Some years ago I could observe how uncertainty suddenly unleashed chaos in a family. A shift in the family structure and habits destabilized the existing balance. The children all started to show symptoms of their uncertainty. They all used different strategies to ask for attention and thus protection. With two of the children finding means to retreat from the family into a new protective environment, one of which was religion.
What religion brought, in that case, was a structure as well as a set of rules for life. It meant that less had to be decided. Decisions were externalized and given to a trusted entity. It made it easier for the child to step into the world of the “grownups”.
Combined with the search for meaning, we can see this retreat into a space offering rules and structures happening all over. Individuals seeking meaningful causes search groups they can belong to. They engage in groups pushing change or fighting for justice.
Partly to deal with the need for attention, but also to make the cause more understandable the group’s approaches have been simplified. There is a simple story of what’s right and what’s wrong. One that most naturally results in a power dynamic defining them as those who know and the others as those who don’t know. A natural consequence of having such stories as well as a definition in out-groups and in-groups is the growing polarization of the messages being shared. It’s how the power dynamic naturally unfolds. The polarization serving to deny other realities due to the established priority of bringing one’s truth to the world. It is how individuals in the group help themselves deal with the overwhelm of information and pressure of expectations they feel exposed to.
It shifts our society into a more and more fragmented society. One filled with groups who find it hard to think in nuances and to listen. The fight against the out-group and the desire to achieve their purpose keeping them too busy for other ideas.
Sadly, the growing fragmentation requires us more than ever to be able to listen.
Listening and nuanced views allowing us to make sense of the other’s requests as well as to keep an overview of the needs of society at large.
What’s true for society is also true for our organizations.
Not to forget all the individuals contributing to the organization.