My parents stayed in a small town on the Gold Coast of Queensland Australia for a couple of years. As is customary when visiting another country one quickly gets around to chatting about everything that’s different and strange from what you are used to. One of the first things they told me was about how different pedestrian crossings were to South Africa (where I reside and where we all come from). Apparently vehicle drivers in their own and the surrounding towns always give way to pedestrians. As in always. This sounded unbelievable as in South Africa you really have to watch your ass when crossing roads. Being my usual sceptical self I decided to check it out for the six weeks that I visited.
First thing I noticed was that the pedestrians there don’t even look before crossing. Initially it freaked me out. Every time I saw a pedestrian just going for it I would imagine them getting ploughed down by oncoming traffic. Never happened though. Vehicles just magically stop for pedestrians. It was crazy. They just assume all vehicles are going to stop. And they do. Interesting thing is that it is law that vehicles should give way for pedestrians in both countries. So technically – that’s what it should be like in South Africa as well. But it isn’t.
There’s a discrepancy between what is and what we believe should be.
I got into a tangle with a couple of ladies a while ago for sharing an article from Mashable where Mashable responded to a statement made by Dr. Ruth Westheimer. She was quoted saying the following on a radio show
I know it’s controversial, but for your program, I’m going to stand up and be counted and, like I do in the book, be very honest. I am very worried about college campuses saying that a woman and a man or two men or two women, but I talk right now about woman and man, can be in bed together, Diane, and at one time, naked, and at one time, he or she — most of the time they think she can say, I changed my mind. No such thing is possible. ¹
I thought “wow, that’s good advice.” Got riled big time though by the girls. They felt that this idea is oppressive by nature. Their argument is that they should be able to do pretty much what they want to with their bodies without any fear of any type abuse. I agree.
But there is currently a discrepancy between what is and what we believe should be.
That discrepancy is conflicting by nature. In both the anecdotes that I have shared I am presupposing that what we believe should be is truth. Coming to this position is also a necessary process but it is not the focus of this article. This article is focused on the discrepancy and managing that discrepancy.
The first principle of managing the discrepancy is mutual acceptance of both positions.
Those on the side of what is needs to be honest about whether change or movement is necessary. Is what should be honestly and objectively healthier for all involved? If so, are we willing to accept that? If not why not? Those on the side of what we believe should be should at least acknowledge, if not accept, the reality of what currently is. If what is really is then we need to work from there to here.
I shared the first anecdote with the ladies from the second anecdote. Why? My argument is the following: If I, as a loving father, have to teach my children about pedestrian crossings, what do I teach? Do I just teach what is (South African experience)? Do I just teach what should be (Australian experience)? Or do I teach both? Which approach is best equated with my position as a loving father?
For me, it would obviously be to teach both. Advocates of what should be say that I should just teach my child that YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO CROSS THE ROAD WHENEVER YOU WANT TO WITHOUT FEAR OF MOVING VEHICLES. THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO STOP FOR YOU! But that would be silly because the current reality of what is is that they don’t always stop. So I teach both. I teach something along the lines of “remember, vehicles are supposed to stop, and when you drive try to be aware and always stop. But still, before crossing, check, because they don’t always stop.”
So why not teach my daughter that yes, her body is hers and she should be able to do with it what she wants, but also, that yes, the world DOES NOT CURRENTLY WORK LIKE THAT, so maybe it’s not the wisest thing to jump naked into bed if you’re not planning on having sex (and yes, I, as her father, would talk to my daughter about that).
The ladies agreed to this line of thinking. If they did not, I would seriously have wondered why.
The second principle of managing the discrepancy is accepting that it is a process.
Getting from there to here will have to be a process.
If we have to put should be as position 10 on a line of 1 to 10 and is as position 1 as follows
IS SHOULD BE
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
and we are serious about getting from what is to what should be then we need to acknowledge that is is a distance away. There has to be a process. If you are not willing to acknowledge this principle of process – why not?
The third principle of managing the discrepancy is allowing the two positions to compliment each other.
This principle should actually be the first principle.
However, in highly polarized or aggressive environments it’s not possible to see the complimentary potential until the first two principles have been established. Thinking about different words to describe the two groups we can possibly go with realists for the what is camp and visionaries for the should be camp.
My wife and I fall broadly into these two categories. I’m the realist. She’s the visionary. She essentially creates a lot of energy for movement by consistently helping us to see where we should be going. I get us moving effectively because I’ve got a good handle on where we are and what would be good first steps. This is great. Energy and effectivity. We compliment each other. And I think it serves as a good (albeit simplistic) analogy for what can be possible once we start to see the worth that each of the groups bring to the situation.