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  • Marie Trout

Polarization and Distrust — A One-Two Punch to Morale

Underlying our predicament at the moment, is the fact that as before we had to self-isolate, we were already isolated in groups that are deeply suspicious of each other.

It is difficult to find common purpose and pull together as a group, when we for years have been telling ourselves and each other that we are playing on different teams.

Having leaders that encourage division, only fuels the fire.

To pull through difficult times as a society, feeling bonded together with a common purpose is essential. According to Mirriam-Webster, morale is:

a: the mental and emotional condition (as of enthusiasm, confidence, or loyalty) of an individual or group with regard to the function or tasks at hand. b: a sense of common purpose with respect to a group. c: the level of individual psychological well-being based on such factors as a sense of purpose and confidence in the future

When faced with difficult situations as a society, morale lives in the stories we tell ourselves and each other about why our sacrifices are worth it.

Morale was the societal story that backed up the soldiers who fought Naziism in WWII. And the story that fractured for the soldiers who fought in Vietnam.

Since, the late 1960s in the US, it is often seen as a special kind of naivete to respond to a call for national or international morale.

Morale exists in factions that correspond with our beliefs. There is high enthusiasm for fighting the good fight within these groups internally. But often, each camp deeply suspects the motives of another.

Thus, distrust in anything collective or societal abounds. Distrust in science, distrust in leadership, distrust in (the other) half of the country, and distrust in international alliances.

With time on our hands, and struggling in the net of our captivity, self-proclaimed social media celebrities blast forth with opinions and conspiracy theories that range from the plausible to the totally ridiculous.

Everyone has a bullhorn, and uses it to disseminate their beliefs. They present “evidence” that confirms their beliefs. They make assumptions, conjectures, and refer only to the facts that back their case. In such a climate, morale can easily fall apart.

To pull through as a society, each of us are invited to do something more than the all-important staying at home. In addition to our self-isolation, it is useful to recognize that, although we rarely change anyone’s minds, what we say and write on social media platforms really does matter.

Because spreading half-truths, conspiracy theories, scorn, and hate turns people off from wanting to listen.

While freedom of speech gives each of us the right to blabber indiscriminately, and social media gives us a platform, self-reflection, research, and a sense of responsibility are important pillars of making our speech helpful.

This moment invites us to stop up and to:

  • Vet our sources carefully and responsibly.

  • Hold the tension that is a part of uncertainty.

  • Withhold our tendency to judge.

  • Breathe deeply.

  • Control our tendency to react impulsively.

  • Feel our outrage and anger, and understand that those feelings are often rooted in feeling vulnerable and afraid.

  • Accept that this feeling of vulnerability is a big part of what bonds us together right now.

  • Stop speaking half-truths, assumptions, and conspiratorial theories. These only further fear, which makes us all less safe.

To find our way through this current situation, one of the best way to connect to national morale is to listen.

To listen to the voices of healthcare workers who are today’s frontline soldiers.

They see the casualties. They struggle mightily to keep up. They run enormous risks themselves. They are not biased. They don’t “believe” in science, they depend on it to save lives. They also depend on each of us. They depend on us to listen, to speak responsibly, and to stay at home.

WRITTEN BY Marie Trout Author “The Blues — Why it Still Hurts so Good,” artist manager. PhD Wisdom Studies. Contributor: The Daily Beast, The Bern Report, Classic Rock Blues Magazine.

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