Rio Ferdinand is now ready to shake hands with John Terry and Ashley Cole. This is a turn around, how he has reached this decision. In any relationship YOU are the most important person. You are foremost in your relationship with yourself and you take that to your relationship with others.
In any relationship we can decide how WE want to be, in other words do I want to define myself in reaction to you and to external events or do I want to create who I am and be consistent and true to myself (more or less) in whatever situation I find myself.
When we take our eye off our own ball we lose something – contact, appreciation, affiliation. Only we can be responsible for ourselves. Yet we are plagued by expectations about our partners, friends and life in general. We want the world to give us things we are not willing or able to give ourselves.
It seems that Rio has found something in himself, a quality which makes him more than a reaction to John Terry. In response to the question “what kind of person do I want to be in the world” he has found an answer within himself.
In shaking hands with Terry and Cole he expresses something about himself that is valuable and that he does not want to give away in anger and hurt.
This applies on the level of the individual and of society. It has been said that when we confront terrorism the challenge is to do so in a way that shows strength, by this I mean the strength of our values as societies and as individuals. External strength may be shown in shooting and bombing, this is an illusion. This is the strength of the bully in the playground, the punishing teacher or parent. Our real strength and conviction about who we are, who we want to be, is shown in our refusal to give up our core values.
Robert Mueller, the Director of the FBI has said “We will not win the war on terror if we lose our freedoms in the battle”. In other words even if we win the physical struggle we will lose if we become more like those we struggle against. “Mueller has led his agents to believe they must fight the threat of terrorism without trampling civil rights” (Tim Weiner, Guardian 25.10.12).
If we approach relationship in this way we hold on to who we are and do not live in angry reaction to the external world. This takes effort, for which I applaud Rio Ferdinand. By staying true to himself he stays in charge of his historic, personal anger and is able to direct the energy of “righteous”, present tense anger against the FA, the PFA and “Kick out Racism”.
How extraordinary that the action of Ferdinand and the relatively unknown Jason Roberts (amongst others) appears to have forced the PFA into drawing up a six-point plan against racism. A UK “Rooney Rule” is suddenly in prospect. He has grown his own answer to the question “how can I be me, with you?”