All in this together

Lynne McTaggart

Normally, I don’t pay a huge amount of attention to the politics of my adopted country, usually because I happen to disagree with some aspect of policy pretty much most of the time. 
My indifference also stems from the fact that I can’t do anything about the state of affairs here, since, as an American alien resident in Britain, I can’t vote and so don’t have any say about who is in office.
But ever since the extraordinary outcome of the recent election, which resulted in a hung Parliament, and the new coalition created between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, I have been riveted by the course of events and by all the lessons we can learn from this turn of events in living life according to a new set of rules.
How it all works
For those of you who don’t understand the British system, here’s a short course in how it works over here.  When British citizens vote, they don’t vote for a prime minister or party to rule, but only for their local Member of Parliament (MP), who represents their constituency, or local district (much as a member of the House of Representatives does in the States). 
The system, like the American electoral college, is winner-take-all; whoever gets the most votes in each constituency (no matter whether they are a minority of the total) wins the seat.  There are currently some 650 seats in the House of Commons; the party with a clear majority (or 326 seats or more) is then the governing party.  The leader of that party then becomes the prime minister. 
Virtually all the time, either the Labour or Conservative Party gets a majority.  This gives them a clear mandate to shove through pretty much any law they like for their term in office without opposition. In fact, it’s the only way Britain can govern, under the current system.
With very little check and balance, after a time, as I’ve seen with both the Thatcher and Blair governments, the reigning party initially pushes forward enthusiastically with its agenda, but before long, flushed with unopposed power, it turns fat, sleazy, irresponsible and corrupt. 
The new deal
This time it was different.  The British people did not vote in a clear majority, which resulted in a ‘hung’ Parliament.  Although the Conservatives won the most seats, about 50 more than Labour, they didn’t reach the magic number.  The Liberal Democrats, the center-left third party, held the election in the balance. If they  joined the Conservatives, they’d have a clear majority.  With a Labour party, they’d still have to round up all the other parties in order to produce a ‘rainbow’ majority
David Cameron, the Tory leader, made Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, a big, open offer. For several days representatives of both parties eventually hammered out a deal, giving a little here, taking a little there, until a centrist compromise they could both live with was struck, signed and planned for the next five years.
Since that time, many members of the public and the press from either side of the fence have spoken bitterly of their party’s ‘betrayal’ and abandonment of its conservative or liberal principles, and the fact that Clegg and Cameron, formerly so combative during the election, are now, thick as thieves.
To blame this all on politics as usual is to miss the bigger picture here and the lesson for all of us.  Of course the inexorable drive for power played a role in the deal; no one enters politics without that basic instinct.
Nevertheless, the point is both parties were able to put aside their differences, have a respectful, grown-up negotiation and find a good deal of common ground.  Some of the worse ideas in either party got thrown off the bargaining table. In a situation that hasn’t occurred in British politics for nearly a 100 years, members of both parties are sitting in the inner cabinet and making policy together; five members of the Lib Dems were appointed in the cabinet, including Nick Clegg as deputy prime minister.  A seasoned Lib Dem financier is sitting beside the Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer to decide on bank-reform policy.
Bigger goals
Call me naïve, but what I think is happening with this government only tends to happen during war. The incoming government knows that Britain is not only literally engaged in two wars, but also at war financially. Our ‘external debt’ – that is, what we owe the rest of the world — is estimated at 400 per cent of gross domestic product. We are in the worst financial state of all countries in the G8  -  four times worse than the US.
Psychologists call putting aside differences and working for the common good a  ‘superordinate’ goal – a goal only achieved by large cooperative teamwork. The native American Cherokees call working together in this manner ‘gadugi’. Engaging in sharing and teamwork tends to transcend differences, because it emphasizes the very heart of humanity — that we are all in this together.  And if we are all in this together, we are no longer competing and scrapping with each other.
Discrimination doesn’t require conflict or indeed much besides the flimsiest designation of otherness.  As American psychologist Henri Taifel demonstrated in a study, when a batch of adolescent boys were simply told that certain others had scored the same score as them at a computer task, they began to band together and discriminate against those who hadn’t achieved the same score.
Difference of any sort that gets emphasized is enough to create a ‘minimal group’ and, consequently, an outgroup. All it takes is any kind of a wall, no matter how flimsy.
A social scientist called Doise observed the very human tendency to place ourselves into categories and suggested that one way that we can come together is in ‘cross cutting categories’ — attaching ourselves to more than one group.  That not only reduces the prejudice against out groups but tends to stop people from comparing themselves to other groups. 
It also reduces our need to relate to just a single factor — religion, or gender, socio-economic background or, in this instance, politics — in order to feel that we belong.
Let’s for God’s sake, join hands and give them a chance — and perhaps even learn from the British experience. At this decisive moment in history, everywhere around the world, we are indeed all in this together.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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28 comments on “All in this together”

