Folks, this is a worthy read. It's as though Brooks was in cahoots with our Guild for Civil Dialogue. Perhaps he is!
"Civility is not a suicide pact....Civility, Carter writes, “is the sum of the many sacrifices we are called to make for the sake of living together.”"
#TheSandersInstitute #JamesZogby #CivilDiscourse #Gandhi
This is a response to an article by James Zogby, the new Chair of the Sanders Institute, titled "The Importance of Civil Discourse."
Zogby makes the case for civility... and he should. The Sanders progressives know they need civility to win progress, and they’re worried. They’ve got their platform figured out, but now the foundation shows signs of crumbling.
It’s a dilemma. Progressives — both young and old — are now itchy, sick and tired of the meanness, disrespect and conniving of the opposition, and they want, well, progress! But they disagree on the degree of progress they should advocate. So they're splintering, turning mean, disrespecting each other and putting their energy into dominance strategies. It’s the “no compromise” bumper sticker ethos we saw on the right under Bush Jr., the Left’s flu of intolerance turned on companions. We blame each other for not caring enough, or in the right way. It's a recipe for mayhem, for collapse. Hence the Dreamers v. Dreamers+ shoutfest at the recent Pelosi rally.
This Zogby explains why we need civility to achieve our objectives. Not how to be civil -- which, cannot be just another tactic or tool to push a one-sided agenda. Civility is really the whole enchilada, it is what makes society possible. Civility is not about niceness or weakness; it is the willingness to engage with each other that finds its anchor in the recognition of our common interest, which by definition summons our mutual respect as stakeholders, calls us to voice and defend our opinion-belief-preference, and compels us to nonviolence as we seek solutions we can agree to. Those solutions per force may not incorporate all of our interests, and will likely include some we don't like. In other words, civility is the kind of work that can take us beyond our one-sided agenda into a functional and adaptive diversity of community that is good enough for all.
A locally well-known progressive writer and friend of mine has lost patience with patience. His perseverance is now weaponized. He's doubled-down on rhetoric that castigates, berates, belittles, diminishes, excludes, demolishes. He no longer believes in civility. How could he, when the opposition doesn't, and seems to be winning as a result? Look who got elected President!
When civility seems the least effective means, we're in trouble. "War is the failure of diplomacy." --(Tony Benn)
War -- whether between nations, political parties, intra-party factions, or friends and neighbors -- is not inevitable. But it takes work and perseverance to avoid it.
Gandhi taught his followers a variety of useful skills that proved effective in liberating the Indian citizenry from English rule, and they flowed from twin commitments.
The first commitment was to satyagraha, a combination of "satya," or truth, and "graha," which is to hold firmly in your grasp. You don't let go of what you believe is true unless and until you discover something partial or false about it, and then you hold onto that greater understanding. The discovery of reality is an ongoing journey, one that requires a little work, discomfort, struggle. Don't be lazy, don't cave in, don't slough off. Engage, but be willing to change. Hold firmly to what is true.
The second commitment is to "ahimsa," or the force of the will to do no harm. Leave aside your ideas of victory at any cost, of the ends justifying the means, of win-lose, of acceptable collateral damage. Work in such a way that each person experiences your respect for their humanity, your recognition of their interests and needs, even as you insist they do the same toward you.
The skills that flow from satyagraha and ahimsa include separating the idea from the person; reframing arguments to include our deepest and highest interests and aims; getting curious before we form judgements; working to see from the opposing point of view, and taking the argument from there in order to learn its meaning to our opponent; and letting go old solutions and formulas to create what best fits the present situation.
Is The Sanders Institute willing to help us rediscover the vital skills of civility? It would be a worthy second flank to their progressive objectives, and could be a worthier primary one.
If you're local to Paradise, CA and interested in building new skills of civility for robust and substantive discussion of the issues of our day, check out the Guild for Civil Dialogue at Paradise Community Guilds, which meets next on October 15th at 4PM at Norton Buffalo Hall.
We are nonpartisan, nondenominational, open to all of goodwill.
The events last Saturday in Charlottesville have reminded us of our country’s continuing, deep discomfort with fulfilling the promise of social parity across race lines.
Brené Brown, a professor of sociology at University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, used Facebook Live on Tuesday, August 15 to share her thoughts on the subject.
(Some will recognize Professor Brown from her very popular TED talks on shame.)
Brown speaks about the power of owning our stories: when we own our story we get to write the ending; otherwise the story owns us.
She applies the concept to our collective society – America can own its painful and discomforting narrative as a country founded on white supremacy, and write a new ending; otherwise, that narrative will continue in a far more painful and discomforting manner.
She describes the three P’s of owning our national story:
Brown’s talk illustrates what our Civil Dialoguers have been learning about framing, identification, and non-violent communication. She calls us to be brave, to hold the conversation even though our imperfect attempts may be used against us, to shame us. We make ourselves better by trying.
A little light reading...
