Most of us loathe division. Whether in our homes, workplaces, or in our national politics, we want some form of agreement. We are happier when everyone is pulling in the same direction, and our lives feel less stressful when we all agree – whether about national budget priorities or the best genre of music.
The problem is that we often land on what I call fake consensus, or cheap unity. For instance, if a leader sets a strategy without really listening first, people may follow along without actually agreeing to the plan. Or maybe one group argues so long and hard that others give up. More troublesome are the times when we find real consensus on such broad and general platitudes (“hard work is our motto,” “kittens are cute”) that tangible next steps aren’t even clear. Or squashing debate by pretending disagreement does not exist or matter (“at the end of the day, everyone who works here wants the same thing”), when it does!
When the consensus covers up differences instead of dealing with them, it is always going to be a fake consensus. That never works out in the long run. Resentments always rise.
Fierce unity starts by acknowledging differences.
The alternative is what I call fierce unity. Fierce unity starts by acknowledging differences. Instead of hiding disagreements or covering them up, we acknowledge that they are there. Then, we try to find common ground on something specific. Usually, the best ideas to fix a problem are from the people who are closest to it. With a few of their tangible suggestions in hand, we can make the uncomfortable decision to work together without agreeing on everything.
I deeply believe that fierce unity can change how we work, live, and govern together. That is why we have put it at the heart of everything we do at Dream.Org.
Imperfect Uniter of the Week
Millennial Action Project (MAP) is activating young leaders to bridge the partisan divide and transform American politics. Working in concert with lawmakers, MAP has advanced post-partisan legislation on issues including criminal justice reform, gun violence, entrepreneurship, technology, 21st century skills training, veterans' employment, immigration, and more.