  1. Great Post - I so heartily agree - it's either we reachout and learn to work together - or we shall certainly go down together...!

  2. Dare we hope that sanity will prevail in the world or will we be plunged into the abyss of an insane war as one group tries to exterminate the other in the desire to dominate.
    Power, greed, and ignorance-the three horsemen ride now. Pray!

  3. How true and hurrah for you Lynne. It's funny how someone from the outside looking in can see things so much clearer than we can from within. I hate the way the media attacks the government from the off with all the negatives they can throw at it, when clearly it's far too early to draw any conclusions. Let's just give them a chance. I as a lifetime Lib/Dem am delighted that at last we can have a bit of influence in how things are run and can't understand the cries of 'betrayal' that have come from within the party. I believe that 'We Are All One' and the more we can co-operate and work together the better for the future of our civilization. I look forward to the formation Coalition Governments throughout the world! Penny Joseph

  4. It's interesting to hear an appraisal of the results from a knowledgeable , committed person who was brought up in a different system, Lynne. We here in Canada attempted the same solution an election or two ago but the effort was drowned in a flood of what can only be called propaganda by the party holding the most seats - but, again, not enough to form a majority. That PM is still hanging on to minority power, and branding every attempt on the part of the rest of the House to get together "political opportunism". As I look back on the past five or six decades, however, it strikes me that the best governments we have experienced have been minority governments, and that probably for the very reasons you mention. I wish the coalition well, as we look forward to whatever we have to look forward to! (I do think this is an incredibly exciting time to be alive, and that the future will indeed be bright, but... the transition might well be a bit rocky!)

  5. So much is said re Britain being 'the worst' now, due to its debt; however, with your short, clear description of the political system, and their current 'Rainbow" government..... I find they are indeed the most blest! They are a grand model of cooperation! May we learn from them!

  6. I am in the direct opposite situation of Lynn, being an Englishman living in the US. I have been here 10 years, an adequate time to observe the politics. The Americans are not only extremely polarized as a nation, they distrust politicians period. That situation has become much more evident since the recession but I believe it goes as far back as the Founding Fathers. The entire process seems devoted to not making any changes unless everybody agrees, the kind of pure democracy that the native Americans practiced. While it may have worked for them, it cannot work in a modern country the size of the US.
    In the British parliament, they call each other “The Right Honourable Member”. There is real respect, and even friendship amongst individuals from different parties. This is the way that politics should work. However, as Lynn relates, the ruling party usually calls the tune, and while the opposition may suggest alternatives, they are powerless to effect the outcome. Now if the US system had that kind of respect between parties, and all the polticians worked for the common good, it would be the most democratic system in the world, but that is not the case. A number of Congressmen/women are more interested in keeping their jobs than working for the common good. Hatred is often a weapon used to enlist financial support. When Winston Churchill was re-elected in the UK in 1951, he did not repeal the National Health Care Bill passed by Labour in 1946, because it was of tremendous benefit to most of the people, yet this is precisely the path spouted by some Republicans, even though it provides at least some health service to the very poor, and goes some way to controlling the excesses of Health Insurers. Such is the power of the Conservative Media that some people are convinced this is the right path. The isolation of the US leaves the people mostly ignorant of what is happening in the rest of the world, and the degree to which they are being influenced by lies and distortions. The influence of lobbyists usually thwarts any real reform and while I have faith that President Obama is an altruistic man and a superb President, I am certain that he is aware that his options are very limited given the kind of system he is working under.
    The hope for the future is that perhaps at least on some of the really important issues, the left and the right amongst the people, the grass roots Democrats and the Tea Party are united in their desire to see a return of democracy and a vast reduction in the power of Corporations, and Big Banks.

