re: We the People: manipulation vs. democracy
Milton Block wrote:
Richard and Sue Stubenvoll,It is great ‘we’ are communicating our thoughts, and as Jesus is said to have said (or similar, and what I like), “I come not to judge, but to help save.” My 50 plus years of ‘research’ in this area (Truth hopefully) convince me that Richard is definitely moving in the right direction and I agree with most of what he says (as I would you Sue I suspect if I knew you as well), and thank him greatly for saying it.It is a BIGGIE to overcome the lifetimes of ‘propaganda’ to which we are subjected, and ultimately requires GREAT courage. My stomach has churned and still churns when contemplating alternative views of what the real Truth may be. Often it is the opposite of what I thought for years, and even then wise people say, ultimately it is NEVER what you thought it was.So, our thoughts and communications may have their limitations, and there many sayings one could repeat, but, I think to be non-judgmental and open-minded is a must to strive for. I find it beneficial to try and understand the other point of view even if I do not agree with it. The exciting part is when you suddenly get some understanding of why ‘they’ think that way, then compassion, and sometimes Joy, takes over as you realise we are not different, just misunderstanding the true communication behind what is being said, and which usually involves the giving and receiving of Love.Thank you Sue and Richard,Milton: Block
Thanks, that’s a great way to frame our recent dialog. We can get passionate about things, sometimes to the point of rudeness, and it’s all motivated by a search for truth and right action, and our caring about mutual understanding. ‘Understanding the other point of view’ is a rather deep subject…
Everyone has a world-view / belief-system, what we might call their ‘world’. A point-of-view, on this or that, is simply a matter of how this or that is seen from someone’s world. A second person’s point of view may simply make no sense in the first person’s world. The situation can be equivalent a language barrier. A discussion, at the level of exchanging viewpoints, is what I’d call a level-zero attempt at mutual understanding. Messages go from world to world, and both world’s remain unchanged. Yes, we are ‘not different’, but didn’t we already know that?
If dialog is to have a beneficial effect, in our search for truth and right action, engagement must be in the realm of worlds, not viewpoints. To move on to level-one mutual understanding, it is necessary to for people to ‘open up their world’ a bit, for examination and reflection, to get down to the beliefs, values, and assumptions that hold our ‘world’ together. This is what Socrates meant by ‘know thyself’.
And here we run into a problem. For we typically get very quickly down to ‘unquestioned assumptions’. Indeed, a belief system, or ‘world’, is typically a large tangled ball of unquestioned assumptions, surrounded by a thin layer of ideas and conclusions. It is in this thin layer that ‘thinking’ takes place, and most conversations take place between one thin layer and another.
The problem is that people tend to get very defensive about their unquestioned assumptions. This presents itself in several ways. The approach of many Catholic theologians, for example, is to acknowledge the difference in world views, to be open and conscious about them, and then declare that it’s a choice one makes. There is no truth, only choices among faiths and creeds, and again worlds remain unchanged.
Others, when assumptions have been exchanged, become aggressive at the ‘other’ who believes ‘absurdities’, and personal attacks are acceptable in order to ‘defeat darkness’. For many, there is simply an agreement to stay in the thin layer, as in, ‘don’t talk about politics or religion’. Some people, and Alec Guinness was one, may deselect you as a friend if you ruffle their tidy worlds.
The most common kind of defensiveness however, doesn’t raise to the level of psychology; it’s more at the hard-wired level. You need to have some subconscious awareness that you’re holding an assumption, before you can be defensive about it, in the psychological sense. For most people, in my experience, what I see as an assumption, they see as a simple, obvious, indisputable truth, equivalent to ‘the Earth is round’.
For some reason, and perhaps we should call it a personality defect, I have a passion for identifying and questioning assumptions, my own as well as those of others. It can get me into trouble in all sorts of situations, given the various defensive reactions. From my perspective, from my world, it seems obvious that investigating and testing the assumptions underlying your thinking is the most direct way to increase your understanding. It’s basically the scientific method, and taking every assumption as an hypothesis to be tested.
If you do this, then you’re increasing the thickness of the thin layer, increasing the realm where thinking is taking place, and decreasing the domain of entangled assumptions. And as I’ve said, people typically have a strong aversion to such an exercise. The ‘core assumptions’ equal ‘mental security’. If I start untangling the ball, I’ll be like the Scarecrow with his straw being scattered about; I’ll disappear.
