All Episodes

March 30, 2023 85 mins

The intensifying political division and violence in our country is concerning — but it’s not unique. And few know that better than Tim Phillips. For 30 years, his organization Beyond Conflict has been bringing people from opposing sides of violent divides together to find common ground. He shares insights from their research into human psychology that could hold keys for overcoming violent division, along with lessons from Northern Ireland, South Africa and beyond to help us fight polarization here at home. 

 

SHOW ACTIONS

Internally Reflect - Try the 90-Second Rule 

Think about a time when you strongly disagreed with someone about a political or ideological issue, and notice where you felt that tension or frustration in your body. The next time you’re in that situation: try the 90 second rule — created by Harvard researcher Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, who found it takes 90 seconds for an emotion to pass. Before engaging in a debate or discussion that gets your blood boiling, take 90 seconds to do absolutely nothing: wait to exchange words, step away from your phone — whatever it takes to give you that minute and a half of simply not-that-debate.

Become More Informed - Learn about polarization 

Check out this video from Tim’s organization, Beyond Conflict about polarization and misperceptions between Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. And if you want to dig deeper, read their two reports on the issue: America’s Divided Mind: Understanding the Psychology That Drives Us Apart and Renewing American Democracy: Navigating a Changing Nation. Tim also recommends listening to this interview with South African leaders about how the U.S. can move beyond toxic polarization. 

Publicly Participate - Invest in building real relationships 

Move conversations offline and invest in building real relationships with people across the aisle in your community. Try engaging with organizations setting up opportunities for Americans to come together, and navigate our divides at the local level, such as One America Movement, Civic Genius, Make America Dinner Again, and Living Room Conversations.

 

SHOW NOTES

Read Tim’s article about what neuroscience can teach us about gun culture in America. 

Find How To Citizen on Instagram or visit howtocitizen.com to join our mailing list and find ways to citizen besides listening to this podcast! 

Please show your support for the show by reviewing and rating. It makes a huge difference with the algorithmic overlords and helps others like you find the show!

How To Citizen is hosted by Baratunde Thurston. He’s also host and executive producer of the PBS series, America Outdoors as well as a founding partner and writer at Puck. You can find him all over the internet

 

CREDITS

How To Citizen with Baratunde is a production of iHeartRadio Podcasts and Rowhome Productions. Our Executive Producers are Baratunde Thurston and Elizabeth Stewart. Allie Graham is our Lead Producer and Danya AbdelHameid is our Associate Producer. Alex Lewis is our Managing Producer. John Myers is our Executive Editor. Original Music by Andrew Eapen and Blue Dot Sessions. Our Audience Engagement Fellows are Jasmine Lewis and Gabby Rodriguez. Special thanks to Joelle Smith from iHeartRadio and Layla Bina. Additional thanks to our citizen voices Andrea B., Debra, Ina P., Mary P., Damon W., and Allison M.

See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Mark as Played
Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:03):
Any notion of reaching across these divides is seen as compromise,
is seen as selling out. And yet would experience in
other countries have shown and not just the Mendelos and
many others, you know, we have to find a way
to bridge this. Welcome to How to Citizen with Baritune Day,
a podcast that reimagine citizen as a verb, not a

(00:27):
legal status. This season is all about how we practice democracy,
what can we get rid of, what can we invent,
and how do we change the culture of democracy itself,
relieving the theoretical clouds and hitting the ground with inspiring
examples of people and institutions that are showing us new
ways to govern ourselves. Throughout season four, we've spent a

(00:53):
lot of time dreaming up and defining what a culture
of democracy can look and feel like. And that collective
vision is beautiful and motivating. But to build the culture
we want, we also need to face the one we've got,
and right now, I think that culture is conflict. Our

(01:17):
democracy is based on this extreme version of in group outgroup.
We don't just disagree, we dehumanize And I'm not a
both sides kind of person. I think the right has
done a lot more of this, but I've experienced it
from the left too, and I know that nobody's got
a monopoly on our garbage culture. We've all become more

(01:40):
deeply entrenched in our differences, and many of us don't
see or don't want to see a path toward being
in community with people on the other side. Throw in guns,
sensational media, and a political system that rewards outlandishness, and
the division we experience looks much more like a feature
than a bug Listen. Sometimes I wish everyone I disagreed

(02:06):
with would just read that article I sent them and
realize how wrong they are. Other Times I find myself
asking if we can just split the country in half,
call it a day. We tried, and we move on separately.
But community cannot be defined by total alignment on everything.

(02:27):
That's not community. That's a cult. And we're trying to
live together better here. That's the mission, and that living
together requires living with an incredible amount of difference. We've
been talking a lot about bringing democracy home, but it's

(02:47):
hard to practice democracy at home when there are members
of our families we can't talk to because they've been
sucked into conspiracy, because they're part of a dehumanizing political
culture or their opinions and mere presence feel so opposed
to our own that it's hard to practice anything with them.

(03:08):
But if we stop trying and just accept that this
is the way things are, this division will only get worse.
I'm must confess that I have this fear. I fear
and I feel the possibility of truly escalated armed conflict

(03:30):
along politically divided lines in this country, something we haven't
experienced on mass you know, since our Civil war, and
we're not currently in that state. We're not living through
that literally right now, but it's a nightmare many of
us carry, and it's an actual lived reality that other
people around the world have gone through quite recently. Tim

(03:55):
Phillips and his organization Beyond Conflict have been facilitating conversations
between the victims and perpetrators of extreme violence and harm
for over thirty years. I reached out to hear how
they've helped people work through life altering conflict so we
can gain some insights into how we avoid the path
that Rwanda, Northern Ireland and so many other countries have

(04:18):
already been down. After the break my first of two
conversations with Tim Phillips, which took place a few weeks
after the January sixth insurrection. Tim, thank you so much
for spending time with me and with us. And I'm

(04:41):
here with you in part because I had a great
experience with your organization through a gathering in downtown Los
Angeles a few years back. And the specifics are no
longer with me, but the emotion is my mind felt
almost literally blown. I've done a lot of work around
race and people feeling disconnected from each other and polarized,

(05:02):
and there was something your facilitators did that helped us
all see the world a little differently. So I just
want to take this personal, selfish opportunity to thank you
for that experience, thank you for training people and not
just you, to do some of this work, and thanks
again for making time. I'd love to start him with
a more personal question. Can you tell me something about

(05:25):
yourself that surprises you? Yeah? Thank you. That's a really
good question, and surprises me is maybe this is getting
very personal, but I've been doing this work internationally for
over thirty years and I still struggle with feeling agency
in this work, and it surprises me. But it also

(05:47):
reflects on the challenge of the work. I think we
both are trying to do, which is, how do you
give people agency in this world? How do you give
people a sense that they can really become agents of
their own personal lives, but of the people around them.
And you know, because we're coming up in thirty years
and most of our work was international in the last

(06:07):
five years, started working here in the United States, I
really started reflecting on the work of the internationally to
bring it home to this country. And I started really
thinking about what allowed me to go overseas in my
late twenties was I knew what exclusion felt like. I
knew what humiliation felt like, I knew what feeling less
than equal felt like, and not in a sense gave

(06:29):
me an emotional connection to the difficulty of this work.
And I think thinking about where we are as a
country and the challenges we face has also been reflection
on my own journey. Can I press you on the
humiliation that you were familiar with, which sounds like it's
helped you do this work? What was that for you? Well?

(06:49):
I grew up the youngest of six children, grew up
in a housing project here in Boston, what was used
to be called veterans housing. I didn't like the fact
that we lived there because I was being haunted. I
was being judged. Often hearing parents will say to their
son I was in school with why are you hanging
out with that kid from the projects? And so that

(07:09):
really shaped a part of me to feel, you know,
I know what this shit feels like. But also I
had a mother who said, no, you live in Buckingham Palace.
And years later I saw the real Buckingham Palace and
I said to my mother. I took out a trip
to London with my sisters. I said, let me just
show you. This ain't Buckingham Palace where we grew up.
But the point is is that, you know, I had

(07:30):
both nupbringing that knew what exclusion and humiliation and fear
felt like. But I also had, like many people, parents
who said, this isn't what defines you as a human being,
in your family, in your community. But to your point
about humiliation, I remember when I started going overseas in
the late eighties early nineties, particularly at the end of
the Cold War, when I would meet these dissidents who

(07:53):
are now serving in government or leaders of journalism or
civil society organizations. They knew what it felt like through
a different lens, which is to be a victim, to
keep your head down, to feel like you're always on
guard and you don't really belong. And it was just
really an eye opener for me about how this manifests
itself on a human experience and not just defined by

(08:14):
the country we grew up in. For someone who's never
heard of beyond conflict, what is it? So it's an
organization that started in nineteen ninety one when I had
a chance to go to Central East in Europe at
the end of the Cold War and had a chance
to meet, as I mentioned earlier, as some of these
dissidents who are now running these post communist countries, and
I remember asking them, how do you deal with your past?

