The world is opening up again. That's good news for all of us who are still here. But just when you think life can't get any more absurd, Elon Musk buys Twitter.
The richest man on Earth has big plans for his new $44 billion baby. And those plans could impact more than just Twitter's 200 million daily active users.
"Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated," Musk said in a statement. "I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans."
This news made a lot of people very happy and a lot of people very nervous. The plan revealed the deep divisions across our society once again. Whether Musk saves the digital town square or not, we still need to restore our humanity and save our actual town square.
In Minneapolis, we continue to see acts of dehumanization. In 2022, there have already been 27 homicides, 146 gunshot wound victims, 158 carjackings and over 1,400 auto thefts in the city. These are all increases from 2021 numbers. Many of the perpetrators are youth. Many of the youth keep getting younger. Many of the young perpetrators are repeat offenders.
Our juvenile justice system is not working. A recent Minneapolis Star Tribune report called "Broken Promises, Shattered Lives," the first story in a series called "Juvenile Injustice," showed how years of reform efforts have failed to provide justice for victims or rehabilitate troubled youth.
It's not too late to create public safety solutions. Change is coming. Hennepin County will have a new attorney and sheriff elected this year. Minneapolis will have a new police chief selected at some point as well.
These new leaders could bring practical, effective ideas to our communities. But it won't matter who's in charge if we can't find ways to put aside differences and work together.
Community leader Manu Lewis, who has been working on the frontlines of community pain in Minneapolis for over a decade, has an idea of how we can do this.
"We need to go back to humanity," Manu told me during a phone conversation. "Find the commonality in our humanity. Our basic humanity. We are trained to think in the other. If we look at things through the lens of human beings, we can take a human approach to what safety looks like."
This means looking at everyone as a human being first. Not as a Democrat or Republican, Black or white, Muslim or Jew, rich or poor. After we remove the identity labels of politics, race, religion, class and wealth — how people often are defined— we can start listening. Even if we disagree with the voices, we can see the humanity. Then, we can seek common ground. This is how we build human solidarity.
We start from a place of humanity. But throughout history, the idea of "otherness" has started from a place of difference. People get treated as "the other," or different from "us." It alienates them from us, moving them, the others, to the margins of society. This othering is how people become marginalized and communities become dehumanized.
Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning "humanity to others." It means "I am what I am because of who we all are," or "I am because we are." Ubuntu stresses the importance of community and building a culture of human solidarity. It recognizes the interrelatedness of people and how we share a mutual responsibility. It is the opposite of othering and the essence of humanity.
Manu's life is all about ubuntu. After years of dealing with crime, incarceration and death, he made a lifestyle change in 2010. He has been a "soul medic" for the Department of Health, done gang intervention work and been a community engagement expert with the Minneapolis Police Department.
Manu continues to engage with the community today and do right to people as a restorative process practitioner and lifestyle healer. He understands the power of giving everyone a voice because many communities historically have been left out of the conversation.
"Someplace between apathy and anarchy is the stance of the thinking human being," Rod Serling, the creator of "The Twilight Zone," once said. "He does embrace a cause. He does take a position, and can’t allow it to become business as usual. Humanity is our business."
The ubuntu spirit is what we need right now. A little community engagement can help a lot. Small, positive human interactions can have a ripple effect on the community.
Remember, we are all human. And love wins.
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