Immediately I reacted. The thought on my mind was violence.

Photo: Immediately I reacted. The thought on my mind was violence.

In last week's letter, I discussed a local story. In this story, the government had shut down a business for failing to check their patrons vaccination status. I received more responses to this letter than ever before.

The responses were overwhelmingly positive - but there were some critics. No doubt, a letter about anything covid related will trigger some people. Interestingly, the critical responses were cut right down the middle - half angry that I would not condemn the business, and half angry that I would not condemn the government.

My answer to either response was the same - the last thing anyone needs is another armchair quarterback pointing the finger.

I try to take things back to the basics - whether it’s investing, business, or critical thinking, I strip away as much programming, assumptions and biases as possible. It is more important than ever to take a critical look at how we are interpreting current events, how we are interpreting political views, how we are interpreting policy and how we are interpreting our neighbours.

We are getting weaker when it comes to objective thought. Why? Because of the relentless onslaught of divisive media headlines. The biggest distributors of information on the planet are in the business of triggering our fight or flight response - and they are the undisputed champions of it. I have close friends who have always been resilient independent thinkers who are now unable to tolerate opposing points of view. When you shut out opinions you disagree with, you are the one who gets compromised.

“It is important to think critically. As long as you think critically the same way I think critically…”

The first time I recall being triggered by a social divide was in 2010. I was walking past a crowd during the Occupy Wall Street movement, and I got heckled. A protester yelled “nice suit you f*cking shill”, and the taunt was met with cheer by his companions.

Immediately I reacted. The thought in my mind was violence. I recognized an enemy and my posture stiffened.

I walked back to my office debating what had just occurred. I remember thinking how entitled these protesters were, how fruitless it was to complain without providing solutions, and that I was different from them. A line had been drawn.

As my day progressed, my anger subsided and my mind softened - but I was still frustrated.

The intent behind the taunt was to trigger me, and it worked. For a moment in time, I accepted the division, I accepted the us vs them narrative, and I drew a line in the sand. A line between people I knew nothing about and who knew nothing about me.

I was angry with myself, because it was an irrelevant and meaningless act. But I had been baited, and I took the bait.

I have tried to stay conscious of the triggers surrounding me everyday. They have accelerated - the us versus them story lines are everywhere we look.

Dismissing our brothers and sisters for thinking, acting and believing differently from ourselves is a weak and lazy approach to life. Fighting through our differences and persevering through our conflicts is hard, and many people are not willing to do hard things. So my challenge to you is this - practice.

Human beings are meaning making machines - when something occurs, our minds immediately place meaning on it. The Occupy protesters heckled me - this meant they must hate me, and so I should hate them because obviously we have fundamental differences about what is best for society, and clearly I am right, so clearly they are idiots, and we need to educate them. Through force, if necessary. We need to punish them into enlightenment.

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve punished someone into enlightenment…

When I feel triggered, it is followed by the need to react. But I have a choice. I can react, or, I can pause, think and act. I don’t always succeed at this, but when I do I am happier with the result.

It’s another life skill that serves me as an investor.