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kfasimpaur's picture
Jul 15 2015

Can we find a middle ground for conversation?


Yesterday, I saw this quote on Twitter posted by @dogtrax from Advice to Writers.

sacred work.JPG

 This Is Sacred Work  Figuring out what the public wants, or even what the public is: that's the job of pollsters and publicists and advertisers. All those people study the marketplace. But the creative artist can change the world. A true writer opens peo
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I read this and immediately identified with it.

Then throughout the day, it kept coming back into my mind with some nagging wonderings.

In particular, I thought of a book I recently read, very passionate and clearly designed to change minds and lives. It advocated for a social change that I deeply believe in. And yet, the book was written with rhetoric that left me thinking that no one who didn't already espouse those beliefs would consider the points being made.

That seems to be the case with much of the discussion in society today. It is polarized and polarizing, partisan, us against them. While I appreciate passion toward positions, this kind of rhetoric doesn't seem likely to change minds and lives. In fact, it pulls us further apart.

I see it all around me in conversations about race, immigration, equity, war, relationships. Even personally, I often find myself lacking for the words to say "You are a racist [or equivalent]," "I don't agree with you" or "The opinion you're expressing is not kind" without shutting down the conversation and any potential for a connection or change.

Maybe some opinions are so abhorrent as to merit this kind of response, but I wish so strongly for a middle ground that will let us at least have a conversation about these things that matter so much.

Perhaps the a starting point is to try to understand what others want, what they are, for surely we need this empathy as a foundation for building dialogue.

Is this "public relations" or "marketing"? I don't know. (Perhaps I should disclose that I am a former marketing person who has tried to turn those skills to good for social justice.:) But I do know that we have to find some way to walk and talk together if we are going to change the world.

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The temptation is to just withdraw. &nbsp;Withdraw from the conversation, withdraw ones good will from the community, withdraw one's social capital. &nbsp;And I really don't like the word that has come to mean the opposite of withdrawal--engagement. &nbsp;I have always found that word too connotative of machines and gears and industrial systems. &nbsp;The poem smacks of manipulation, creativity as a way to get people to do what you want. &nbsp;To me the creative act stands where it stands and folks can connect or not as they will. &nbsp;Sometimes it takes generations for folk to connect. &nbsp;Sometimes we plant trees and harvest the future. &nbsp;I find myself just babbling on here, talking just to take up enough space so that you know that I care but just don't know WTF. &nbsp;
Thanks, Terry. Knowing that you care means the and knowing that others don't know helps somehow. I feel so inept in all of this.I feel the temptationt to withdraw, but where does that leave us? Further and further divided in our little mole holes. That is too depressing too accept. But not knowing what to do is equally depressing.
Mole holes all over the place ... maybe ... but the dirt from those holes can also be seen as mounds that become mountains ... I'm off in metaphor land now ... Kevin
I see the connection to the cartoon. Am not sure though about the lemons-lemonade applicability to this. Maybe need more help seeing it.
Maybe it is just us babbling out our beliefs ... but I am with on the possibility of the creative ... not the fact that it will make change but that it might open some doors to shifting perspectives ... of course, inherent in that thought is the idea that "I am right in my thinking and why doesn't everyone else think that way?" There's a certain arrogance to this stance, that I find myself guilty of more often than not. Kevin
Karen I find this kind of internal conflict be a regular part of my life... and while I say "words matter," I often know "words don't say what I want to say" some of the time. It's a struggle to find the foothold to say, this is what I believe, and accept, this is what you believe, and maybe we can believe in something together and make this crazy world a little better. We won't change everyone's frame of mind. I suppose that is part of the struggle ... thinking, how can you NOT see that THIS is the better way to view the world? I figure, one step at a time, one student at a time, one adult at a time. Reaching out to those with opposing views and risking condemnation takes courage, and I don't do that nearly enough, even though I recognize the problem of the "echo effect." Still thinking ... Kevin
"Reaching out to those with opposing views and risking condemnation" -- yes, this is the crux of it. I found myself in a very uncomfortable situation recently and completely froze up. It came very unexpectedly, and I honestly didn't know how to react except to leave the physical space of the conversation. Since then, I have spent many hours agonizing over it. I feel guilty that I didn't say anything, but have also found it hard to construct an appropriate response. One option would be to say "This kind of hate speech [I've struggled with different imaginary wording for this; none seem quite right...language here seems so important] is not ok with me," knowing that doing so would likely cut me off from a signficant community around me. Another option would be to decide to no longer associate with these people -- the mole hole. (If I make that choice, I'd just as soon express the reason beforehand. Having decided to cut myself off -- as I've sometimes done with others, I have no problem expressing my opposing views.) The option I took, just leaving or abruptly changing the conversation, is not an acceptable one to me. What I am looking for is a way to express my values and why it really matters, but not to cut off all ties. Maybe that's not possible. Maybe not even desireable. I don't know. And the bigger issue, of course, is not my little tableau, but the frequent occurence of this in the bigger world. At any rate, thanks for all your thoughts. It helps.