By Nikhil Vaish
I understand that it is hard to fathom or comprehend my optimism based on what you see and hear in the news and on every TV channel in America and globally. Let me explain.
I do not see the world through rose-tinted glasses or suggest that things are hunky-dory. I see the same turmoil: civil wars, terrorist attacks and the potential descent of stable democracies into chaotic anarchy.
In fact, I see chaos growing and I have little doubt that things are going to get much uglier, globally and here in America, in the short-term. I see all same things you do but I also see something you may not – yet.
I have spent the last couple of years getting actively involved in a number of social issues in India, and as part of an organisation in America that brings together people from many fields, from journalism and marketing to banking and politics.
Through this organisation and my personal efforts I have had the opportunity to listen to and engage with a broad spectrum of corporate, social and political leaders, behind closed doors. In addition, I have also spent time engaging with right and left wing voices, on Twitter, both in India and America.
In these brief online interactions and in-depth offline conversations, I have listened closely and learned much more than I could learn from watching the news or reading articles that increasingly tilt left or right, but are always filled with one-sided opinions.
Here is the reason for my optimism. A growing number of people I have met and worked with no longer see the world purely through a liberal or conservative lens. Like me, they see a world filled with serious and pressing problems that no politician is willing to take on or solve in a manner that goes against their party base or donor interests.
Time and again we have found that it is politicians who have been the fundamental roadblock to solving issues because they invariably put pseudo-ideological and corporate interests ahead of meaningful solutions. From the refugee crisis, to understanding the motivations of jihadists, to helping get young girls out of the sex trade – there are many brilliant solutions available that simply cannot be affected because our leaders lack the political will and integrity (and fear losing their popularity) to fight for them.
The people I have worked and engaged with are Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent and come from virtually every political stripe, but increasingly they refuse to be slaves to party affiliation. They are slaves to solutions that work, and refuse to accept less effective solutions merely to placate some personal ideology or partisan bias.
I call us the post-partisans.
We often vehemently disagree with each other but always do so civilly and respectfully. We have found that heated debate, one that features a multitude of diverse viewpoints, leads to the most innovative and breakthrough solutions. But we never take any of what is discussed to heart or personally.
We also choose never to take offense, even if sometimes in the heat of debate, it is intended. Not because we are devoid of feelings, but because we remind ourselves that the problems we face are bigger and far more pressing than bruised ego or hurt feelings.
We always come with an open mind. Our goal is not to try and get others to see the world the way we do, but to find the brightest, most cost-efficient and lasting solutions to the problems that affect us all, irrespective of our politics. Through our dealings, conversations and our work we have realised that political parties can no longer be relied on to lead us forward or solve the problems we face.
Over the last three decades political parties, left and right have deteriorated further into an ideological abyss. They have allowed hardened and extremist voices within their ranks to take the reins, and are no longer able to offer thoughtful or pragmatic solutions. Instead, their solutions are built for populist rabble rousing or designed to pander to narrow interest groups.
I believe the post-partisan mentality is a growing movement across the world. It consists of people who coalesce around a cause they are passionate about. They are people from vastly different backgrounds, upbringing, skill sets and political views who find each other because they are looking for apolitical and uncompromised solutions. Many of us will never become friends, but we will often find ourselves on the same side of a problem and remain together until we find and implement a robust solution.
I am not suggesting that all this will happen overnight or magically mitigate all the suffering in the world. Pain and suffering are part of the human condition, and while we must always strive to lessen each other’s, we also cannot function without them. Remember that there could be no courage if there is no adversity, and good cannot triumph without evil. Real societal change, that requires changing deeply held attitudes and mindsets, always takes a generation or more to affect and there is no way around that.
So the rise of populists, nationalist and narcissists do not scare us, but has been a great motivating factor for all post-partisans; we gladly accept the challenge. Their effect has been to end our complacency and serve as a necessary wake up call, one that reminded us that it is naïve to expect democracy to be safeguarded by coming out to vote once every few years or by entrusting it to a corrupt and ideologically bent political class intent on defending their power, at all costs.
It will not be easy but nothing worth doing ever is. The road ahead is arduous and the journey painful (and sometimes bloody) but one thing I know for sure is that we will overcome and our democracies will become stronger for it. The future is very bright and the number of post-partisans will only continue to grow.
My mother once told me something that I never fully appreciated or understood until now – she said, “the job of a parent is not to protect their child from the world but to prepare them for it.”
I am ready…