  7. Touche'....they have to get this right, from here onwards. Our collective consciousness will not allow otherwise. The Sandpit rules are simple, do not kick sand in each other's faces, and share the toys. When you play in someone else's sandpit, clean up your mess before you leave, otherwise you won't be invited back to play! This world is our's to share, not ours to exploit and pollute. I believe we are rapidly moving towards the New Paradigm of Cooperation rather than competition. Our ocean's are calling for our concerted efforts to clean up our mess, from oil to plastics. Just as we clean up our Planet, we'll discover that these are the very things that have created the myriad of diseases within our bodies. Cure that which ails the world, and you'll cure that which ails humanity.
    Thank you Lynne

  8. Sorry to sound so Ho-Hum about it, but little ol' New Zealand has had MMP in place for over 20 years! We voted it in overwhelmingly and it's worked pretty well ever since (unless one Party gets too much domination). It does help to keep politicians more honest and policies on an even keel.
    Just as we were the first nation in the world to give women the vote, we seem to be ahead of you big nations in coalition governments too! Perhaps all eyes should look to us - no, scrap that, we don't want lots of immigrants filling up our wide open spaces: go to Australia instead - and then pop over The Ditch to visit us.... like they do, even though they pretend not to.

  9. Lynne,
    As an American living in Australia for the past 9 years (and New Zealand for a year), I too was baffled by the British style of government.
    The Liberal Party was in control up until 2 years ago, and what I found amusing when the Labour party took over, was for the last two years they blamed the previous government for everything.
    I could understand the blame game for the first 6 months of taking office, but two years on and they are still blaming the previous government for current issues.
    It is definitely an “Us vs.Them” attitude!
    In times of dramatic change, financial loss and destabilisation, people will tend to polarize as you indicate in your references.
    As James keenly describes his experience in America, my contacts and family in the US have swung from strong support and approval for the new president, to distrust and frustration with the governments seeming inability to fix things up.
    Public discontent is on the rise...
    Maybe the UK government is now forced to come to the table with open arms and open discussion, but is it sad to think it takes the potential financial ruin of the country to bring about such a discourse.
    If, as a society, we can intend to create war, famine and growing international debt, then it should also be possible for our intention to bring about peace, sustenance and prosperity too.
    Focus on how you as an individual can contribute to your life and the lives of those around you, and if you don’t like what is happening in your country or government, then get involved and do something about it!
    Sitting on the side and complaining accomplishes nothing...
    Write On!

  10. A few of the points I made earlier seem to have been misinterpreted. The reference to the fact that the US Republican Party intends to repeal Healthcare was in response to Lynn’s concern that under the British system minorities may lose out, because the majority party govern. The instance I quoted in which Winston Churchill did not repeal the NHS act passed under the previous Atlee administration, (neither did MacMillan, Heath, Thatcher or Major) shows clearly that the UK Government of any denomination are not about to unravel the social contract that has been in place since 1946, therefore minorities continue to be catered for, despite the way the government works. The US system is clearly more democratic in principle, in that it is specifically designed to protect minorities, but in practice requires the politicians of all parties to be constructive; otherwise the progress of business is either slow or non-existent. This not a complaint, it is an observation, and an opinion. Others may disagree.
    I completely agree with the thrust of the blog. Together is the only way forward!

  11. Thanks Lynne for airing the subject. I think most people become polis to help their fellow man - and then 'something' happens. It is a mystery to me. Forgive this simplicity but don't all humans need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, and medicated (and the transport for these)? It seems every 5 years or so the media/polis create this dichotomy - whether to upgrade the rail or the roads (or electricity vs. gas). As if one was more important than the other (Australia is a big place). Why can't gov. (of all persuasions) have 50 year plans for the Nations development - rather than the election to election mentality. Have the plan open for discussion - and we could vote on one each year - rather then voting for a Party. Of course we would have to educate people about the 'big picture' (country vs. city, pastures vs. pavement, business/income vs. expenditure/social nuture etc.). It just seems to me that we waste so much time and money on the circus that is our governmental structures. I mean- there are people still arguing over whether 'climate change' is occuring! (big business vs. scientists). The past ruling party is badgering the present party for not providing services that it itself refused to provide - 'circus' is the only word i have come up with so far.

