What Hobbits Can Teach Us About Collaboration vs. Competition
do you want to argue about bread right now...OR, do you want to help me destroy this thing ruining all of our lives?
Here are two lifelong friends -- friends who’ve been traveling together for nearly a year -- facing all manner of peril in a quest to prevent the death and subjugation of their entire world.
But somehow, they’ve decided to fight with each other about some pieces of stale elf bread.
During my traditional Thanksgiving Lord of the Rings trilogy Marathon, I was struck by the scene where Gollum dupes Sam and Frodo to turn on each other atop the treacherous rocks of Cirith Ungol. Frodo curses his only friend in the midst of a catastrophic situation, and pulls Gollum, the instigator and enemy, all the closer. It was jarring enough to bring me out of my tryptophan-induced haze, to say the least.
This scene stuck out for its profound illustration of the subtle dangers of Lateral Violence and Horizontal Hostility. In a nutshell - when times get tough, sometimes the instinct is to take it out on the people closest to us, or reject the help of those best suited to give it.
From a political standpoint, we’ve seen great deal of this kind of in-fighting throughout 2016 and its intensity has certainly been underscored since the US Federal elections. Like Sam and Frodo, the United States (and humanity as a whole) has experienced a number of geopolitical threats and upheavals; insecurities both economic and existential in recent times. And, as a rapidly changing, unpredictable world stirs up emotions of fear and hopelessness, a popular tendency is for people to lash out, blame, and shame those closest to them.
And, of course, it these patterns are all the more obvious to us thanks to (what else) Social Media.
Unfortunately, this stress has led people to divide themselves in a time when solidarity is most needed: global humanitarian/refugee crises seem endless, governments fail to meet our expectations, and our very planet seems to groan as human activity multiplies, indifferent to the warning signs of climate change.
Times are tough, no doubt about it. But venom and despair will get us nowhere.
So, I’ll ask again:
Do you want to fight about elf bread? Or do you want to work together so that we might accelerate our civilization beyond the problems we face today? Like, perhaps, in a concerted effort to address specific problems with global reach? Surely the act of circumventing issues and limitations facing our world with brand new solutions is as revolutionary an act as any. The information, communication, and capital all exist. What’s the missing ingredient? A willingness, mostly. The more we embrace the idea that the best versions of ourselves aren’t correct, but rather creative, generative, and willing the faster this idea will have major impact on reality.