A message to all those who have “something to say”

2005-05-09

Richard Moore

Friends,

Those of us who have "something to say", and I include myself,
have lots of outlets for our ideas these days. Besides the
usual magazines and books, by which means we can publish, we
can construct websites, create or join online forums, etc.
There are many ways for us to express ourselves, and get "the
word out" to significant audiences. What we tend to do, and
again I include myself, is to "hone our message", become more
persuasive, more educated, and proclaim our insights to
audiences that more or less agree with us.

I happened to ask myself, in an idle moment, regarding these
traits of ours, "What game are we playing?". We must admit, at
least I admit it to myself, that we are playing the game of
"faction building". That is, we are trying to "spread the
word" to a hopefully increasing circle of readers, and
eventually we hope that everyone will "see things clearly",
wake up, and things will change.

But the reality, perhaps sad, is that people in a pluralistic
society never settle on one viewpoint. They always divide
themselves into factions. Partly this is due to upbringing,
partly religion, partly psychology and personality types,
partly government propaganda - but whatever it is,  history
shows us that people are never going to wake up, en mass, to a
particular perspective on the truth. The only times this has
happened have been under coercive theocratic regimes, and I
don't think that's what any of us are after. In today's world,
it is the fundamentalists, both Christian and Muslim, who are
winning the game of "faction building", if anyone is -
certainly it isn't liberals and progressives.

The thought I would like to share - and I'm not sure how many
ears this will be useful to - is that we consider a different
approach. And again I admit that for me this advice will be as
difficult to act on as for anyone. The approach I am referring
to is this: instead of "giving out" (a colorful Irish
expression for "expressing") our viewpoints to "the choir",
why don't we seek out people we disagree with and listen to
them?

Shouting hasn't converted them; they don't subscribe to your
email list, and they aren't going to agree with your "giving
out".  You know; you've tried. Why not try to find out where
they're really coming from? Why not try to understand why what
they believe makes sense to them? I don't mean this as prying,
to better argue against them, but rather as a means to
understand why everyone doesn't think the way you do. The
answer is not that they are stupid, or that they don't care
about humanity. The answer is not even that they have
different deep values. In most cases the answer is that they
perceive things differently, or have had different life
experiences. Such things are not character defects.

To the extent we pursue faction building, we are playing into
the game of adversarial politics. What are our chances of
victory, realistically, in that rigged game? Look at the other
players at the table: not only the mainstream parties, totally
corrupt, but the mass media, the voting machines, etc. To the
extent we learn to listen to and understand our brothers and
sisters who don't agree with us, we are undermining the game
of adversarial politics.

What I am suggesting is an approach to our "audience" based on
listening rather than giving out. If we start by giving out,
our audience is limited to those who already agree with us. If
we start by listening, our audience, in some sense, is limited
only by our ability to communicate.

for whomever these words are meaningful,
rkm
http://cyberjournal.org

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