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Look. Listen. Learn.

Like many, I've been thinking (and talking) a lot lately about the current state of American social dialogue, and bemoaning that the art seems to have been lost, if indeed we ever had it and it's not just another rose-colored nostalgic fallacy. (If you wonder why I say that, look no further than political cartoons from, say, a hundred years ago.)

Inspired by this post in bentleywg's journal, I've figured out what I want to do about it.

At least once a day, I'm going to post a link to a site explicating an issue, belief, moral stance or organization that is controversial and/or appears to be misunderstood by at least some significant proportion of the American public. The purpose of this will be neither to endorse nor to ridicule the views expressed on the linked page. The purpose will be to challenge myself, and any who choose to participate with me, to read, absorb and digest what the person has to say.

Many, if not most, of you have strong feelings, values, beliefs, opinions. So do I. My challenge, then, is to educate ourselves and one another so that we understand all those positions.

We all know how to speak our minds. Our challenge is to listen.

I'm still thinking about how best to keep that focus. I don't want to disable comments -- although I do want people to think twice about whether a comment is necessary -- and I also don't want to make a bunch of complicated rules about what kind of comment is or is not appropriate. I do think I'm going to come up with suggestions for how to approach it to best achieve the goal in mind. So far I have two:
  • Don't post your immediate gut-level response. Read, think about it, and if there is something you really want to say or ask, come back. The post will still be here.
  • If a thought process in the linked page doesn't make sense to you, phrase it as a question. Maybe someone here has an answer that will help.

Any other suggestions?

I thought about creating a community, but I think I want to keep the experiment small at first. The posts will be public, and will remain so as long as it doesn't attract flamewars. If it grows on its own, that's great. Then I might think about moving it off my LJ, and getting into all that pesky rules and mod nonsense. (Conversely, if things get nasty, I can create a filter, but I'm betting against that one.)


( 32 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 16th, 2004 09:18 am (UTC)
I think it's a great idea :-)
Nov. 16th, 2004 10:17 am (UTC)
Thanks. Here's hoping it works...
Nov. 16th, 2004 09:31 am (UTC)
I'm going to start off with the thought that struck me when I read that post:

They’d be incredulous, no doubt, to know that the hair salon owner in Springfield, OH or the construction firm owner in Ely, NV who’s read everything LaHaye’s written have more of a finger on the pulse of the nation right now than those grad students do in their solipsistic, moldy academic strongholds with their well-worn copies of Derrida and Foucault.

The ugliest part of this whole split is the belief that one side or the other Just Doesn't Get what the "real citizens" of this nation are thinking.

It is a truth that I wish was universally acknowledged, that this nation is split right down the middle. Nobody has their finger "more on the pulse." There are plenty of Republicans who voted for Bush this last election who have equal contempt for LaHeye's philosophy - these people were voting their conscience on national security, not premillenial dispensation. There are also plenty of evangelistic people who voted for Kerry because of their religious convictions, feeling that Kerry would do more to uphold Biblical beliefs about the poor than Bush has.

The author of the piece was as snottily dismissive of the students as they were of LaHeye, and two wrongs do not make a right. We cannot open a dialog from either side with the attitude of "I'm the real citizen, you're nuts." And with the last two elections so very close, nobody has the high moral ground of "my way is the future" either.
Nov. 16th, 2004 10:12 am (UTC)
The author of the piece was as snottily dismissive of the students as they were of LaHeye, and two wrongs do not make a right.

Nope. But they do point out that everyone would be better served to be sure they know what they're talking about.
(no subject) - alliesings - Nov. 16th, 2004 02:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wiliqueen - Nov. 16th, 2004 02:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - coltsbane - Nov. 16th, 2004 03:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - alliesings - Nov. 17th, 2004 04:08 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 16th, 2004 09:37 am (UTC)
I think it's an interesting idea, but you'd need to make sure that people do as indicated - read, and more importantly, think, before posting. You're right that you don't want to make rules everywhere, but you want to make sure that this doesn't become simply a place for spouting off at other people's opinions.
Nov. 16th, 2004 10:16 am (UTC)
Exactly. I just want to develop the rules as we go along, to be sure that we're operating with the minimum of rules necessary.

I'm thinking one thing I'm going to do is to ask people who absolutely MUST vent about something to take it to their own LJ. As long as that can be respected, I won't have to resort to deleting comments or anything.
(no subject) - chiroho - Nov. 16th, 2004 11:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wiliqueen - Nov. 16th, 2004 12:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 16th, 2004 10:34 am (UTC)
That sounds like a fascinating way to expand one's mind. I certainly would be interested in reading and taking the time to learn more.
Nov. 16th, 2004 11:11 am (UTC)
Yay! I'm getting rather excited about this...
Nov. 16th, 2004 10:46 am (UTC)
Are non-Americans welcome to join in the fun? :-)
Nov. 16th, 2004 10:50 am (UTC)
*rolls eyes* Of course not, silly. We only want to learn about people here.

And yeah, I probably shouldn't have even bothered mentioning "American dialogue," 'cause it's not like we're the only ones doing it...
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 16th, 2004 11:42 am (UTC)
Nobody's being asked to overcome or change any beliefs. Only to learn what else is out there.

The challenge is to ignorance, period.

As such, some things will rely on truths we may not be willing to agree with or accept.

But we should know what they are. And sometimes we think we do when we don't at all.
(no subject) - gryphons_lair - Nov. 16th, 2004 12:08 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wiliqueen - Nov. 16th, 2004 12:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gryphons_lair - Nov. 16th, 2004 12:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - gryphons_lair - Nov. 16th, 2004 01:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - gryphons_lair - Nov. 16th, 2004 03:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wiliqueen - Nov. 16th, 2004 01:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
???? - wiliqueen - Nov. 16th, 2004 07:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: ???? - wiliqueen - Nov. 17th, 2004 07:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: ???? - wiliqueen - Nov. 17th, 2004 11:00 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 16th, 2004 03:30 pm (UTC)
Sorry to geek out on you, but this sounds like a fascinating social experiment. If you get it started, please count me in! I'm really interested in how Westerners react to someone challenging their "common sense" belief system and the social repurcussions of people opening their mind to the possibility that there is more than one way of seeing the world.

Like I said, geek. Anthro geek. I see it all the time with anthropologists examining non-Western belief systems and pointing out how many people think that their way is "common sense" and have no second thoughts about it. There's some material on that approach for Western society, but nowhere near enough. And I'd love to see it up close and personal, especially with such a variety of people as you find on LJ :)

*geek moment over*
Nov. 16th, 2004 07:12 pm (UTC)
I don't know that this is as ambitious as that -- mostly I'm kinda shying away from the concept of "challenging" at this point -- but you're still certainly welcome. It's going to be open, and hopefully will be able to stay that way.
(no subject) - coltsbane - Nov. 16th, 2004 07:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - wiliqueen - Nov. 17th, 2004 07:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Nov. 17th, 2004 03:19 am (UTC)
And, you know, a lot of what you've just said there is why I want to take some time to do a second degree.

I have a BSc in Chemistry. I work in IT. I want to do a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics.

It's not just about the East/West divide, though I find that one fascinating. Even within Western belief structures, there's a science/arts'n'humanities divide that can lead to very different views of the world.
(no subject) - coltsbane - Nov. 17th, 2004 03:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 32 comments — Leave a comment )


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