(08:36):
How are you dealing with the legacy of repression or
a dictatorship, what it did to individuals and communities. And
the response was, well, that's what we talk about amongst ourselves.
But that's not the help we're getting right now, because
at the end of the Cold War we were getting
help to write constitutions, build new democratic institutions, design market economies.

(08:57):
Nobody can understand what we've gone through. We're being asked
to manage these new governments and transitions, and we don't
know where to get this help. And so that led
me to this simple, what I thought, one off conference notion,
or bring together these new leaders of these postcommunist countries,
but with people who themselves had been through a transition
from dictatorship to democracy. And in nineteen ninety one the

(09:21):
examples were Argentina, Chile, there was a process in a
couple of African countries, Spain after Franco denocification in Germany,
and so I had said to some folks, you guys
should do a special session bringing these new leaders of
these postcommunist countries. But do it not with self described experts,
but people from these other countries that struggled with these transitions,

(09:42):
who never imagined that they could have come out the
other side, almost like a big support group. And so
what started as a one off conference became a second
and third. But there was a real growing interest and
how do we learn from the experience of others, how
do we deal with our past? And of course at
the end of the Cold War you normally had what
happened in Eastern Europe, but at the beginning of the

(10:03):
peace process in Northern Ireland, or the Central American Peace Accords,
or the beginning of a negotiated transition in South Africa.
And then on the flip side you had the disintegration
of Yugoslavia and so forth. And so this whole period
became ripe for work not only about how do you
build democracy, but how do you deal with these countries

(10:24):
that are coming out of brutal past. And so for
these thirty years we have worked in probably seventy five
countries with this notion of she had experience, meaning bringing
in people to model as former enemies what change could
look like. Do you remember the moment you became interested
in conflict resolution? Well, I think actually in late eighties,

(10:45):
nineteen eighty seven, I was watching the Super Bowl at
the home of a woman who's sort of well known,
Doris Kurrn's Goodwin and her husband Richard Goodwin at the
time KG. Yeah, And I knew her had a husband
through some work in a political campaign. And there was
Bob Dole, Senate majority leader, and he had flown to
Managua Reagan was president to criticize in ridicule the Sundinista government,

(11:10):
and then got back on his plane and flew home
and I remember seeing this in between the Super Bowl
sort of innings, and I remember thinking, what just happened here?
Why did he not go and actually see the leaders?
Who was he playing to what's actually going on in
the region. And Dick Goodwin had been the author of
the Alliance for Progress as a speech for JFK, and

(11:32):
so he had a deep tie to the region. And
I remember just speaking to the two of them and saying,
this is pretty incredible that you have one of the
biggest issues on the foreign policy agenda of the United
States and people are just sort of playing politics for
domestic purposes here in the United States. Can we understand
this better? And so I ended up organizing a trip
to Central America with Doris Goodwin and others to see

(11:54):
firsthand what was going on. And then I ended up
meeting the Sundinista leadership at the time of Nicaragua and
at the Contras in Costa Rica, the f Mellen Gorillas
of El solvad Or meeting in Nicaragua because it was safe,
and then people from the other side and other settings,
and it was just mind blowing and it was a
huge eye opener to not only the region but the

(12:15):
nature of conflict and the fact that people can learn
from each other as sort of kumbayas that sounds, but
that was early at the core you set up this
mentor program, this support route of people who've been through
something like this before, for those who were new to
the process. Democracy sponsors, if you will. Where did that
support group idea come from? Where people seated in a

(12:36):
circle holding candles? No, but you know, I think that's
the nature. You're a very creative individual human being, right,
Creativity just sort of emerges, right, and in this context,
it just struck me that sitting in these rooms, whether
it be a workshop, a conference, or sitting around a
dinner table with people who are struggling with even the

(12:59):
nose sitting across the table from their enemy and having
from South Africa. Sarah Romoposa who's now president, or Rolf
Mayer who was the chief negotiator for the Clerk come
into a group of Protestant former paramilitary leaders in Belfast
and say, you know, we're here now as friends. We

(13:19):
just negotiated about a year ago the end of APARTEID
in South Africa, and we want to ask you what
is making it so difficult for you to imagine change here,
and you would hear these people across the divide in
Northern Ireland saying, if they could do it in South Africa,
why can't we do it here? You know, if they
could make peace with their enemy, then why is it

(13:41):
we're struggling to even imagine sitting in the same room
with these people. I've read too many newspapers over time,
so I kind of know a lot of these names
you've dropped, But could you explain for someone who may
not have heard of it what was going on in
Northern Ireland. So the Northern Ireland conflict lasted about thirty years,
starting in the late six literally thirty years until nineteen

(14:02):
ninety eight, and over thirty five hundred people were killed,
many of the meicent civilians, and the equivalent in this
country would be a million civilians being killed in the
United States. And if you were a Catholic, you viewed
the conflict as a legacy of centuries of repression by
the British government in one form or another. If you

(14:22):
were Protestant, many of them thought of this conflict as
a thirty year aggravated crime wife. And so you had
really diametrically opposed views of what the nature of the
conflict was middle class, affluent Catholics tended to join if
they joined a political party, the Social Democratic Labor Party
led by John Hume. They wanted eventual unification with Ireland,

(14:45):
but we're willing to do it politically and not through
armed conflict or resistance. But often more working class Catholics
who lived in many of the poorer communities were known
as Irish Republicans and they tended to support in Fain,
and many of them joined and supported the Irish Republican
Army and felt it was a legitimate resistance to colonial repression.

(15:09):
And their view was we couldn't wait for unification. It
has to happen now and if we have to use
armed resistance to get it, we will. And then on
the other side, you know, you had two mainstream Unionists
or Protestant political parties, the Democratic Ulster Unionist Party and
the UUP Ulster Unionist Party. One was sort of more

(15:30):
middle class, which is the UUP DUP was led by
Ian Paisley, and they wanted to preserve their British identity.
Protestants were British and they were going to defend it.
And the working class equivalent of shin Fin and the
IRA where the Loyalless paramilitary parties and their two armed wings,
and they ended up killing more people than the IRA did.

(15:54):
And I mentioned a friend of mine, David Irvine, who
was a Loyalless paramilitary leader, and I remember taking them
to know only the Balkans, but to Columbia to meet
with the el n in the Farc and others over
the years. And he really connected with him because even
though he was white Protestant from Northern Ireland, he was
a working class socialist as you would say. But somebody

(16:17):
who said that we took up arms to defend a
community that we thought was under threat. But he said,
we went from defending our community in other words, feeling
that we had to kill to live, than to living
to kill. And he said something about a conflict like
that takes over our psyche and our community and the
narratives that you wake up a decade later and saying

(16:38):
you know, we're living to kill. This is what we know.
And so where it ended up is the Good Friday
Agreement brought them together, but it didn't get to that
point of resolving these underlying differences. Wow, thank you for that, Tim.
Most of us. We really didn't know the details of
that conflict, and I think, as Wikipedia to Tim, you
did a good job of breaking that down. I want

(17:00):
to know when you bring these leaders together, where their
trust falls to him. What's the vibe of those gatherings.
If it's the first gathering, it's often very tense. I'll
give an example. After the signing of the day In
Peace Accords, I was asked by Richard Holbrook if I
could bring together in London the leaders of the three
communities in Bosnia, Serb, Proat and Muslim. I mean, the

(17:24):
Dayton Peace Accords forced a sort of peace agreement, but
in many ways those communities were not done fighting each other,
and there was such profound anger, and so we ended
up having this gathering in London, and in the beginning
we had the three communities come in and the last
ones to take the seat with the leaders of Bosnia.

