Every morning my daughter and I fight a silent battle.
She visits my bathroom and turns the toilet paper role upside down. I follow along turning it the right side up.
In recent times our silent battle has caused me to do a little more research. My girl seems to be very passionate about this cause and I’ve been rather curious to learn more about why. I’ll admit. My research started out as a means to prove my own righteousness. However, I’m starting to concede that I may in fact be quite wrong. Now don’t get excited, this isn’t a public acknowledgement. It’s just between you and I.
Interestingly, I have found myself in a similar space beyond my bathroom. That space where I’ve thought I was really, really right about something, hung my hat on my ‘right’ opinion and been rather offended when someone else came along and knocked my righteousness of it’s seasoned perch.
I’ve worked in what could largely be described as ‘social change’ for almost 20 years now. It’s fair to say that in this time I’ve had my fair share of critics.
Over the years I’ve approached said critics in a variety of ways. Usually with a metaphorical kick in the shins.
But recently I’ve realised a different quality in the critics. If nothing else a useful marker to check my ‘echo chamber’ making sure I’m not just creating more of the same.
Thing is, when you position yourself at the forefront of social, community or any kind of change you MUST prepare to embrace critical dissent.
Because there are so many things wrong with our communities right now. People are restless and flapping about just trying to be heard. And YES, some of these things are idiotic and maybe even stupid thought bubbles.
Sometimes there is gold, or at least a bit of quartz in the critical thoughts of others, and this matters. Why? Because as much as I’d like to think that there is one right answer to every pressing concern, actually, there never is.
Just stop for a moment. And think. How many things in your life today are the same as they were 5 years – 10 years ago?
When I reflect on how critical dissent has impacted my life and my work, interactions seem to fall into two general categories:
- Loony Tunes, morally misguided or otherwise self-invested misogynists generally led by someone with a toxic and vested interest and
- An equally passionate changemaker with a different body of evidence and equal passion for implementation
These days I have a lot more patience (and ability to identify) the second category. In fact. There are numerous people that I can easily align with this category that very readily call my friends. Why?
Because a friend is prepared to call you out on your BS. To be generous enough to listen to your thoughts. And to refrain from judging you if you disagree. And this safe place is where critical dissent can really play a role in shaping a solid, productive and beautiful future for our world.
In this safe space I’ve had the privilege of exploring my thinking about – and approach to the most pressing challenges MY eyes see in our society. I’ve embraced that I cannot always be correct and, for that matter nor should I be.
Might I tell you there is no song quite as lovely as the one that carries the lyric “I love you” – particularly when it is delivered via the voice of an earlier passionate opponent.
Critical dissent, delivered via a safe and productive means is the pathway to our future. A pathway littered with new thinking, challenged ideas and robust thought.
As for toilet paper. Actually. I don’t really care which way it rolls. These days I just enjoy our daily turning of the roll. Our acknowledgement of one another’s thoughts, opinion and existence. My critical opponent and I have battled our thoughts to a sensible end. Now we honour the battle with ritual. It’s perfect.