  12. Canada follows the British Parliamentary system of government. We had one coalition government during the war time in 1917. Traditionally, the US governments are very polarized. Obama is one of the first president to try to bridge the political chasm because he know it takes the whole to solve dire problems facing the US and the world. Vision and leadership is everything.

  13. I live in Britain and my friends and I have discussed the situation and there are many positives .. people came out and voted in much larger numbers (my neighbour voted for the first time in her life and she's 39); the result made politicians stop and think "Gosh, what do we do now?" and automatic adversarial attitudes have been forced out and yes they are having to work things out together.
    But now for my misgivings... Out of the 29 cabinet members, 23 are millionaires. Where are the cuts going to come, how can those people understand or represent the people on my estate who live on less than £100 a week (and most work very hard for that too) - we the poorer members of our community are scared of how the 'common people' may suffer as the rich make them pay for a rich people's crisis. Throughout the recent economic difficulties rich people have still been getting richer and it has been normal working people who have been accepting pay cuts, loss of perks, worse working conditions, greater workload.
    I want to comment, and it's linked, on the suggestion that 'intention' be used re the Mexican Gulf oil 'slick' (that word doesn't seem huge enough). Our entire world economy is based on oil as shown by the fact that the 8 most profitable companies are either oil and/or coal or directly oil and/or coal related so as the car industry. What I have writtten above and the eco-crisis affecting our whole globe - climate change (pleeeeeease don't be taken in by the oil/coal backed sceptic propaganda.. the science is solid and has not changed), peak oil, peak soil, oceans of plastic, biodiversity loss, forest loss, eco-system breakdown, chemical cocktails - are inextricably linked. Vested interests are determining all our lives and the future of our planet. We have to become conscious of the whole bigger picture and intend and act for and assertively demand of our elected representatives socio-eco-ethical and spiritual change. That way we won't have more oil slicks as we move away from fossil fuels (their easy availability is declining anyway - that's why companies are wrecking Canadian wilderness in their desperate attempt to squeeze a little bit more juice out of the Tar Sands and destroying peaceful, indigenous peoples in the process who lived sustainably and respected their environment).
    The wonderful thing is that the British people were thinking, talking and expressing themselves politically (and that no BNP got in!!) - we must keep talking thinking, asserting and make sure our leaders are accountable to us. But we must also recognise that we cannot control what we do not own and that those who 'own' the fabric of our planet are taking short term decisions in their own interests (for short term profit) and not representing the collective and barely consider all the other species that share our planet.
    Only when the last tree has been cut down, when the last river has been poisoned, when the last fish has been eaten will they realise that their chase for short term profit has wrecked the world... but not if we become aware, intend, assert and act NOW!

  14. Good one, Lynne! I'm from Tasmania, Australia's southern island state, where we have a 'hung parliament' too. The Labor and Greens parties have formed an alliance... I reckon it's an opportinity to move beyond the old blame game mentality and start to actually try and understand each other's points of view. Or at least it's a step in that direstion.
    I've also just read "Spontaneous Evolution" by Bruce Lipton and Steve Bhaereman, which has some positive things to say about how changing our own "innersphere" is central to changing systems and enabling politics to evolve into true democracy.
    Dignity, Peace, Prosperity.