(17:45):
They called themselves Republic of Serupska. They were kind of
a proto fascist state, frankly, and the Bosnian Muslim leaders
saw them and walked out and said, we can't sit
in the same room with these war criminals. And the
people who got up and went to the Bosnia Muslims
and said please come back in where the Palestinian and
Israeli leaders who were in the room, who were women,

(18:06):
a South African leader and somebody from Belfast, because they
immediately understood how difficult this was, and they went on
their own out into the lobby and spoke with them
for about forty five minutes and essentially, you know, we're allies.
They said, please come in and sit in this room.
We know how difficult this is. And in moments like that,

(18:29):
you know, it's really difficult to imagine sitting in the
same room with people who were involved at the cleansing
or involved in killing and then in that sort of
support group approach. When they're sitting there, at first they're like,
how do these people from Northern Ireland are Bosnia or
El Salvad or connect with my experience? And then when
you hear there are stories and what they went through,

(18:53):
then the differences start to fade away and people start
to listen. And there was one moment when a man
named David irv who unfortunately has passed away, who was
a Protestant paramilitary leader who spent a decade in prison
for terrorism, was sitting there with these Kosovo leaders at
a different conference, and they were shouting and yelling and saying,
how do we learn from you? What do you have

(19:15):
to share to our experience? And one person yelled out,
we had artillery reigning on Sarajevo or reigning on Mostar.
You didn't have any of that. And David looked over
at a former IRA commander and was the first time
the two of them had met, and they said, if
we had access to artillery, trust us, we would have

(19:38):
used them on each other. We used everything we could
to destroy the other side. And you could see that
the boson coos of our leaders stop and begin to listen.
And then somebody said, but aren't you were a terrorist?
And David said, you know, terrorists have to come from somewhere,
and injustice is a powerful place to come from. And

(19:59):
what would happen it is you could see people start
to pull back and listen and realize they're not here
giving a history example. They're speaking and profoundly human terms
in ways that resonate with their own experience and challenge.
Just gave me chills with that one you've mentioned, and
been a part of a lot of different gatherings of

(20:22):
people who've been on opposite sides of issues. El Salvador,
Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Bosnia of region. What outcome
has surprised you the most in all of this experience?
Is there one that stands out? One of my great
honors of life is having met Nelson Mandelar in nineteen
ninety two, and he actually served on our advisory board

(20:45):
and I had a chance to meet him in New
York and I went up to him in our brief
sort of encounter, and I asked him, as you negotiate
the future of your country, are you thinking about how
are you going to deal with your past? And he
looked at me in these said, that's exactly an issue
that I've been thinking about. We've been thinking about, and
he called over his aid, a woman named Barbara Masskella

(21:07):
at the time, and I had, you know, I had
this sort of I guess presumption of writing a memo
and I gave it to his assistant and it laid
out the question of as South Africa's negotiating this big transition,
what are the models to look at? And so of
course it was Argentina, Chile. What happened in Europe at
the end of World War Two. But what struck me

(21:29):
was Mandela came back to me at the end of
that reception and there are all these great and the
good and here was this young guy who got invited
through a friend and he come up to me. He said,
I'm going to follow up with you on this because
this is really important. And he did. And over the years,
I was able to bring people from Northern Ireland, the Balkans,
the Middle East, to South Africa when he was president

(21:51):
and after, and he would sit there and he would
say to them things like be tough on structures, be
tough on institutions, but don't be huff on each other.
And had a power coming from Mandela. And we tend
to forget or think because Mandela became such this iconic
figure that what he did is used his political and

(22:13):
moral authority to essent create a pathway for the other
side to cross and said, okay, it is up to
you to cross this bridge. And I've seen less famous
individuals do it in other countries. John Hume in Northern
Ireland did the same thing with the IRA, meeting with
them secretly in the eighties and when his own party

(22:35):
members found out, they wanted to expel him, and he
had the same view. When you describe this scene or
describe his intervention and counsel to others in conflict, how
do you feel in that moment when you witness that.
What's going through you emotionally? What's going through at the time,

(22:55):
me as an American who wasn't from those countries? Is
it landing? Is it making the impact? Because you know,
it's difficult for people to change, particularly when the change
you're going through as an individual, maybe as a leader,
isn't reflected in the community you're from. They're not meeting

(23:16):
the enemy face to face, and they're in that community
that reinforces legitimate grievance and anger and strategy. But there's
something that happens on that human level when you recognize
your enemy as human. And so to your question, I
wish Mandela was alive today. I wish a number of

(23:36):
these leaders who are still alive I can get on
a plane and go and see them, to bring this
home to this country, because now, as an American caught
up in this moment, I'm seeing it through a different lens.
I'm seeing it through a lens of like this shit
is difficult, you know, I had the privilege and not
appreciating it, of pushing people to sit across the table

(23:58):
from their enemy, to make peace with her enemy, literally
telling families in Bosnia and Trebenitza after that they should
move back into those villages and to those homes that
have been rebuilt next to families that try to kill them.
And I felt like I was doing the right thing,
and I was, but here at this moment, this country,

(24:20):
it'll last few years. I'm thinking this work is difficult.
I was at a safe emotional distance from that and
the other thing you asked me about trust. I remember
we brought leaders from Bahrain to Belfast a few years
ago after the Arab Spring, and they were talking to
people separately from Protestant Shenfain other political parties, and they
would ask do you need trust to negotiate? And independently

(24:44):
they will say no, if you had trust, why would
you be negotiating like this. But what they say you
need to build sort of a support network underneath. Recognize
that you if you had trust, you wouldn't be in
this moment. Yeah, yeah, you know, this conversation about trust
makes me think about this concept I've heard you talk

(25:04):
about the zone of discomfort? Can you explain what a
zone of discomfort is and how do you get people
through it? So one of my mentors, as a friend
of mine, Josimitia at Gaeta from Guatemala, and a number
of years ago he said to me, you know, it's
difficult to move people from A to Z at one moment.
You need to move them from sort of A to

(25:24):
D and then D to G. And this is without
knowing the science or research. Just empirically, it's very insightful
because he worked and how do you bridge divides in Guatemala?
How do you build trust where there was no history
of trust? And what he just observed over three decades
was that where people didn't know each other, where they
fail the other side, you would have to bring them
together where they could begin to see the other, understand

(25:47):
the other, and predict the other's behavior. And then you
have to take them through some very difficult realities that
they may not accept. And he said, that's a zone
of discomfort. And then you give him a landing pad
as you would put it in that A to D,
let them process at that and then you take them
to the next level of change. So in the US,

(26:08):
can you paint a picture of one of our zones
of discomfort from one of our communities that needs to
get from A to Z, but an aid to d
leap is a more appropriate path to get there. Yeah.
So after the election in November, you know, we have
this team work and on polarization in American social divides.

(26:29):
When seventy four million people voted for Donald Trump, ten
million more than last time, a lot of people are
here just wanted to not erase these people, but feel like,
how do you talk with them? How do you cross
that divide or bridge that when they had no excuse
in voting for this man four years later? Right? And

(26:50):
I remember as we looked into it, we recognized that
there was a lot of fear in this recent election
on both sides. And one thing, there's a lot of
research on what they call status threat and so for
a lot of people who, let's say supported Donald Trump,
there's fear of the changing cultural demographic terrain of the
United States. And that is rooted in human psychology because

(27:13):
you can see that in Northern Ireland among Protestants as
a demographic changes, or in the Middle East between Israelis
and Palestinians, or in South Africa when apartheid was ending
at the route that human predictive brain is trying to
navigate its environment. And when things are changing in a
profound way and leaders don't come along to help them

(27:35):
navigate that, to change and update that mental model that
gets set up becomes very difficult for people. What often
happens is populist demagogues come along and turn legitimate fear
into grievance, then gets weaponized into something else. And so
when I look at this country, the reality is, and
there's research in this White Christian evangelicals think of themselves

(27:57):
as a persecuted, prosecuted community in this country, and it's
very difficult for people outside that community, particularly on the left,
to accept that. So what it means, I think for
the left is to recognize, you know what, these are legitimate, psychological,
almost biological states of mind. And you know, and on

(28:18):
the right, I've seen people respond when we talk about
status threat and they feel, well, that's collective blame. You're
essentializing us, you're thinking we all feel that way. And
so there are all these sort of landmines right now
in the United States because we're so divided and because
Donald Trump was such a personality type and was so

(28:39):
outrageous on so many levels. It put more oxygen and
fuel into that space. And so any notion of reaching
across these divides is seen as compromise, is seen as
selling out. And yet what experience in other countries have shown,
and not just the Mandelas and many others, is you know,
we have to find a way to bridge. This doesn't

(28:59):
mean compromise. It doesn't mean it's unity for the sake
of you know, everybody get along. It's about clarity. It's
about being clear about what's going on, being clear at
this moment, being clear of how we got to this
moment as a country, but also where we want to
go together in this country. One of the frustrations I've

(29:22):
had in talking about bridging divides and outreach and empathy
and understanding someone else's journey is I have perceived I'm
using my words so carefully, tim but I have perceived
that the folks who I'm associated with on the left
have been doing a lot of that, trying to do
a lot. Let's go talk to a Trump voter, Let's
get inside their head, let's get inside of their psychology,

(29:45):
Let's super humanize them and I wonder if you can
take me through a zone of discomfort exercise. Maybe it's
shorter that looks at things from a different perspective, because
I've also heard and felt a lot of anger around
Black Lives Matter it's a terrorist group. Is there a
zona discomfort example that will help me and others understand

(30:08):
this phenomena around the divide over Black Lives Matter in
the US. Is there an easier question? You know? Here's
the thing. Somebody asked me sort of a similar question
the last month or so after what happened at the
US capital, and I said, we really have to be
as precise as we can with words and what we're saying.

