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Aug 6
Mel Gibson...Bigotry... and the Brain's Way Out ... Through Acting

Hal Halladay’s post Mel Gibson’s Passion and Penance intrigued me for a few reasons… mostly because it reminded me that when we wire for bigotry… the brain synergizes those wires. First let me say that ... we all wire mentally for bigotry in one area or another and at some point in our lives. Quite recently a racial slur slipped into an otherwise interesting movie I watched with a good friend in London. I was smitten by the slur because it diminished my friend's culture... but would I have been as smitten if I'd been there with a friend from my own culture? Not sure. Perhaps I'd have seen it as a mere slight or as simply representing the "real world." That question bothered me for days... because bigotry grows when we passively accept comments that devalue ANY human. Does it happen where you work?

Mel Gibson,  actor, producer, director and Oscar winner was arrested for
DUI July 28th in Malibu. Because he neglected to reboot his brain he flew into an anti-Semitic tirade and the media cried BIGOTRY as a result.

Just as Hollywood is no stranger to bad behavior, we all have issues in life where we see ourselves as superior to another person or group. As Hal pointed out: “In Gibson’s case, it actually took two apologies but the second feels like more than just words. It was not only an acknowledgement of wrong-doing but an action plan to get things right. In a crisis, a pro-active plan leads to support and understanding, particularly if the plan is followed by action.”

The action itself will rewire the brain for understanding and empathy… beyond bigotry. Many people cannot believe Mel’s words: "I am not an anti-Semite. I am not a bigot," or cannot trust Gibson's statement ... "Hatred of any kind goes against my faith. I'm not just asking for forgiveness. I would like to take it one step further, and meet with leaders in the Jewish community, with whom I can have a one-on-one discussion to discern the appropriate path for healing."

That’s because we witnessed Mel's actions which showed his brain wired for their opposite, and the same is often true for ourselves as leaders whenever we fail to.

1. include other cultures or genders for top positions with competitive salaries
2. find ways for different voices to speak and feel heard at work
3. value unique approaches to solving problems in ways that respect diversity

It’s far easier to disdain Mel’s words spoken in a drunken state ... than to reflect on our words to build caring business communities in a state of soberness.

In fact maybe Gibson’s words show bigotry  on the surface … but have already shaped deeper understanding by some… as Jewish leader, Rabbi Daniel Lapin suggests in
Toward Tradition, when he graciously defends Gibson:

“If Mr. Gibson really does hate Jews as his drunken diatribe might indicate, his behavior towards the many Jews he knows has always been nothing but cordial and respectful.” Who knows for sure?

What we do know ... is that whatever we wire into a human brain in calm weather ... is likely to call back either bigotry or compassion ...  to the world in crisis or during a storm. The brain wires by what we do, more than what we say. That gives us great hope for Mel Gibson … who plans to act opposite of his words…. But what about bigotry that creeps into my brain or business through words, actions or negligence ... on a weekly basis? What opposite actions could turn my pre-wired bigotry around before a storm hits and the world strikes back?

Thanks Hal… your gift for story always challenges us to reflect for other business applications! And thanks Mel ... for acting in ways now ... that could turn around bigotry for the rest of us... later. What do you think?

2 Comments/Trackbacks

It will be interesting to see the results of Mel's new dialogue.

Thanks for stopping by, Robyn, and I agree it will be interesting. Hopefully this unfortunate incident will make us all more aware of what we can do to fight bigotry and promote equity. Imagine what it could do to our nation?

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