19 February 2021

Scott McGregor: Rumble in the Jungle

Editor’s Note: Ex-pat Collective Intelligence member alumnus, Scott McGregor, pens us this blog from his home in Bangkok:

Scott McGregor

“Let’s have a real conversation, even if it’s tough.”

Brené Brown’s commitment to leading us into daring conversations is something we need to commit to. I work in an international school in Bangkok, and I have the privilege of listening to a diverse range of world views from a globally employed faculty who educate 1,700 students. Whilst I am surrounded by an immeasurable number of perspectives and ideological positions, there seems to be a fundamental skill that is amiss that could be made better with a Collective Intelligence approach. Why are we not listening? And how could instilling a more robust Collective Intelligence process take us to new levels in our shared understanding or mutual respect?

Education and idealist views tend to go hand in hand, with much of the thinking aligning with a leftist viewpoint which then filters through into curriculum design and implementation. One particular ideology of significance is the woke mainstream narrative that tackles social and racial justice. The goal is equality, inclusiveness, and tolerance for people who are classified as being in marginalised groups. Identity politics, white privilege, and political correctness are three classifications that are used to achieve the goal. The problem is, it’s just not that simple and complex topics deserve an open market of ideas within educational establishments. What I am observing though, particularly within the social justice topics, is that too often a different perspective or a challenging question is met with a shield. There is a lot of ‘armour’ and we need to instil a culture where it is okay to take it off.

Group identity as a strategy to gain attention works. Look at the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement. Listen to the voice of the LGBTQ community. Observe the growth of gender identities coupled with the invention of new gendered pronouns. The challenge of course, is how we get there. How can anyone attempt to realistically define any group with a significant population with only a few sentences? As Douglas Murray points out in The Madness of Crowds, how can it be that a spokesperson can suggest that the entire LGBTQ community say, wish for, or expect? This essentially suggests that approximately ten million people in the US alone who identify as LGBTQ are all agreeing on the same thing. Now, can we have a real conversation about this, even if it’s tough?

The mainstream narrative also uses a phenomenon known as white privilege and white fragility. The idea is that white people, especially men, have a vast set of advantages and benefits solely because they are white. If a white person defends in any way, they can be classified as having white fragility. One of the fundamental concepts behind this idea is that our world has been built by white men, and as a result, certain groups have not had a fair go at it which has resulted in their oppression. Although there may be some truth to some of these ideas, it seems naive to think that a diverse and inclusive outcome is going to be achieved by applying undiverse and exclusive techniques. Perhaps we could rumble around with some of these ideas for a while?

Now, let’s be intelligent about this, in a collective way. These types of issues demand mature conversation. Brene Brown talks about removing our armour and encourages us to:

“…lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.”

Most decent humans share a similar intent in the search for a more collective racial and cultural understanding. However, conversations all too often become defensive with a feeling of opposition created without circling back to tease out the well-intentioned dialogue. Whilst it could be the case that civil discourse brings us closer, it seems that the result can often be divisive. It will certainly take courage to persevere with these discussions.

I’d like to finish with some key takeaways from the 2018 Munk Debates on political correctness held in Toronto, Canada. An articulate Stephen Fry concluded his argument with some compassionate yet staunch words. His message of hope was that our desire for inclusivity is also met with inclusive practices and while individuals and groups promote diversity, that our thinking, actions and behaviours are also diverse. If the manner in which we converse matures, and our egos are left at the door, perhaps then we will be able to play gracefully with ideas.

I’d like to thank Collective Intelligence for the incredible work that you do to enhance New Zealanders’ performances. You have helped me to value all feedback, to tackle the tough conversations and to be more passionate about listening. The challenge of building more respectful and diverse relationships whilst also solving difficult problems is a tough one. But if it is important enough, then we will find the patience and perseverance required to make it happen.

Header Image Credit: Photo by Ragnar Vorel on Unsplash.

Scott McGregor – February 2021


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