(30:33):
And what's really interesting in the world of sort of
conflict resolution, there's a distinction that I and others make
between conflict resolution and conflict transformation. To resolve a conflict,
think of the Day and Peace Accords in Bosnia, or
the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, or the one
that ended the Salvadoran Civil War. That's about a brutal

(30:54):
civil war, people dying, people being killed, people disappearing. We
need to end this. It's triage, and the way you
achieve that is getting people across the table to in
a sense, have unity for that moment of change, but
it doesn't fully transform the underlying dynamics of the society.

(31:15):
So that conflict resolution is about unity for the sake
of that agreement. But conflict transformation requires clarity. How did
we get here at this moment and where do we
go together? Because if we're going somewhere in the future
where it's going to be a democracy, a more representative democracy,

(31:36):
a more inclusive democracy, a more shared democracy, we need
to understand how we got to this moment as a nation,
in a community, and in that clarity, you need to
create a space for people to come together to feel
like they're being heard. And it's very difficult. Take South
Africa where ninety percent of the population was Black, Malaysian,

(31:59):
other community. I mean, that was a brutal regime. But
what was interesting that the African National Congress leadership, even
before Mandela got out of prison, people like Albi Sachs
and others would say that we came to realize that
we had to understand where the African of people were
coming from historically, like how did they set up a
system of apartheid, what experience did they go through to

(32:22):
justify setting up something like this. What were they afraid of?
This dynamic they created and they came to realize. They
said that they suffered at the cleansing and genocide in
the Boer War under the British and they had no
country to go back to, unlike white South Africans of
a British background literally had a passport in the back pocket.

(32:42):
So the Afrikaans had no country to go to. So
they're going to fight to the very end. And the
point is is that the A and C leadership in
a sense went through his own to discomfort, saying, we
are absolutely clear that this is about liberation and resistance,
that this is a brutal dictatorship that's been dehumanizing. But
what does the future look like? Are we going to
share this place? Are they going to flee? Well, these

(33:05):
people have nowhere to go to, so they're going to stay,
which means we have to figure out together how we're
going to live in this country and share it. And
it may not be Kumbaya, everybody come together, No, it's
literally uncomfortable. It is we have to share this country together,

(33:27):
and so a shared future has to be built on
a shared understanding of how we got here. And that's
about clarity, and that clarity requires discomfort. It requires a
discomfort like you know what I may want. And from
the other side, Mandela, I mean, I'm believed that the

(33:48):
reason why Nelson Mandela and Winnie Mandela got divorced within
a year or two is they lived in two realities
of apartheid South Africa. He was in prison for twenty
seven years and had a lot of time to reflect.
She was in the social reality of apartheid South Africa,
where day in day out she could find no moment,

(34:09):
no chance to really sit back and say, what is
the nature of the struggle about and where do I
want to go with this right? And I've seen this,
by the way, in other settings where leaders in prison
said they had to make sense of their experience to
figure out where we want to go from here. And
so the zone of discomfort in this country is, you know,

(34:31):
we have to have a reckoning, but I also think
we have to have a summoning. We have to summon
people to something else because black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American,
this is our country. It's a country where what connects
us is a common citizenship. But not a common participation
in it. I mean, this is real, legitimate. I don't

(34:54):
have to tell you this suffering and loss and need
for healing and repair humanization of Native Americans and African
Americans and other communities for a long period of time.
And yet we also have other communities who either legitimately
have had real loss over time or have narratives in
their communities of loss. And so I think that's the

(35:18):
point of clarity and the discomfort, and not I mean
just the left and the right. Americans across also have
to sit back and say this is a defining moment,
this is about transformation. Otherwise we're in deep trouble. Sorry
to be so pessimistic, but I do think that that
is what's required at this time. And you know, I
think of myself is progressive and liberal. My whole life

(35:38):
is on social justice. But there are moments in this
country in the last few years where I tell my friends,
you know what, you've got to give people the capacity
to change those who don't change. You start to figure
out who are the people who will never change, And
now you've identified them further, then there are those who
are fearful of change because change is difficult, and then

(36:00):
more than not most people want to change and they
have to go through discomfort. But in recognizing that takes
a discomfort because we want that certainty about what this
process should look like. And that's why you say that
reckoning is so important, But it's also summoning at the
same time. How do we both reckon and summon Because
reckon is dealing with a reality of the past and today,

(36:23):
but summing what to the future. And I think that's
that moment we're renascent nation. You've reflected a few times
on bringing your work home. You've done a lot of
work outside of the US, and it sounds to me
like you feel a sense of urgency about what's happening
in the US right now. Do you ever feel a

(36:45):
sense that the divisions and conflicts in the US are irreconcilable?
I don't. I do it at moments. There are deep
divides and there's anger on all sides. I say all sides.
It's not just both sides. I think we have to
go through stages. You know, I was saying earlier about

(37:07):
clarity and unity. I think it sounds good for some,
but unity is actually a disservice to talk about right now.
So one is clarity, the other is coexistence or dissent.
Recognizing and living with difference and dissent is going to
be really important because people are not going to change
quickly and overnight. There are really these and transpositions. You

(37:33):
have media platforms whose economic incentive is to drive that,
and so we have to be realistic about those. And
so what do we do in the interim is, I
think find ways to live with difference and not of me,
just cultural and demographic difference, political difference. It's okay to
be dissenting, It's okay to you know, have profound disagreement

(37:58):
because at the core democrat see is about managing difference.
And I think that's what we have to do here,
is to say it's not an irreconcirable why, because what's
the alternative? It is find ways to live with difference,
to manage that, and find ways to reconnect and to

(38:18):
see how much we have in common, and then together
figure ways to define a country that reflects the reality
of what we are and where we're going in a
positive direction. After the break, we fast forward to this
current moment we're living through and dig deep into beyond
conflicts US based work to understand how we can apply

(38:40):
the lessons they've learned abroad, plus our in studio virtual
audience talks with Tim about ways we can counter conflict
and extremism in our communities. So, Tim, you and Beyond
Conflicts work has historically centered on these facilitating these in
person cross party dialogues. Over time, you've then layered in

(39:03):
a lot more behavioral science and neuroscience to understand what
drives division in the first place. What does science and
research taught us about social conflict? What did they taught you?
You know, this year is the thirtieth the anniversary of
Beyond Conflict, And for the first twenty twenty five years,
we would go into countries that we're trying to imagine

(39:24):
how do you go from dictatorship to democracy or from
conflict to peace? And so having done that for a
number of years, we saw some successes, but we were
also coming up against a lot of intractable conflicts and
a lot of fragile peace agreements. And the question that
I and my colleagues ast is what are we missing
about the human experience? What are we missing about the

(39:46):
struggles that people go through? That Guatemala and friend of mine,
and a mentor said to me, you know, exclusion is
the main driver of conflict. And I was like, okay,
how does that play out in the human brain and
our cognition, in our emotion. Because if we understand that better,
could we actually be more effective in framing strategies, interventions
and ways to advance real transformative change in peace. And

(40:09):
that's why we started looking at brain and behavioral science.
And I'll just maybe quickly and there by saying, Jerry
Adams was one. He was president of Shenfein, which is
the political party associated with the IRA. Though he won't
admit it publicly, he was one of the top IRA leaders.
And I had him come to a course I was
teaching at a university here a few years ago, and

(40:32):
a student sat across the table and said, how do
you make peace with somebody you may have tried to
kill or they may have killed somebody very close to you?
And he paused, and he said, in a very thick
Belfast accent, he said, it's tough to make peace with
a humiliated partner. And there was a retired neuroscientist sitting
in the room who had been observing the class. Nick

(40:55):
up and he said, you know, I've heard Adams talk
about humiliation. I heard somebody from the Middle East talk
about fear and empathy and what it is to be
a victim and things that are sacred. He said, you know,
there's a lot of brain science research behind that, And
I said, what do you mean brain science because I
knew from either social psychology, what I observed, what I
experienced growing up, and I thought, tell me more. And

(41:16):
the key thing he said that got me on this path,
he said, well he was intosemities at this point. He said,
speaking as a scientist, we are not rational beings with emotions.
In fact, we're just the opposite. We're emotionally based beings
who can only think rationally when we feel that our
identities as we see them, not you or other as
we see them, are understood and valued by others. Once

