When will this nonsense stop? How far will it go? Will we reach a point where a job posting states that eligible candidates must be of a certain political affiliation, religion, sexual orientation, or nationality? This era of polarization is incredibly dangerous and divisive. Through all of my years in the kitchen I never, ever felt that what made us different was a roadblock; it was the most important thing that made the work interesting. Certainly what is important is what makes us uniquely the same.
It is difficult to get through a day without dwelling on something that makes us all incompatible. I support this candidate and you support another. I have this belief about how a person should live and you believe another. I am for the environment and you could care less. These are all opinions based on the life environment that we grew up in, the friends that we chose, and the affiliations that somehow were attractive to us. In the end, they may not be who we truly are, they are just expressions based on our current way of thinking. When we view our selves as right and everyone else is wrong we have eliminated the possibility for conversation and open minds. When there are only black and white answers then grey becomes impossible to accept.
When we focus on what makes us uniquely the same then the stage is set for calm and intelligent conversation about current beliefs. Without this common area of agreement we fall into that model of polarization without any room to embrace what is good and valuable in others.
Keep this simple fact close to your heart: no one EVER changed another person’s mind through a Facebook or Twitter post. No unifying effort came about by antagonizing another person for his or her current beliefs. Forget, for just a moment who is right and who is wrong and consider how we might collectively create a forum for reasonable and informed discussion and when that is not possible, simply accept that we are different.
In the kitchen, we all know, that there is a common appreciation for food, cooking, and the teamwork necessary to make a restaurant service work. It is no different in many other professions, but in the kitchen it becomes immediately apparent that the results of a service period is totally dependent on everyone putting aside his or her differences and focusing on the responsibilities in front of them. Everything else, in the moment, pales in comparison; and guess what – it feels good.
When this becomes the overriding common denominator then a world of other opportunities become apparent. I have had, as I am sure most cooks reading this agree, incredible conversations where opinions have become the basis for reasonable and fruitful dialogue. Cooks are anxious to express their differences in religious belief, political affiliation, tastes in food, styles of music, thoughts about education, and a litany of other closely held beliefs. When that common belief in team and work sets the tone then people actually begin to listen to each other. They may not change anyone’s beliefs or opinions BUT all sides begin to appreciate another persons right to think differently. This is what it means to live in a country where individual differences are accepted and even celebrated. This is what has always made our country great and in many cases – worth fighting for. When we lose this freedom to hold onto our own beliefs and intelligently discuss them without reprisal then we have lost everything that sets us up as a benchmark for freedom.
What are we doing? Saluting our flag is not a habit, it is an opportunity to express what we believe in and what makes us great. We are great because we are different and we are different because we are allowed to hold on to and express those differences. This is the definition of liberty. Know that very few countries in the world have this freedom of expression and those that do are more often than not, countries that choose to model themselves after us. What are be doing? If we continue to feed this feeling of polarization – “I’m right and you are wrong”, then we have lost everything.
We have suddenly relinquished our ability to listen and calmly discuss what we believe in and have accepted only those opinions and beliefs that align with ours. Where will this end attitude bring us? If our work and social environment is filled only with those who agree with each other then we will wind up with a stale and uninspired product or service, an unfulfilled relationship and a company or social network that fails to move forward. If we attempt to develop friendships and relationships with only those people who share our political, religious, or lifestyle affiliations and beliefs then how will families grow and become dynamic and inspired? Is this fate too extreme or does it seem like we are headed in a terrifying direction?
What brings us together and what we share in common pales in comparison to what makes us different. The best companies, the most dynamic families, the most fruitful relationships come from an appreciation of difference.
At least in the kitchen I have always felt that differences unite – I only hope that this continues to be the common denominator and that we (cooks, chefs, bakers, dishwashers, and service staff) hang on to this uniquely special environment even in the face of a society more and more content on accepting polarization as the norm.
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC