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The Other Side of the Trade

Joe Biden will be the next President of the USA. To many people this is happy news. To many others it’s sad news. Like 2016, it was a remarkably close race and our country is going to be divided as we head into 2021. This division could sow the seeds of further division and dysfunction. Or, if we choose to understand that division it can help us compromise and function better.

One of the nice things about thinking of the world from a macro perspective is that you necessarily have to understand both sides of all issues. You don’t see me talking about debt as necessarily negative or positive because, as a macro thinker, I understand that liabilities are just the other side of assets. You don’t see me talking about “cash on the sidelines” because that cash is only on the sidelines because someone else moved cash off the sidelines. There are always two sides to every trade, two sides to every balance sheet and two sides to every transaction in our complex economy.

At a human level there are two sides to most of our dealings with other people. We are constantly interacting and progressing through compromise. You can’t succeed in life without understanding and compromising on what other people want and why they want it.

In “Judge Softly”, American poet Mary Lathrap wrote “Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins”. In this beautiful poem she emphasizes the need to try to live your life by seeing things from other people’s perspectives.

We will tend to navigate the world in a highly biased manner. We can’t understand why other people have the views they have, make the trades they do or take the seemingly narrow perspectives they do without seeing the world from their perspective. But in seeing the world from their perspective we not only improve our understanding of the world, but can better understand why someone else might take a certain position.

The interesting thing is, when you develop this sort of macro perspective you also get humbled by it as it exposes how much you don’t really know. The endless complexities of the world become obvious. What might seem obvious to you suddenly becomes much more complex than you might have thought.

This is a great day for many Americans who feel like their views have been vindicated. But I would implore these people to humble themselves and take the time to try to understand why so many other people took the other side of that trade. In doing so you might not only improve your understanding of the world, but you might help us all come to better decisions about how we’re all going to navigate that world.

NB – I often get accused of “both sidesism” when I talk about politics. This is intentional. I am a firm believer in the idea that our Constitutional Republic was explicitly constructed to force compromise by creating checks and balances that reduce the potential for tyranny of the minority AND tyranny of the majority. 

“Judge Softly”

“Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.

Don’t sneer at the man who is down today
Unless you have felt the same blow
That caused his fall or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.

You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, unknown to you in the same way,
May cause you to stagger and fall, too.

Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins.
Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain.
Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own,
And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.

For you know if the tempter’s voice
Should whisper as soft to you,
As it did to him when he went astray,
It might cause you to falter, too.

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow-minded, even unkind.
There are people on reservations and in the ghettos
Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.

Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.

Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.

Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.”

~ by Mary T. Lathrap, 1895