(41:40):
we feel understood, he said, there's a deep psychological, almost
biological necessity to feel understood. Then literally we can begin
to engage rationally with others. And that's what put me
on the journey to look at this. Yeah, that's powerful, man,
It's just this like a prerequisite. You know, there's an
emotional safety, emotional acknowledgement. Psychological acknowledgement prerequisite before you can

(42:03):
enter some of these higher levels. So in terms of
were you able to look back at some of your
previous interventions that maybe didn't stick you talk about these
kind of fragile peace agreements, was that, in hindsight a
clearly missing element the emotional side, the neurological side. You know,
it was clear that these emotions were playing an outsize

(42:25):
role in making peace and reconciliation possible, like intractable conflict.
In the last negotiations with the PLO underrs R Fat,
when Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright were trying to negotiate
the Camp David Accords, it collapsed at the last minute,
and the two most difficult issues were the writer of
Palestinian refugees to return and the future of Jerusalem as

(42:48):
a sacred city for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. And years
later I found that there's research coming out of brain
and behavioral science that those things that we hold sacred
choice and not mean just religious terms, but things that
have a profound, almost sacred importance to us a process
in a different region of the brain than utilitarian decisions

(43:09):
we make. And there's even neuroimaging that is confirmed that
this gets processed differently and is in a sense more
entrenched cognitively in the brain when people are still being
forced to compromise things that are above compromise, And the
research found is a simple but powerful gesture of symbolic concession.
I understand how a sacred this is to you, I

(43:31):
understand how important this is to you. Actually creates a
cognitive shift where people feel like, now I'm being understood.
And it goes back to what the scientists said a
few years earlier about Jerry Adams comment, we have a
deep need to feel understood if we're able to navigate
the world and connect with others. That is profound. And
you've anticipated where I might have gone with that, which

(43:51):
is does that mean you then need to fully concede
to their perspective or that sacred, deeply held belief if
that's an athema to your own. But you use the
phrase symbolic concession that we need to feel understood, even
if we're not completely fully understood. That kind of opens
the doorway and I interpreting, Yeah, I mean, that's why

(44:12):
understanding science is not to make it more complex, but
to decomplexify it in a sense if there's such a phrase,
And that is what we all know without understanding all
the structures of the brain, is we need to feel understood.
We relax, our stress levels go down. And by the way,
there's research that affirms that, and we can begin to
think about hearing others. But it doesn't mean, to your

(44:37):
point that I have to accept and endorse your point
of view. It just means I understand what this means
for you. And Bill Clinton, I had reached out to
him but a year ago for this work we were
doing on status threaten and identity threat United States. I said,
it's become really existential threat in this country right now.
How do we navigate this when fear of change, demographic,

(44:59):
economic has been weaponized and let's be honest, particularly by
the right, for decades. Now, how do we deal with this?
And he said that when he was running for governor
of Arkansas in the early eighties, he would always ask himself,
how do I get on the right side of fear?
How do I acknowledge it? How do I have people
feel like, oh, somebody's understanding me without validating it. It's

(45:20):
like I hear you now let's move in this direction. Yeah,
and that's what we need to do. Understand doesn't necessarily
mean agree with Bingo, which is a relief now I
know you and Beyond Conflict have been doing deeper work
recently looking at how Democrats and Republicans, for example, misperceive
one another and their viewpoints. Can you walk me through

(45:41):
those studies and what you're finding there? Sure? So leaders
from other countries that I had worked with, from South
Africa or Central America, the Middle East, Northern Ireland, they
had been telling me for fully a decade beforehand, Oh,
you need to work in your own country. They like
canaries in a coal mine, could sense were things were going,
and they would know, you know, they've been through it,

(46:02):
and they would know, you know, they know how to
navigate these environments, and they pick it up in the ether, like, oh,
that language is really unhealthy. There are real problems emerging
back home. And they were picking it up when Barack
Obama became president in two thousand and eight. And so
what we did was we now had this relationship with
researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and other schools, and

(46:25):
we said, Okay, with some funding, let's understand how polarization
is being shaped at this moment and what can we
do about it. And so that report you mentioned, we
called America's Divide in Mind, done by my colleague and
Mel Bruneau, who you met a few years ago, who
unfortunately passed away from cancer and he's deeply missed. We
looked at how polarization is being shaped psychologically and what

(46:47):
we found it was becoming more identity based. When that happens,
a whole range of unconscious psychological processes come online that
only serve to drive us further apart. And when you
say identity based as opposed to idea based, right, So
you and I could have a strong disagreement about a policy,
or we could have a strong disagreement about each other's
value or validity or humanity. Is that the distinction? Yeah,

(47:12):
I mean in the nineteen fifties, I had to dig
up and reading over the last few years a lot
of political science about polarization, and political scientists in the
United States said that the United States was not polarized
enough because the Republican and Democratic parties were bigger tents
and there were fewer choices for Americans of different political interests.

(47:32):
Or persuasions to vote, unlike the UK or other countries
that had broader political structures and therefore with more polarization,
like a local election as a polarization process. Right, because
you're people from different science competing. That's natural and healthy.
But when it becomes the way it's become in this country,

(47:53):
where all these other distinctions class, race, culture, geography get
aligned under Democratic or Reublican. More white Christian evangelicals are
under the Republican, more people of color, professionals, educated, urban
or under Democrats. I mean, you can see a whole
series of how these new alignments have happened. Yeah, then

(48:13):
it takes on an identity piece, and it goes from
where citizens quote unquote of a nation maybe with profound
disagreements and we don't really feel this democracy maybe fully
works for all of us, but when it becomes an
us versus them, then you are profound threat to my
community and identity. The good news is that we did

(48:34):
these surveys nationally and we would ask representative democrats a Republicans, So,
a Democrat, where are you on immigration and open borders? Well,
we need immigration reform, but we need a process that
works and allows people in but a lot of Democrats
were in the middle. Republicans we need stronger restrictions, but
a lot we're in the middle. But if it has
a Democrat, where do you think the Republicans are? On immigration?

(48:58):
They want the borders completely closed. Republican what do you
think the Democrats are? They want them completely open? Right,
So on big issue of the big issue, and on
how much you think the other side dislikes you, and
even more concerning the humanizes you, it's up near fifty percent.
So we sat back and said, wait a minute. A
huge chunk of the country, probably close to fifty percent,

(49:18):
are overestimating by fifty percent how far apart they are.
And all that does is further drive this tribal polarisition.
And perception is reality. So if I believe that, I'm
going to behave based on that. So what happens when
you tell people, actually, you're not as far apart as
you thought. What comes of that? So we actually in
the last year and a half, we hired a filmmaker.

(49:41):
I said, let's create a short video, take the research
on these misperceptions, and get representative Trump and Biden supporters
ask them the same question and capturing your response. It
was like a holies moment, like you're kidding, but where
am I getting at my information? Or what about this?
What about that? That video? We then tested and then

(50:02):
Stanford tested and a big Strengthening Democracy Challenge a few
months ago with thirty two thousand people out of two
hundred and fifty interventions. It was rated number one for
reducing support for political violence in the United States and
partisan animosity because it corrected these misperceptions and Americans do
not get information that says, you know what, Yes, we

(50:25):
are divided, we have some profound issues to address, but
there's much more overlap. And when people know that, and
I've seen this in other countries, it's what makes peace
possible and deeply divided places that you have allies that
you may have never imagined. How much did the propensity
toward political violence decrease? How did you measure that? We

(50:46):
followed up I think it was every quarter and asking
certain questions to see does this change your view about
the use of political violence? A warmth thermometer in terms
of how warm you feel, do you feel like a
greater sense of being understood and so forth and so on,
And what we found is that all of these measures

(51:07):
improved because people sat back and said, you're not asking
me to compromise. You're not giving me a symbolic concession.
You're not saying that I could potentially betray my tribe
by saying, well, I have something in calm with you,
because there are all these cognitive not just explicit, but
implicit forces that are telling us don't do this. But

(51:29):
this is simple, it's neutral. It's saying, wait a minute,
you have more in common than you ever imagined. And
think of that in a family situation. Yeah, if you
thought a colleague or a friend really disliked you and
then you found out No, it's just the opposite. How
does it make you feel emotionally? Relief? Relief? Yeah. Also,

(51:49):
I need to get my hands on that video and
plug it into the TikTok algorithm for everybody. No, please
ject the Fox News airwaves and make sure that those
viewers it's if it's the number one out of two
hundred and fifty interventions. We need to scale that. And
I would love to fall up with you. Not because
we even did research on misperceptions around democratic norms. Yeah,

(52:11):
now I will say that after January sixth and Donald
Trump I assumed that Republicans had decreased their support for
democratic norms and principles. Our recent research with colleagues in
Chicago found that Democrats Republicans still today equally value democratic
norms and principles, but if they think the other side doesn't,

