Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How to Listen to Understand (a Basic Income prerequisite read)

When it comes to a Universal Basic Income, maybe you just can't reconcile yourself with the idea of people getting money for nothing. It's a sure path to laziness, you feel it in your bones, so whatever research proves your bones incorrect must be wrong. Also, we can't afford it. 

I have been where you are. I would like to share some different lenses to look through, which, combined, suddenly focused my vision on Universal Basic Income as a solution to a huge swath of Canada's issues. Are you interested in exploring those lenses with me? I'm happy to share, I just have to ask you to observe a few rules. 

One, Respect me. Acknowledge to yourself that I'm an intelligent, educated, well-experienced, paying-attention person with my children's lives at stake in this experiment of Earth working out well. 

Two, Trust me. I'm not trying to create a welfare state. All reforms are important, and with corruption in government, I see the potential for a UBI to become a tool of Social Credit insanity. Humans are not meant to be controlled so closely. We are wild creatures of the Earth. Advocating for a UBI is not isolated from those issues in any way, but even with the potential for harm if the humans continue to only let assholes and bullies be in charge of the world, it's still better than the dystopic alternative when people are hungry, desperate and afraid all around us. I am just trying to avoid that, and I think we can. We should at least try. So please trust my intentions are not whatever worst case scenario affiliations your mind might want to ascribe to me. I'm an interesting, caring person, doing my best with what I have. 

Three, Care about what I have to say. I've let my life get overloaded with responsibilities, so when I take the time to write on this, I'm not doing so frivolously. I am doing so because I believe that people need to choose different lenses to look through than the ones we've been taught and rewarded to accept. We need to think about this issue dispassionately, and passionately, and find that at both ends the answer is the same. I feel this enough to take the time to ask you to ask me for my lenses, and committing to writing about them. So if you're going to take the time to read what I write, please care about the future of the Earth, and about me as a human, and about what I have to share, even if you don't ultimately agree with it. Care. 

Four, Don't argue with me. I'm not writing about UBI to start a debate in any particular direction. I don't claim to know everything on this issue, though I feel confident I am better read on the subject than most people, and I also have a keener sense of human nature than most. I'm not saying I can't be wrong or I won't change my mind about the risks and rewards of a UBI, I'm just saying, this writing is not a request for that at this time. Right now, I just want to share where I've come to, because I think it should be shared, not because I'm trying to extend my understanding of specifics at this time. 

So, when you listen to me, I suggest you avoid listening through a critical ear, looking for where I'm wrong. I'm bound to be wrong in many ways. I'll find them over time, don't worry. I'll shift as I do. Looking for where I''m wrong is just a deflection for not wanting to engage where I might be right. It's a distraction from trying to understand.  I only know what I know and that, only emergently. Let that go. 

Five, Allow yourself to imagine I'm right. You probably think you're doing that, but take three deep, belly breaths and check in. Make sure. What if I'm right? Just for now, hold that possibility as possible. Allow it to be possible. 

Five, Honestly acknowledge your feelings without using your mind to beat them down. When you feel like something I've said rings true or hollow, ask yourself what you believe that makes you feel that way? Who told you what, to make you believe that? What happened? How did you come to that belief? Who does that belief serve? Then check back in with feelings before you go back to the rational mind. Because a UBI argument works on both the emotional and rational levels. 

Six, Imagine 
Imagine a future where we don't hold hunger and eviction over people's heads to make them do menial jobs, because we won't need people to do that work. But even though people won't have to work for bread, they will still work, at more valuable work. They also have time and bandwidth to contribute to their neighbourhoods, communities and families. In this future maybe there's a UBI, or maybe we got there another way, but imagine a reality where all citizens have a minimum standard of living that started at dignity. The economy keeps chugging, health and justice become proactive because wellness gets more accessible and crime becomes less compelling. Everyone has a place to live and food to eat every day. Imagine children, being raised in homes where the adults aren't afraid, stressed, and worried about money; those children going to school well-rested and well-prepared by attentive parents to learn for the complex jobs that will be the only jobs. Imagine neighbours taking the time to help each other because they have that time to give. Not everyone, but some, more than today. Probably a lot more, as kindness begets kindness like a virus. 

You may think that thinking about it is Imagining. It isn't. Imagining is like being inside a TV show. Walk down a street. Say hi to someone. Walk into a store where you take things off the shelf and your purchase is automatically logged, where robot mops clean the floors. Imagine looking into the window of a household that would have been in strife, fighting over money and housework; now, overlay the new hope of a home-based business and a new job taken, not for the salary, but for the challenge. Really imagine. For, like, 15 minutes. Just imagine what the future will be like, and notice how you feel. Hold that future as possible, just for a minute if that's all your disciplined mind will allow.

Now, if you can face it, imagine the stark future. The one where most people don't have jobs, where the stratification has split so thoroughly that the rich inhabit a different world than the rest of us, and that likely means you, even if you are currently well-off. 98% of us will live controlled by local thugs. Imagine the future where people who are rich live to 200 and people who are poor are dead by 45. Realize, we do live in a world similar to that, but in richer countries, we just don't have to see it. But now, imagine it's taken over your own city, the homes in your own neighbourhood have become multi-family units, and your own kids are going to scary schools far away, or not at all. Take a few minutes with this. Then go back to the more hopeful scenario. 

Seven. Pick. Pick which future you are aiming for. If you truly believe that the better future is impossible and the dystopia is overblown, you are aiming for dystopia whether you mean to or not. You're choosing its general direction. That's your perogative, but in that case, there's not much point in you bothering to read anything I write, because you probably won't be reading to understand. If you would rather convince yourself that the world is hard and we shouldn't bother striving for something better because it's too expensive, you should spend your time reading something else to support your approach.  

So, those are my seven rules for exploring this issue with me. I realize you may not want to follow them. I get it. So, don't. But in that case, I ask you with respect, leave me out of your process on this issue. I'm sharing for the purposes of sharing, not to engage further. I don't have the bandwidth right now. Accept or reject what I have to say, do your own reading and writing, but don't inflict debate on me.

By the way, these seven rules are very widely applicable when you are seeking to understand. If you want to be an ally but don't know how, if you want to give someone credit but feel yourself judging, when your better self knows that your cynical self is being unfair, you can modify these seven rules and really gain some wisdom. Just holding open the possibility that the other person might be right, and engaging a little imagination, can shift everything in your understanding if you let it. 

How to listen to someone to really understand? I used to think this was something everyone did, knew how to do, but the dire consequences of people's lack of ability to seek to understand have proven me wrong. I happen to have talent, knowledge and practice at listening to understand. I am offering a real-life example into the world, because I want to see our social systems move to a citizenship dividend model, currently being touted as a "Universal Basic Income" (UBI). But I don't have much time and energy to get into debates. I just want to put what I've managed to glean, which is simple but fairly substantial, into the world, so people can think about it. If you're interested in seeing through the lenses I've used to come to my current opinion on the issue, I hope you'll engage my approach, and stay tuned.