• Ian McClellan

Week 45: The world according to me (or, I will try and understand worldviews).

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

It seems like we are constantly baffled by the decisions of others.

Whether it is within our own circles of family or friends, or voters in our own country, or institutions in countries thousands of miles from where we live – we expect or we hope for one outcome, and then literally the opposite happens.

It is a bit like the futility of sports fandom. Many of us support football or other sports teams, and have a very close and tribal relationship with our fans and our club. We watch them whenever we can either in person, on the TV, or through the internet or the radio. We become emotionally attached to outcomes that we have absolutely no control over, and frustrated when they don’t happen.

Why didn’t they shoot? Why didn’t the defender cover? Why did the manager make that substitution? Why did they buy that player? These are all outcomes, that we are emotionally attached to, without having any real impact in the decision itself. We’d love to be the in heads of these people or in the boardroom of these clubs, but we are not.

This lack of understanding of why others might choose a different path to the one we would wish them to take is causing division and conflict. Because we have become a connected world, we have become a world of observers. In a few clicks, we have a window on almost anything that is happening, anywhere in the world, and can react in an instant if things don’t go our way.

But I guess that is the thing about looking through windows. We can see what is going on through the window, but we can’t see it all.

We might be able to see that a conversation is going on, and we might catch snippets of it, but we can’t really see the whole perspective. We might have a partial view, but likely there is other stuff outside or our view or around the corners that we can’t see.

We bang on the glass for attention, we shout to get ourselves heard.

The only way to truly have an impact, is to be in the room. But we can’t be in the room. We might be able to get closer to the glass, but even with our nose pressed up against it and our breath on the pane, we’re not there.

Over the past few weeks, I had the unique opportunity to speak to a few new friends across the world, and had the special and unique chance to discuss the planet with these same people. It gave me the inspiration for this week’s change.

This week, I will try (to begin) to understand worldviews.

I say try to begin, because a worldview is a complicated and nuanced thing. A worldview is our own personal room, and our own personal window. It is the way that we see the world, based on what we have been taught, experienced, accepted. It includes our bias. It becomes the voice in our head that tells us what we should expect from a certain person or scenario that we encounter, and it tells us the narrative of what is happening before we have all the information. It fills in the gaps with a perception of what we think is happening and therefore the decision we think should be made. But, those we look at each have their own worldview. Even our partners and closest friends, have their own worldview.

By reading up on worldviews, and by talking to people about their own, it blew my mind and made me realise how putting yourself in the shoes of others is such a powerful thing. You don’t have to agree, or even understand. You just need to see.

I knew that my worldview would be influenced by where I live, and the privileges that I enjoy. But at the same time I thought I was aware of this, and that my awareness helped me to actively reject any labels. I believed that I always took a view of any situation not through any conscious bias but as a citizen as the world.

It turns out that I have been successful of widening my perspective in 44 years of trying, but only in the sense that I have managed to switch a small bubble for a slighter larger one.

But a bubble it still is.

For example, if I put myself in the shoes of the activist at the police line, what do I realise? I realise perhaps that they have lost a loved one to the cause they support. Perhaps they may have been the subject of systematic decisions, that have worn them down to the point of desperation and anger, that they perhaps are not even thinking about the cause, they are just angry. And that they will do anything to get attention.

The police officer opposite them, may be feeling the same. Maybe a colleague or a parent was injured or killed in a protest in the past. Maybe they agree with the protester, but cannot afford to lose their job.

In terms of being planetwise, it opened my eyes to worldviews that I did not previously consider. About the trap we fall into, when we think that the world is like us. That of course someone can easily be zero plastic, or 100% plant based.

But what about places where recycling plastic is a dream, because of the lack of infrastructure in place? Where having a plant based diet, is a ridiculous notion but where all meat it sourced locally. Where being kind to the planet is priority number twenty-four on your list because the other twenty-three are about survival and putting food on the table.

I promise to consider this more. I will always try to consider that the worldviews of others are not the same of mine, and try harder to put myself in the shoes of others. That I will watch my tone, because making a difference does not start by making a proclamation, or by giving solutions based on the outcomes that fit my worldview. People don’t want to be told what to do or what our priorities should be.

I also promise to dig into my feelings more, when I am in love with the outcome of a decision that is not mine to make. I will try and put myself in the room.

This is also how I think we can become better at co-operating and making change. I still believe in connections, but I now understand that we are all not connected in the way that I thought.

The world will likely continue to be divided, we will continue to be baffled by decisions made by others. But maybe next time I don’t understand someone, I’ll try and look at the world through their eyes.

Try to understand their worldview. Try and see the patterns, and walk in their shoes. It is only after we have done that, that we have the responsibility and the right to try and make a change.

And who knows – maybe we agree on more than we think. Maybe we can’t all exactly be in the room, but we can persuade each other to open a window now and again.

If you’d like to learn more about my worldview, check out our letter to the world, delivered brilliantly by the LJ, our voice of the Planetwise Pod.

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