(52:32):
they're willing to violate them. And it's the same fifty
percent gap. So getting these out at scale is what
we're now looking at doing. Well, when I hear the
rhetoric of the people trying to protect the election and
showing up with guns, they're verbalized rationalies, well, because the
Democrats are going to steal it and go so because
they're going to violate the norm, that gives me an

(52:53):
excuse to violate the norm. And then Democrats see that like,
well they're violating the norms, so we got to So
it becomes this escalation. I know that you are also
working on a more current intervention and process. Where do
we go from here? You're calling it? Tell us about that? Sure?
So you know, I mentioned that our sort of traditional

(53:14):
historic work in other countries was bringing together former enemies
across profound divides at different levels. Yeah, but then I
realized on a personal level, for the last five or
six years when things started to go off the rill
here in my country, our country and has a different
emotional residence. It's like, wow, my history, my identities, my narratives,
my family members who GUY can talk to, not talk to,

(53:36):
and it's very different. And I realized I was at
a profound safe distance. So over the last year I
reached out to a lot of these friends and I said,
I need to bring you now to my country the
way we would go to these other countries. We need
to bring it to this country, and not just in Washington,

(53:57):
but across the country to meet with people across divide,
whether it be community activists, bridge builders, local elected officials, megachurches,
small synagogues, because there are a few Americans who have
the direct experience of navigating such a profound crisis in
their own country. And we also lack a historical memory,

(54:17):
you know. I talk with my partner Elizabeth about this
a fair amount. As the World War two generation, you know,
leaves us, we are collectively losing a direct connection to
the worst versions of some of this division and the
scale of political violence like taken to the maximum and
to the extreme. So we have a temporal gap to
chatti clothes, but also into your point spatial when you

(54:40):
can bring people who've been through it, who know the
worst of this and also the healing that's possible on
the other side, bring them home here to your territory.
What does that look like him how are they received?
So in June we took this most recent report and
I brought Rolfmeyer, who was the key negotiator and the
talk Stand Apartheid. So this is a man who grew

(55:02):
up as a white afrikana who thought that apartheid was
normally good for whites but for blacks early in his
career shocking, but that was the mental model of the
world he had. He then went through a process of
recognizing this system is corrupt and I need to do
what I can to end it. So he became the
chief negotiator in the talk Stand Apartheid, and he said,

(55:24):
I came to realize over a period of years, not
only the corruption of apartheid, but what was in the
mindset of my community to even set this system up.
So we went to Washington and met with some of
the key congressional leaders on the Democratic side, because we
tried to get some Republican but not at that time
interested and we met with key congressional leaders and they

(55:45):
were old enough to know the role that Rolfe played.
But talking about identity threats, social standards threat in this country.
It had a huge impact on the members of Congress
in the meeting and the question was where do we
go from here? And Rolfe and I were talking afterwards
and country after country and even Monica McWilliams, who founded
the Women's Coalition in Northern Ireland said we all got

(56:07):
to the point said there needs to be a better way.
And that's when these leaders and other countries, and we
are often involved but not the only ones, would go
to these other countries and come back and say, wow,
if they can do it, we can do it because
this is a shared human challenge of how do you
sit across the table from your enemy? Can you forgive?
And we need it here so I want to shift

(56:27):
us into bring it in some of the questions that
people submitted, we've got Mark texted, are you trying to
seek middle ground with those who may view the world
differently than you or is your goal only really reached
when they have one hundred percent bought into your political viewpoints.
We can't expect nor do we need to convince everybody
of somebody's point of view what you need to do.
And it's country after country. Most people are not political

(56:50):
A democratic Republican and I'm aggressive of a mega supporter.
They think about what am I going to do today
for my family, my work and all these things that
are in front of me, and yet they care about
it takes many of them, not all, and that's where
the vast majority are and they just want the system
to work. Yeah, so we don't have to win everybody over.
We just have to win enough people over to say

(57:12):
we live in a diverse country. We live in a
multiracial nation which is not fully a multiracial democracy. And
the only way we're going to address these shared problems
is finding what we have a shared problems today to address,
because our research shows that Americans have far more common
than they imagine, and how do we build off that

(57:32):
with all people feeling that they have to give up
their core identities or interest Thank you, We're going to
continue this conversation. We have some live questioners queued up.
Damon Williams Europe first, and go ahead and state your question.
I'm Damian Williams from Memphis, Tennessee. And you've kind of
touched on it already. But what I was really wondering,
you know, what it looks like is just different world perspectives.

(57:56):
And I've seen it, and I've had in my own
experience where two people will look at the same thing
and literally see two different things. So how do you
have some kind of reconciliation with someone who's experiencing a
completely different reality. One of the simplest and best interventions
I've learned from my colleagues in the science is context.

(58:19):
Is that our brains have alved to be predictive. We're
constantly trying to predict our social and physical environment. And
if we don't know or have experienced the lived experience
of others, we can access it through context. Oh, I
know what that feels like in my community. I know
what that feels like in my experience. So how do
you contextualize something. I'll give you a concrete example, and

(58:42):
it may not completely connect to your point, but I
think it's related. So there was a statue of Abraham
Lincoln in Boston that was a replica of the one
in DC that was built about a decade after his
assassination and he was standing on a pedestal with two
freed slaves looking up to him, unshackled. Even at the
revealing of this in Washington, Frederick Douglas said, this is inappropriate,

(59:04):
it's dehumanizing. So two years ago the city of Boston
decided to take a down and a friend of mine
went to college with whose Irish American called me up
and he's sort of centator. A conservative said, is Abraham
Lincoln now being canceled? And what I said to him is,
you know, Bob, imagine if there was a statue of

(59:26):
Queen Victoria or Oliver Cromwell and Boston. Before I could finish,
he said, take that statue down. It connected to his
lived experience because there are these narratives in the Irish
American immigrant community of the famine and what Queen Victoria
did and what Oliver Cromwell had done earlier. The notion
of a statue representing those two is so ibhortant that

(59:49):
he all of a sudden contextualized. Well, I guess I
can understand now what that would mean for someone who's
African American. And from a research point of view, a
simple intervention like that, and they've followed up can last
a lifetime. That's fascinating. Oh, I want to follow up
on everything, but we have so many more in the
que I want to give keep the passing the Mike,
Allison Mousqueta, please go ahead and state your question. Thanks. Hi,

(01:00:13):
I'm Alison Musqueta. I am here in Denver, Colorado, and
I work in public health across the entire state of
Colorado and lots of different communities that all have very
unique their own cultures, their own belief systems, lots of
political differences, and I work in a program where we
all have the similar goal, but we have a lot
of different ideas about how to get there. And I

(01:00:35):
really find that one way to do that is similar
to what I think you've been saying, is find those
foundations of what we all agree upon as the basis
of the conversation and build from there. And it's taking me,
as a young professional, long time to learn these skills.
I was never taught these things. So I was just
really thinking about my two young children and concern for them, like,

(01:00:56):
how do we teach young kids and young people to
prepare them to be in a world where these kinds
of conversations are going to be really critical and importance
and have this healthy level of conflict when what they
see role modeled around us right now is not that.
What many of the South Africans, for example, would tell
people in other countries is process before substance in a

(01:01:21):
deeply divided setting, to go to the issues that divide
people as a recipe for disaster, because then people don't listen.
And it's not just from a political or an explicit
it's as much as psychological mindset. I don't know you,
I don't trust you, Why should I trust you? And
the process piece to me the common ground that we
need to lay whether it's in a family or school

(01:01:42):
or other settings. And we've been trying this, by the way,
with some of these different groups over the last few years,
is laying out these processes. Let's talk about how our
brain navigates the world. Let's talk about common experiences we
have and what it feels like to be marginalized, humiliated.
You know, what is it to feel human fragility? What
is it to feel privileged? Do you feel privilege? And

(01:02:04):
so we take out the sort of precursor white fragility,
white privilege, because I think it in the context of
Northern Ireland. If the Catholics said, of the Protestants, what
we need to do is talk first about your Unionist
or Protestant fragility or privilege, those conversations would have gone
nowhere because you've already had this deep identity based conflict

(01:02:25):
where those identity markers play a much more salient important
role than core political and economic interest. I mean, it's
very clear if that book that came out several years ago,
what's the matter of the Kansas is people will always,
you know, they say it an organization's culture, Trump's process. Well,
culture and identity will trump everything because that's what's deeply

(01:02:46):
sort of ingrained in our evolution is how we navigate
the world is on these identity markers. And so if
we could think about organizing conversations and a more neutral
human center term as opposed to a Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative,
Catholic Protestant, what is it that we all share? I
want children's videos of the things that you've already launched

