On Cooperation

On Cooperation in a World Where Violence is Too Frequent

Anthony J. Garascia


On April 15, 2013 I received this message from my daughter Margaret, who was I Boston watching a friend run the Boston Marathon:  “Wanted to let everyone know I’m ok.  We were watching outside in downtown”.  She was referring to the bombing that had just happened at the end of the course.

That same day, all across Michiana, attendance had been down at area schools due to a graffiti message scribbled on the bathroom wall of a Department of Motor Vehicle branch.  There was a vague threat to kill students at various schools.

We live in a world that is uncertain and which seems to more often than not lose its bearings.  If you ask many parents their main concern is for the safety of their children.  How do we not only create safety in our classrooms and families, but how do we teach a different way of non-violent cooperation to our children?

I heard a report recently on apologies.  Seems that when we don’t apologize and hold our ground we actually feel better about ourselves.  Does this help explain why so many people have a hard time apologizing and forgiving?

Sometimes in our society cooperation and tolerance appears wimpy, like you are giving in, that you have no backbone.   Americans tend to be fiercely competitive.  A competitive strategy works many times, yet it also creates winners and losers.  And sometimes both the winners and losers nurse grudges and grievances, which can, if left unchecked result in verbal and physical aggression.

But what would happen if also taught cooperative strategies that create “win-win” situations.  These strategies would have us listen to the stories and experiences of the other and understand the commonality in them.  This is essentially what we do when we work with a couple or family that is having extreme conflict.  We try to find the common ground that unites people, then grow the strength of that common ground.

Being cooperative and willing to listen t doesn’t mean sacrificing one’s principles; one can hold fast to them but in a way that is non-violent and respectful of the other.  To be cooperative and be willing to listen and compromise might seem wimpy to some.  Yet it remains a powerful alternative to an extreme competitive spirit that divides the world into winners and losers.

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