Radio, your cure for segregation brain disease !!

OPINION: Radio has a spectacular ability to bring people together. Radio can create spaces for debate and introduce us to ideas we haven’t engaged with. Radio has the power to bring people together.

I’ve never understood what people see in soccer. It’s not the game itself that mystifies me, it’s the ardent levels of support that I just don’t get. Throngs of people are willing to put their lives on the line for their favourite teams, and yet the players in those teams are traded like marbles on a playground. What’s the point in being so loyal to something that constantly changes for profit? But as human beings we like ‘us versus them’. It appeals to us to build walls between people. Soccer is not the only profitable industry that is entirely dependent on the age-old Montagues and Capulets.

Breaking down barriers is hard. That’s because our brains are trained to divide the world into those with us and those against us. It’s a protection strategy, a survival technique if you will. Banding together with a common cause is what attracts people to all sorts of ideas ranging from religion to sport.

We like labels and we live lives that reinforce this. In our Twitter profiles we have 140 characters to describe who we are. In job and home loan applications, we tick boxes that sort us into categories. In meetings and classrooms, we introduce ourselves using short-cuts that people will understand (that’s what stereotypes are). These are all places where we demonstrate our labels.

It’s hard work to take people as we find them. It’s much easier for our overloaded brains to assume that all women drive badly, all married people want children and all terrorists are Muslim. Those assumptions however couldn’t be further from the truth. When was the last time you got upset about being painted with the same brush as a bunch of other people in a group you had no choice in being a part of? I think you’ll find many examples in the last weeks and months.

Radio has the power to bring people together. Be part of the radio brand community. Don’t collapse into us and them.

Now that we know that segregation is something each one of us naturally does, usually unconsciously, we can look at the costs. Labelling people prevents us from looking deeper. It helps us write them off as soon as we see them. This cultivates fear of others. Fear, in case you’re wondering, isn’t good for anything. It makes us do stupid things (like ball up our fists at football matches), it makes us compliant in the wrong scenarios (remember the Nazis?) and it prevents us from reaching our full potential. In fact, segregation makes us less safe.It means we assume people in our in-groups have our backs when in fact they might not (if this wasn’t true women would trust each other around philandering husbands).

Worst of all, segregation is inefficient and wasteful. I could provide pages of proven work that shows that diversity of ideas drives profit, that diversity of backgrounds delivers better results and that embracing difference leads to better life flourishing, but for now just take my word for it. Building walls between groups doesn’t make life better.

So what do we do about our propensity to segregate? There are lots of ways but my favourite is to actively nourish a curiosity about people who are different from you (thanks Meryl Streep). Now why am I talking about this in a piece about radio? Because radio has a spectacular ability to bring people together.

Radio can create spaces for debate and introduce us to ideas we haven’t engaged with. Radio can curate the over-whelming amount of information out there about complex ideas and break it up into concepts we can swallow to help us make better choices ranging from who we vote for to what food we buy.

Radio can introduce us to music we haven’t heard and didn’t grow up listening to. Radio can share stories of people who aren’t in our allocated boxes. While we can’t engage much on TV or in print and while the twitter-sphere is misinterpreted constantly and lets us hide behind our handles, radio puts voices and faces to opinions and ideas and stands proud in the face of ignorance.

Radio has the power to bring people together. Be part of the radio brand community. Don’t collapse into us and them.


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