Why do people isolate themselves?

Current developments such as Brexit and America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord appear to be flying in the face of worldwide trends towards convergence and collaboration. One has to question what the real reasons for such moves are.

Two quiet revolutions, just on 100 years apart, have played a powerful role in changing the way countries and people interact with one another. Before these revolutions, physical boundaries ensured that countries and their people remained separate. It would take a long time to travel from one country to another and the physical boundaries countries erected ensured that there was no uncontrolled movement into their territory.

When man acquired the ability to fly at the end of the 19th century, this all changed. People could now get into an aircraft which could fly way above any physical boundary erected. This was the first step in making countries closer to one another. And this progressed in a remarkable way over the next 100 years.

Then, at the end of the 20th century, came the Internet, which once and for all destroyed geographical boundaries that had existed ever since man could build walls, moats and other physical barriers to keep people away and separate.
These are the two main forces which contributed to what we refer to as globalisation – an increasing interconnectedness expressed through trade and other cultural activities. This started the world on a course of convergence, co-operation and collaboration, the likes of which we have never seen.

Surely this would have reflected in the thinking and actions of world leaders, one would have thought. But one would have thought wrong. World leaders, in the shape of Donald Trump and Theresa May have demonstrated by their actions that they wish to isolate their countries from other countries. Why?

Many people will give you many answers, and most of them will probably be quite correct or not very far from the truth. They might refer to political agendas, power games, respecting the will of the people, and such like reasons.

When you distil everything down to one thing, you’re left with one word – fear. People isolate themselves from other countries, other people, other parties and other groups not because they’re necessarily afraid of those other people, parties or countries but because they’re afraid of a whole lot of other things that might happen.

They might be afraid pf losing power or control, of losing their identity, of losing their way of life, and so forth. When this happens, they react by withdrawing to minimise the risk of their fear becoming a reality.

For example, in the case of the recent British election campaign, it would appear that Theresa May made a critical mistake in choosing not to participate in a debate with other political parties just before her country’s snap general election (which she called). She isolated herself for a number of reasons, all with one root – fear. She might not have thought so. She might have acted on the advice of two now former advisers, but regardless of all of that, the most fundamental reason for isolating herself from the debate was fear.

The same applied to Britain’s Brexit vote. The majority of the population voted to leave the European Union because they were afraid. Analysis of quality data indicates that they were afraid of losing their national identity as well as afraid of the implications of immigration to the UK if they stayed in the EU.

Donald Trump in turn has spoken of building a wall between the US and Mexico. In this day of air travel, drones and Internet domains, a wall seems pretty inadequate. Why does he want to build a wall? Because of fear – he played to the fear of working class Americans who are afraid of Mexicans taking their jobs in order to win their support to get elected.

Decisions that have been made because of fear are usually not good or sound decisions – they’re usually made for the wrong reasons and have unintended negative consequences. Of course, that doesn’t mean that one should make reckless decisions simply to appear unafraid.

The point is, make sure the decisions you make are for good reasons and not driven by fear. That will ensure that there is a greater chance of a positive, rather than a negative, outcome.

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

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