I suppose one needs to have early experiences of coming unraveled, and successfully reconstructing your world, like learning how to swim early. That way you never see water as something to fear. And of course childhood conditioning, and schools, and the media, are aimed at giving you a neat, closely tangled, frequently-reinforced-by-rewards, standard ball, to fill your head with. In my case it was this onslaught of programming that caused me pain, whereas rearranging my world from time to time was only a challenge, not a threat.
In my years of conversations with individuals and groups, I’ve identified some basic, critical assumptions that exist in society, varying among different segments, that are keeping people imprisoned in the matrix of civilization aka domestication. In my writing, I keep harping on those same critical assumptions, always seeking a new angle that might make sense to more people, be understandable to more ‘worlds’.
And I’ve found there are limits to the value of this kind of work. Most people, perhaps 95%, simply aren’t going to examine their core assumptions, just because they are presented with new left-brain information. The threat to security is too overwhelming; the ball is too entangled. For these people cyberjournal can only serve as a provocative opinion column and a chat forum.
From my perspective, the valuable outcomes from the work have been (a) contacts made with people I can work with in various pursuits, (b) occasional useful influences on the thinking of writers and activists, (c) VERY occasional conversations with people who are willing to examine their world, and (d) my own learning. Most of all (d). My writing is my ongoing reexamination of my own assumptions, about reality, and about how to communicate. It’s an exploration of my inner world of ideas, and I always come up with new insights, and identify more assumptions. As in this posting.
I’d like to share a related ‘waking up’ story. It’s about Joseph McCormick, a leading-edge activist on two fronts: community empowerment and his Transpartisan Alliance network:
He was involved several years back in a Wisdom Council in Ashland, Oregon. He helped organize it and he filmed it. And then, when the council participants reported back to the open public meeting, he was in the audience.
In a Wisdom Council they use Dynamic Facilitation, and Dynamic Facilitation has a remarkable property: it is able, on a reliable basis, to get people to open up their worlds, and engage with one another at a deeper level, a level where synergy among ‘worlds’ is unleashed as a creative force. It happens because a certain kind of ‘secure supportive space’ is created by the facilitator. The tangled ball is immune to new information, but it yields to the right kind of experiential environment.
As people engage in one of these Wisdom Councils, and as they see themselves becoming creative about their shared concerns, they become aware of the potential of their own empowerment. They become aware that their normal attitude toward public affairs is childlike: asking for things, hoping for things, complaining about things, taking advantage of what’s on offer. In the Council, they become adults about public affairs, creatively exploring their visions and examining possibilities.
This is what Joseph saw as he watched the reports of the Ashland participants. He saw the difference between adult and child. In one burst of epiphany, he “chose to be an adult” — his own words — and he has been operating from that place ever since. The same thing happened to several other people in the audience that evening, and they became the core energy of a very effective episode of community awakening in Ashland. This kind of adulthood has a collective component. It is about ‘us’ running our lives as adults working together, not just about personal empowerment.
In the world of spiritual enlightenment, they talk about the ‘true self’ — the ‘observer’ — freeing itself from the chains of the unconscious (the tangled ball) and the ego (the habitual self image). And their methods in this world are about exercises and experiences, not about left-brain information, although the Sufis manage to bring both to bear in a uniquely effective way.
In the world of political awakening — Joseph-style adulthood — it’s about freeing oneself from the chains of domestication. It’s not easy. Even a very independent species, like a cat, is easily entrapped by a regular feeding bowl and a warm place to curl up. It is so tempting to sacrifice your nature for comfort and apparent security. Cats that grow up in the wild are another story altogether, and the human equivalent are indigenous societies.
Jim Fadiman wrote:
rkm> “Unless we shift our attention to the local, we are lost.”As the roads, school’s etc. postal service, phones, collapse, the local is all that can remain standing. And not too many locals at that, in the developed countries. India which has 1000’s of villages will manage fairly well. Menlo Park not so well.I love the way you use your critics to illustrate your basic points.
As the Sufis say, if you hope to teach anything, you’ve got to start with where the person is. Critics are revealing ‘where they are’, and given that it is criticism, this ‘place’ will be down near the tangled ball. So that creates an opening for examining the assumptions in that neighborhood.
Yes, it is interesting how the least developed places are the most immune to any kind of global system collapse. I have a feeling that is why so much innovation is going on in the realm of killer drone deployment. It’s a cost-effective way to destabilize societies that are able to resist destabilization by other means.
2012: Crossroads for Humanity:
Climate science: observations vs. models