(01:03:09):
into the world. And well, i'll just flag this now.
I think there will be tension between speaking truth and
being effective in your linguistic approach to preserve an open door, right,
And so if we're just going to talk vaguely about
privilege and that save white privilege or supremacy, and that
save white supremacy, what's the trade off in terms of

(01:03:32):
completeness versus openness that the other would even have to
entering that conversation, Bartune, I agree with you totally about privilege.
The thought is, how do you have a conversation about
the nature of privilege and then say so in this context,
could you feel privileged by the color of your skin?
As opposed to not even going there. It's to be

(01:03:53):
able to have people think about, all right, I've already
sent in the conversation of privilege in my brain, right,
and I'm already gendering in my mind, oh I know,
or I don't feel privileged, but could you feel privileged here?
And then you're creating a cognitive pathway for people to
engage something. You're walking them up to it rather than
slamming them. Yeah, you're walking them up to it as

(01:04:14):
opposed to the way I learned how to swim. Whether
it just threw me in the deep end and say
do you know how to swim? I'm like, I guess
I do now if I want to live thanks to
each All right, Mary Pearl coming on line and go
ahead and state your question. Thought. Well, my name is
Mary Pearl. I'm dog sitting at my brother's house on
Cape Cod and I'm hearing that Tim thinks we have

(01:04:36):
to start where we are today to have these conversations.
But I just have to ask it. Don't we have
to have a reckoning with our history of systemic racism
and violence and indigenous slaughter. It's used me. There's a deep, psychological,
strong connection between white supremacy and hatred of Indigenous people

(01:04:58):
from our past that just infuse our presence. So how
can we get to a new place of respect and
understanding if we can acknowledge the history? Yeah, I mean
that is such a key question here, and it's a
key question pretty much every country worked in in the past,
and they're also often very divided and difficult and never

(01:05:21):
completely resolved. My personal view is that it's very difficult
to talk about reconciling of people until you reconcile a history.
And the question is how do you do that in
such a way that it advances real change? And I
think you have to break it down as one is
to acknowledge what has happened, and what are the ways

(01:05:42):
in which you can do it actually is meaningful to
the communities that need that history acknowledged, and what is
the repair today for their descendants and the legacy of
four centuries of blatant to humanization to people of color
in this country. I mean Native Americans in particular and
African Americans. So those are absolutely essential. The question then becomes,

(01:06:06):
how do you move those forward in a country that's
deeply not just divided politically, but with the recognition of
what happened to Native Americans and African Americans who are
brought here, is all these other immigrant communities Asians, Latinos,
Muslims and others who have had Irish American, Italian American

(01:06:26):
when they come over, we're really dehumanized, and they have
these narratives in their families. And so what I've been
doing for the last couple of years is reaching out
to the people who led these truth commissions in many
countries around the world and say, what can we bring
to this moment in the United States, How do we
stage this, how do we do in such a way

(01:06:48):
that it can really be a process of healing and transformation. Yeah,
I have a little trick I learned on this one, Mary,
and I think the history can be a real third
rail and to tim earlier point, context matters, and so
how you walk people up to it. And because I
end up talking to a lot of white people, I'm

(01:07:08):
the white people whisperer in terms of race conversations. Sometimes
I try to I tell a personal story of my
own emotional challenge with accepting the painful history right in
my own family history, with the heroic figure, you know,
my mother, who a lot of people know of, and
I'm like, yes, but also there were these other things
about her and they created challenges for me. And there's

(01:07:29):
a longer version of it, but essentially, like I hook
them in with the mom was fallible story and tell
my journey of healing on the other side of that,
and how I actually have a deeper knowledge of my
mother through this acknowledgment and thus a deeper love. And
that's what I want for us in the country. And
so it's entering through a point not of lecture and

(01:07:51):
shame positioning, but rather confession. Really first, here's my experience,
Here's how hard it hurt. Here's what I found on
the other side. I want you to have that same transformation,
that same journey, that same taste of freedom, and for
the people who've had direct access to that's a much

(01:08:11):
more welcome pathway into a real hard conversation than your
daddy owned slaves. You are a white supremosies, you know,
like it just doesn't quite do the same thing. Yeah,
Can I add one quick thing bartunity? And that is
the challenge we have in this country is that the
truth commissions that emerged, the Truth and Reconciliation commissions from

(01:08:34):
Argentina and Chile and then picked up by South Africa,
we're mostly state run dictatorships. And then they had a
lot of people supporting it, but they were institutionalized, legally
set up state dictatorships. What we're seeing from Northern Ireland
to the United States is mostly there are elements of
the state and history in states who still today do

(01:08:55):
things that are horrific. But it's a lot of civilian
civilian if you know what I'm saying, right, and so
nobody has quite figured out what is the process in
a deeply divided community that is hyperpolarized to come to
terms with this, and people would go to the model

(01:09:16):
in South Africa, and the South Africans went to Argentina
and Chile. And the benefit of that is Afrikaans and
white people could say, ah, it was the system, yeah, right,
or in Argentina Chile it was the military dictatorship here right,
people's yeah. That's what I struggle with because of the

(01:09:37):
identity based nature of our divisions, it makes it so
much more difficult. So I agree it needs to be done,
but let's figure out a way to do it with
the tools we have to make it meaningful and transformative. Andrea,
we are about to call on you. I don't know
if it's Andrea or Andrea you will let us know.
Go ahead and state the question that you have. I'm Andrea.

(01:09:59):
I'm from Washington State, and I was just wondering when
you have two people who when you're in a conversation
with somebody where the conversation is becoming not useful anymore,
what kind of linguistic tactics do you have to get

(01:10:21):
the conversation going in a positive direction. I've struggled with this,
and it was more difficult because it's my own people
I know and so forth. But here's what I've tested
and learned more anecdotably, when somebody said to me recently
that the twenty twenty election was stolen, that Joe Biden
is illegitimate, and that Donald Trump is the best president

(01:10:44):
we've ever had. Rather than getting angry and outrage and
get into the issues, I said, well, I can maybe
understand why you feel that way. And what it did
was I could see there was like a change in
this person's countenance. What he was expecting was me to
come back in an aggressive way. I said, I can
understand why you feel that way. What I didn't say
was I agree with you. You're wrong. Don't you realize

(01:11:07):
what he stand for? Don't you realize what happened? And
what it forced him to do was a bit of
cognitive dissidents to rethink, so, huh, what does this mean?
And I could see it going on. And I had
the benefit of speaking to some brilliant social psychologists ahead
of times, saying I want to try this, and they
said it creates cognitive dissidents because people come in with
an expectation that you're going to act and speak in

(01:11:30):
a certain way. And then I didn't want to then
at that point, because I knew I would see this
person continue on the conversation. I wanted him to sit
with I understand you. I mean it's almost like if
you're keeping them engaged, they're not storm in a capital, right,
And so if that's the energy you have, and again
Tim said this already, that's not everybody's job. But if

(01:11:50):
you find yourself in that situation and you want to
try it, I think it can be worth a shot.
You also can't change most of us are not in a
a position to change in one's mind if we don't
have a relationship with them. And so preserving the link
is also preserving the opportunity to move people across that
link and to be moved, you know, into some degree.

(01:12:12):
But if we just have a counter energy and a
severing of relationship, then we're severing one of the pillars
of how a citizen, which is to invest in relationships,
and we're sort of we're losing an opportunity to potentially
persuade or change or shift that may come later. We
got one more live question, Deborah Scheka. My name is

(01:12:33):
Deborah and I am in Reno, Nevada. So my question
is this. I've been thinking about how polar and I've
been divided our country is and it troubles me deeply,
and so what can I do? You know, I call
a service center and I talk to a customer service
agent and I try to be extra nice ideal with
people in the grocery store and try to be extra nice.

