Monday, May 1, 2017

Yes, we *can* all just get along. Here's how.

While I'm fairly certain I frequently stray from strictly musical discussion on this blog, I haven't made it a habit to comment on the various things I find on the internet.  But I saw this last week, and it really got me thinking.  And since then I've seen it shared by about a million people (including our bishop, our current senior pastor, and our next senior pastor!).  So I'm going to share it with you, and then I'm going to think out loud for a moment or two.

There's nothing wildly inappropriate here, but you should know a couple of things:
1. This is an ad for beer.
2. The subjects presented in this video are controversial (but they are presented sensitively).


I've seen a lot of videos like this in the past year or two.  Most of them are not marketing a specific product, but rather are aimed at changing behavior.  There's the tear-jerker PSA about not texting and driving that introduces people who text and drive to a woman who was catastrophically injured by a distracted driver.  There's another where they get a bunch of people in a warehouse and then group them by various stereotypes.  There's one similar to that, only it's based on political parties.  There's another where a man does a video rant about technology and how people are glued to their phones--which I watched on my phone, of course.  I keep wondering if his sharing that on social media was an intentional jab or if it was coincidence.  "Put all your screens down...right after this video is finished and you click like and subscribe!"  This video is different.

The people in this ad are slowly introduced to each other.  They look at each other for a time before they are allowed to interact.  They accomplish a task together.  They build something of a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.  Then, and only then, they are made aware of their significant differences.  They are given a choice: stay and talk or leave.  They all stay.

Do the folks at Heineken want us to believe the participants stayed because of the beer--like the prospects of free beer outweigh the misery of sitting down with someone with whom you have a significant disagreement?  Maybe they do, and maybe they don't.  I could argue either side.  Honestly it doesn't matter all that much.

Having been introduced to the participants, we were supposed to believe that when the truth was revealed the participants would not handle it well.  After all, that's how it usually is in our world.  People line up on both sides of all these issues, demonizing and minimizing people on the other side sight-unseen.  We know better, but for some reason we can't resist judging the proverbial book by its cover.  We divide ourselves on a single issue--or on a set of issues.  We label ourselves and others, sorting ourselves into groups of like and different.

We do all of that without getting to know the people we disagree with, and that's the problem.  When we lead with our disagreement, we have no incentive or interest in going beyond it.  But if we lead with a relationship, if we begin with mutual respect and understanding, then we are already invested in each other.  If we are invested in each other first, then we have incentive in pushing beyond our disagreements.

It was a beer.  It could have been a coke.  Or a bowl of pretzels.  Or maybe even nothing at all.  The question wasn't really, "Do you want a beer now?"  The question was, "Did you learn that this person, with whom you disagree significantly, is actually a person?"

I knew what would happen.  Maybe you did too.  Deep down, somewhere, we all know and recognize that we are connected to each other.  The solutions to our most pressing challenges will elude us until we embrace that connection--one relationship at a time.


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