from media and politics affect how we see, respond to, and create the world we live in. We’ve been meeting the past few months to explore a range of topics including violent extremism and why conflicts are so difficult to resolve. We learned how to separate feelings from facts, identified who influences our beliefs and learned how they operate. We discussed free speech, hate speech, and censorship.
What makes this program truly special is the diverse range of perspectives and viewpoints it welcomes and supports. We learned from each other through facilitated small group discussions that explored questions about sources of divisiveness and how to respond to them. It was fun, interesting, and rewarding without taking much time. It’s something much needed in our world - something we can all benefit from.
The next step is to create a ripple effect. Courageous Conversations RI has developed a robust support system, accompanied by financial incentives, to encourage participation in this transformative process. We can break down barriers that keep us from working together to solve problems and explore possibilities.
Through courageous conversations we can challenge the narratives that have dominated our world far too long. By questioning the messages we receive, engaging in meaningful dialogue, and promoting empathy and understanding, we can transform our communities and create a brighter future for generations to come. We can create a
society that recognizes and celebrates the potential within each person - a place where compassion, cooperation, and understanding prevail. It's time to reclaim the narrative and shape a world that we will be proud to hand down to our children and grandchildren. It’s time for courageous conversations.