  15. I do find this funny Lynne! Many thanks for sharing.
    You people know this...
    Once we ‘label’ ourselves (whether that is with an alliance to a party or a religion, etc) we separate our self from mankind.
    I was so thrilled to find we had created a Hung parliament in the UK! That tells you just how confused we have become… How come? This moment has given us the opportunity to come together as ONE. We are starting to realise that what we read in our newspapers and watch on TV is a ‘negative’ REALITY that may not serve us.
    Only our Ego’s need problems, conflicts and enemies to order to strengthen the sense of separateness on which its identity depends according to Eckhart Tolle.
    Let me ask you a question. Has your left elbow ever fallen out with your left or right knee? Has your heart (or any other organ in your body) decided to create a war with your liver because it was taking up more space? NO! They work in HARMONY. They operate in a community as ONE. That means Calm Unity in PEACE, being of great service to one another.
    The greatest good we can do as Human Beings (in my opinion) is become CONSCIOUS. Only then can we make better/smarter choices for the good of us all and Mother Nature.
    Become conscious as to your own JUDGEMENTS, created through our beLIEfs and Values of non-disturbance.
    We have created Corporations that actually ‘control’ politicians, who use BS (BeLIEf Systems) via the Media to promulgate FEAR. False Evidence Appearing Real. WAKE UP PLEASE!!!
    Once we realise we can VOTE with WHAT and WHEN we watch, buy and walk, we then start to become the change we’d love to see in this incredibly beautiful world.
    It’s all food for thought.
    Sending love and Qi
    Magnus Mulliner

  16. I am reminded of this quote:
    "There is no limit to what can be accomplished, when it doesn't matter who gets the credit." - anonymous

  17. The Universe could not function without polarity so it is hardly surprising that it appears in human affairs. Polarity however is not a problem when all is in perfect balance. Perhaps the new administration in the UK is a small road sign showing the direction of things to come?

  18. The Taifel and Doise principles could be well applied in South Africa. Previously we had the White apartheid (seperateness) form of racism and now we have an equally virulant black racism in power. There are vicious, powerful, exclusive black groupings legally in place which emphasize this e.g. the Black Lawyers Association, The Black Editors Forum, The Black Accountants Association, The Black Gun Owners Association and many more. It is based on black and white polarity, nothing more nothing less. To break the spell we need to find these "cross-cutting categories" where all South Africans can find as many other categories to which all can belong irrespective of being "black" or "white"

  19. As a Dutch resident, familiar with coalition governments, I completely agree with you, Lynn. It is good that two parties put aside their differences and compromised so they can work together for a better future. Give them the benefit of the doubt!

  20. My understanding of Kuan Yin’s law of attraction teachings is that there is a “Planetary Collective Agreement” that has, until now, dominated the present paradigm. As we have free will, many of the limiting beliefs (and the havoc they can create) that this deity describes as defining this paradigm could be transformed:
    “For now, just know that this is very important. If enough people know about this, if every human being could recognize the power of the Love and Forgiveness Principle all consciousness on earth would change instantly. Indeed, thoughts can change the course of history. Sometimes, all it takes is enough people knowing about a certain concept.”
    Continuing, Kuan Yin proclaims: “There is a dimension where the pure wealth of consciousness is a reality. It is a reality where everyone is loved, where everyone is fed and healthy... When one brings spirit into the human realm, it can spiritualize matter. Matter can then become lighter, (indeed liberated), not as dense as before.”

  21. To continue with my former post, of course there are also wonderful, expansive beliefs (such as oneness, compassion and cooperation) constantly at work in the present paradigm.

  22. Very well put but lets not get too carried away here. The British political system is fraught with corruption, like all political systems, and it will take a lot more than this "coalition" to turn things around. I do agree that there are two ways of looking at every situation and there is without a doubt some positives to be taken from this conservative/liberal govenment but only in the context of its cenceptual aspects. Such as the fact that two parties are now joined and helping each other, this can be seen as an inspirational idea and will hopefully convince skeptics that team work can change things, however without total transparancy in any political system there will always be an element of corruption. Don't forget that both parties support the wars in Iraq and Afganistan and both believe quite feircly that the public of Britain should all now be made to suffer the consequences of a recession that had nothing to do with them. I believe perspective is the right word here, please don't lose it. This coalition can be seen in a good light no doubt but there is much that needs to be adressed before the people of Britain can regain any faith in their out dated and visciously corrupt political system. I suggest using thought intention to focus on true freedom of mind, body and spirit for all the peoples of the world and this may just filter through to the psyches of politicians. I beleive that they are in desperate need of some empathy.

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