(01:12:53):
And that's the only thing I've been able to come
up with. And it's kind of a nice thing to do,
but it feels like it's not enough. What else can
we do? Or is being extra nice to everyone we
encounter that meet our standards as well? Is that going
to going to give points for that? You know, I
think we have to pick and choose on an individual
level those relationships that we want to invest in. It

(01:13:14):
could be a family member, it could be a coworker.
There could be somebody that you know you have profound disagreement,
but they will be in your life in some way,
and you want a decent relationship. On a broader scale.
What I've seen and recommend is be engaged citizens, you know,
step out of your silos, look for those moments where

(01:13:37):
you can actually do something that crosses divides. I mean,
if there's one lesson that all these leaders from profound
divides in other countries who have been through the ship
to put up bluntly say is you've got to find
ways to live together and cooperate because the alternative is
really bad. The other thing is norms play an outsize

(01:13:57):
role in shaping behavior. Research showed in behavioral science that
actually focusing on hearts and minds has very little impact
on behavior as much as norms do. In fact, people's
hearts and minds will follow to shape to their new norm.
And think of those leaders and institutions that we want
to elevate, whether it be a Republican, a Democrat, and

(01:14:18):
independent or cultural figures who have the capacity to shape
new norms. When I think of John McCain in two
thousand and eight, when that woman came up and said
candidate Barack Obama was on an American What did John
McCain do. He took the microphone and said, no, I'm sorry, miss,
that's incorrect, that's wrong. That has a big influence. We

(01:14:38):
need to be finding people, but take me on the
Republican side, who are willing to step up and do
the right thing. And I think that can shape an
environment that can begin to bring the temperature down. Because
one thing we see, and again I've seen this in
other countries. People don't like to live their lives with
this much toxics city in the environment. And you know,

(01:15:02):
there are some who benefit from it, some who find
it very entertaining and energizing, but the vast for joining Yeah,
not the most, but not the most, but not most
of us. And I think that's that's a good common
ground to re establish them. We can all agree, even
if we don't share it a factual reality, we share
that emotional exhaustion reality, and that is a possible bridge
as well. Gun stim We got to talk about guns.

(01:15:26):
I think the context for increasing language around dehumanization and
anti democratic norms and openness to political violence. It hits
differently in the US because we have so many guns
per capita here and so the fears of violence are
justified in ways that they might not be in other
places with just a lot of newspapers talking a lot

(01:15:47):
of smack. Do you have any research experience focus on
the special relationship that we have with guns in the
US and the unique challenges that creates for reversing this spiraling,
escalating threat. And it's horrendous to see the amount of
guns and the gun culture we have in this country.
You know, I mentioned earlier that things that we hold

(01:16:09):
to be sacred to us a process in the different
part of the brain than other utilitarian calculations. So I
wrote a piece after Sandy Hook, six months eight months
after Sandy Hook, looking at sacred values and gun control
and recognize that after seeing a failure of gun legislation
after Sandy Hook, it actually got worse. What are we missing?

(01:16:30):
Is there a different way to frame the protection of
children and a different way to frame a conversation with
those gun odors who really think it's like a sacred value.
And I'll be happy to share that and you can
link it. But that got a lot of interest and
the answer, you know, I don't know the answer, my friend.
And yeah, it's deeply embedded. You know. I said to somebody,

(01:16:54):
we never demobilize as a nation from the American revolutions. Wow,
And that no of militias and the right to be
our arms has never been reformed and changed. Yeah. We
ask all of our guests, how do you define citizen
if you interpret it as we do as a verb,

(01:17:16):
What does it mean to citizen to you tim, to engage,
to know what's happening around you, to show the concern
about your family, your community, your colleagues, and the country
you live in. Because there are a lot of well
educated people that I know, and when I ask them
about the state of affairs, they're clueless. And it's not

(01:17:39):
because they're stupid. They don't know. And I think it's
a requirement to understand the world you live in, particularly
at this moment in time. Tim Phillips, thank you for
helping us see the possibilities of a world beyond conflict
and spending this time with us. Thank you, Thank everybody.

(01:18:01):
It's hard to feel fully satisfied after a conversation like this.
The kind of intractable disagreement, dehumanization, distrust, and disinformation we're
up against. It's just overwhelming and a problem. This complex
doesn't have a simple solution. Tim and Beyond Conflict have
contributed to a constellation of approaches and insights that we

(01:18:25):
can interpret and try to use in our own communities.
And they've also reminded us that comforting or not, the
United States is not the first country to live through
intense division, and we're definitely not the first to believe
that moving beyond it is impossible. I remain most heartened

(01:18:47):
by Beyond Conflicts research which shows that we're not as
far apart as we think we are. Basically, what I
think Republicans think of me is far worse than what
they actually think of me, and vice versa. That's important.
But as far as the tactics that we use to
reconnect to each other, I think tim and Beyond conflict

(01:19:07):
they get us part of the way there. So this
is the first of two episodes we have addressing this
division at the heart of our democratic culture. I'm thinking
of Adrian Marie Brown right now and this thing she
said about conflict. We don't actually need to try always

(01:19:27):
to get beyond conflict. Instead, we need to try to
engage in generative conflict so that the disagreements we have
and we're gonna always have them, don't destroy the prospect
of an us and the prospect of this beautiful experiment
we're in together. Time for some actions. First, one internally,

(01:19:57):
reflect Think about a recent time where you strongly disagreed
with someone about a political or ideological issue, whether it
was online or in person, Notice where you felt that
in your body. Did you feel pressure across your forehead,
tension in your jaw, tightness in your stomach or chest.
These are survival responses. Your brain and body are telling

(01:20:21):
each other that you are in danger. The next time
you're in a situation like this, try the ninety second
rule created by Harvard researcher doctor Joe Bolte Taylor. She
found that it takes ninety seconds for an emotion to pass,
So before jumping back into a debate that's getting your
blood boiling, take ninety seconds to step out of the

(01:20:44):
room or away from your phone, Breathe, pace around, hold, plank, position,
whatever it takes to give you that time to move
out of this understandable fight flight freeze response to an
ability to better understand yourself and others. The more we

(01:21:04):
practice this, the more we'll be able to recognize and
reduce our own fear and threat responses towards people we
disagree with. Next up, become more informed. We've got stuff
for you to watch, read, and listen to. With tickling
all the senses, check out America's Divided Mind Beyond Conflicts
short video that shows Americans aren't as far apart as

(01:21:27):
we think, and if you want to take a deep
dive into their research, we've linked some of Beyond Conflicts
reports on the psychology that drives us apart, and on
renewing democracy. But if reading or watching aren't your thing,
Tim recommends listening to an interview with South African leaders
on how America can move beyond toxic polarization. You'll find

(01:21:48):
all of these resources linked in our show notes. Finally,
let's publicly participate. Bridging the political tension in our country
and in our communities won't resolve itself on its own,
and if you've got the bandwidth, take time to move
conversations offline and invest in building real relationships with people

(01:22:09):
across the aisle in your community. And you don't need
to do it alone either. Check out organizations creating opportunities
for Americans to come together and navigate our divides at
the local level, groups like One America Movement, Civic Genius,
Make America Dinner Again, or Living Room Conversations. Find links
to all these groups in the show notes. If you

(01:22:32):
take any of these actions, please brag about it online
and use the hashtag how to citizen. Also tag our
Instagram how to citizen. I am always online and I
really do see your messages, so send them. You can
also visit our website how a Citizen dot Com, which
has all of our shows full transcripts, actions, and more. Finally,

(01:22:53):
see this episode show notes for resources, actions and more.
Ways to Connect a Citizen with barrettun Day is a
production of iHeartRadio Podcasts and row Home Productions. Our executive
producers are Me, barrettun Day, Thurston and Elizabeth Stewart. Our
lead producer is Ali Graham, Our associate producer is Donia

(01:23:14):
abdel Hamid. Alex Lewis is our managing producer, and John
Myers is our executive editor. Our mix engineer is Justin Berger.
Special thanks to dust Light Productions, who arranged my first
interview with Tim. Original music by Andrew Eapen with additional
music by Blue Dot Sessions, and our audience engagement fellows

(01:23:35):
are Jasmine Lewis and Gabbie Rodriguez. Special thanks to Joel
Smith from iHeartRadio and Lay Labina. Next time on How
the Citizen. Tim gave us insight into how deep seated

(01:23:56):
the discord and hatred of our political division has grown.
But a lot of us are at a loss when
it comes to figuring out our role and de escalating it.
And while sitting down and trying to talk things out
will work for some of us, in order to rebuild
relationships with those we deeply disagree with, we've got to
get created. And she said, people are so deeply in

(01:24:16):
their camps and there's there's so much distrust that I
think we need to remember why we enjoyed each other
in the first place. And so she threw a parking
lot party, and she convinced her board to rent a
dunk tank, and the core of the parking lot party
was dunk the deacon, Yes, right, and we can all

(01:24:39):
come together around that. Author and facilitator Prey A. Parker
on the art of gathering and the inventive ways we
can practice being in community across differences. Row home Productions
Advertise With Us

Popular Podcasts

Dateline NBC
Stuff You Should Know

Stuff You Should Know

If you've ever wanted to know about champagne, satanism, the Stonewall Uprising, chaos theory, LSD, El Nino, true crime and Rosa Parks, then look no further. Josh and Chuck have you covered.

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

The Nikki Glaser Podcast

Every week comedian and infamous roaster Nikki Glaser provides a fun, fast-paced, and brutally honest look into current pop-culture and her own personal life.

Music, radio and podcasts, all free. Listen online or download the iHeart App.

Connect

© 2024 iHeartMedia, Inc.