Our public conversations are of one kind mostly. We only know how to debate. The peoplle who hold the levers of power are those who are well-skilled in presenting a case, presenting an incontrovertable argument. They were the kids who succeeded in the debating society who learned to argue for or against something regardless of content or personal, moral positions. Many politicians come from the legal profession, the professionalisation of arguing. We elect mass debaters. This doesn’t serve us. It keeps us going round in circles, the people with truly innovative and creative ideas get sick of trying to connect with people who only want to pick holes in their “case”. When I bring you a solution, you won’t even look at it outside the paradigm of me making an argument for it – except in very rare cases.
When the riots started, news coverage and the public conversation devolved into either “this is a result of the policies pursued by (this) government” or else “this is sheer criminality, pure and simple”. No shades of grey were permissible all ambiguity was to be driven out and removed from view so that it could be a simple question “Who’s side are you on, boy? Who’s side are you on?”
In my view, conversation is the answer. We need to de-evolve a little, become a little less efficient in order to be a lot more effective. We need to install this in our personal interactions with children and in their educational settings. We need to add it to our political systems. We need to learn to recognise when we’re slipping into the old patterns and purposely practice non-confrontational non-argumentative forms of dialogue, not because we’re afraid of confrontation or argument or the emotions they bring up (although doubtless we often are) but because they don’t help us, any of us, (well perhaps only a very small minority of us) to get what we want for ourselves, our friends, our families, our world.
All this has been said before.
Bonus Link: Ray Nichols shared this with me on Facebook the other day, we were talking about it when I was kicking around New Orleans, just takes me a while to remember to blog some stuff…