Learning Comes from Each Other

Sarah Mulcahy, WIP Class 2012, talks about her ‘light bulb moment’ in Week 3

This week, I learned a lot. Before coming here, we were told by a veteran WIP alumni that most of our learning would come from each other. I could not have imagined then, how true I now find that prediction to be.

People often speak of being challenged on their viewpoints, but for me, this Program has compounded that beyond what I would have thought possible. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t aware of how strongly I feel about certain things until I came out here. More to the point, I wasn’t aware of how uncompromising I can be about my viewpoints.

My light bulb moment was captured in a conversation over a few drinks in Hoban’s bar, on a Sunday afternoon, sitting with Sean Gill and Lewis Mooney, we talked about homelessness.

A few days before this, a guy we know had talked about his core belief in personal responsibility and individual choice. These values feed his perspective on homelessness and to him it is a choice of lifestyle. He finds it difficult to understand why homeless people should be helped as he feels that there is no logical or economic reason for people to be homeless in Ireland. Sean, Lewis and I spoke about it and I learned more in a moment, than many people learn in a lifetime.

A point made by Sean and Lewis resonated with me. They said that it is his right to hold this view on homelessness. He is perfectly entitled to do so. They then asked me did I think that homelessness would ever be eradicated. I realized that I don’t think there is a way to eradicate homelessness. What I do think is that society should work to try to prevent or alleviate the social and economic conditions that cause homelessness and I believe that society should work to ease the pain homeless people have, even if it isn’t effective at eliminating their homelessness. But then as we talked further, I became aware that these are my beliefs, my opinions, and my ideals for the way I think society should be run. I realized then that I have the tendency to think people are fundamentally misguided if they don’t share my views on how society should work.

Light bulb flash. I suddenly grasped it; I am a bigot. Well, at least, I have the capacity to be bigoted. That was a frightening moment.

Speaking with Sean and Lewis made me see that my ideas are very different to other people’s ideas of what makes society better.  That moment, and other experiences on WIP have made me examine why I think my beliefs are both right and effective. Self-awareness of why you think the way you do is key. Yes, adaptive leadership Wilhelm. That conversation taught me that we are all capable of falling into the trap of intolerance. It made me think about ways to avoid that. I think I need to read more, and be as informed as possible. I think I need to make myself uncomfortable, and surround myself with people who disagree with me. I think I need to realize- not in an abstract academic way, but in a way that reaches my core- that it is okay for people to fundamentally disagree with me. Ta’ guys.