And here’s more food for thought for you Civil Dialoguers, three brief articles in a downloadable PDF:
• Unpacking the Invisible Backpack of Privilege (Peggy McIntosh)
• I Can Fix It (damali ayo)
• The Fears of White People (Robert Jensen)
From Susan Dobra:
David's analysis in his previous post (Civil Diablog, 6/12/17 "Marginal Commentary") is a great addendum to our discussion at the Civil Dialogue Guild meeting this past Sunday, June 18, in which we compared traditional formal debate in the Ciceronian tradition with current public discourse in the talk radio tradition as a way in to understanding George Lakoff's insights about framing discourse, from his book, Don't Think of an Elephant.
His "moral": "The truth alone will not set you free. It has to be framed correctly."
The five of us present (two of whom have had experience running for town councils) had a great discussion about how to use these insights not to "win" an argument but rather to seek out differing and possibly shared perspectives--or at least to understand how different frames will yield different views of the same facts.
We brainstormed some possible frames for current issues like health care and regulations, and agreed to bring to our next meeting a few more examples of how different frames yield different insights.
We agreed to meet next on Sunday, July 23rd from 4 to 6, with more thoughts on the "ends" of civil dialogue, be they persuasion, mutual understanding, or identification with each other or with a particular "group." More to come.
Our recent dialogues have centered on mind frames and the skills of reframing arguments by shared values. (Susan Dobra will take us for a deep dive into the work of George Lakoff on this subject at our next meeting.)
So I had frames in mind when I read an article in the June 8 online edition of The Washington Post, "How cable news networks reacted to Comey's hearing." The article explains how MSNBC, CNN and FOX camera coverage looked the same, but were quite different in their use of chyrons -- those ticker tapes that roll info past the bottom third of the TV screen, sometimes as a commentary to the main action. It's fascinating to read how news can be framed to lead audiences to draw conclusions intended by the specific news channel, simply by what is introduced into evidence, or left out, via chyron.
I was reminded of my childhood love for Mad Magazine. I was fascinated by those irreverent cartoons, and especially by what took place in the margins of them -- funny sequences drawn by Sergio Aragonés, a Cuban cartoonist living in exile in New York. My young mind would make connections from these tiny cartoons to the main action, revealing another meaning to the main goings on -- no doubt as Aragonés intended I would. In college I learned a term to describe this phenomena: marginal commentary.
As we've discussed, how we perceive factual data can be influenced by how that data is presented to us. Bias can show up in the sequence of presentation, in the weight one fact is given over against another, in neglecting a fact, in the company that information keeps, etc.
There's a marvelous book that explains about as well as possible what's going on here, and it is not a work of psychology, sociology, or politics. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, by Scott McCloud is a masterpiece of the philosophy of what we see and how we interpret it. We are built to find the meaning in everything -- sometimes even where there is none. It's a talent that can be manipulated.
McCloud demonstrated how scant information could be universalized more easily than hyper-specific information. Think of the difference between the everyman Charlie Brown, and Prince Valiant, who can never be anyone but himself. The more detail you leave out, the more we tend to supply the missing information.
But go a step further. Lets say all we have is two dots, a circle, and a half circle. What meaning do we make with those? Why should they represent anything to us at all? But we can't help ourselves, can we. We're compelled to project our feelings onto even the simplest arrangement of geometric forms.
And what if we ran a chyron under that? Oh, the stories we can tell...
Susan Dobra will moderate our meeting on Sunday, June 18, 4-6PM. She wants us to chew on this "killer question" in the meantime:
As citizens of a democracy, is it our duty to try to persuade each other as to what we think the best policies are?
Or is it more important to simply understand and respect our differences (leaving whoever is currently in power the right to set policy)?
Put on your genius caps and come prepared to share your opinion!
Our fourth meeting for the Guild for Civil Dialogue took place on Sunday, May 17 with five participants -- three regulars and two newcomers.
(Plenty of folks got in touch in advance to say they'd be out of town or otherwise engaged for this one -- we look forward to seeing them next time!)
Doors opened at 3:30PM. We shared some good food and modest beverages, and took some time to get caught up on doings of our culture over the past month.
David introduced the topic, "Mind Frames / Re-Framing Conversations" with a Pearls Before Swine cartoon that was sent to him anonymously last month, and then shared a modest bit of activism he took on to alert the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to it's abusive use of "disgust" language to drive donations.
We discussed how challenging it is to experience the feeling of disgust over positions we disagree on -- the latest House bill on healthcare came to mind -- and at the same time how unleashing the emotional charge of disgust can further polarize us. "You don't punch the kid on the playground just because he looked at you funny."
Some of us shared stories of interactions with people who were doing something that summoned our contempt, and how we re-framed the circumstance with an act of understanding and compassion. These were important reminders that we all have that useful capacity for empathy to draw from.
In this vein we watched the "Worlds Apart" video from Heineken which, dear Reader, you are highly encouraged to experience.
Next we briefly reviewed slides provided by Susan Dobra (who couldn't be with us) that outline George Lakoff's theory of framing to evoke civil dialogue. We all agreed it was rich stuff that really could use more unpacking by Susan -- hence our topic for next month's meeting will be "Mind Frames / Re-Framing Conversations, Part II," led by Susan. (David will be absent.)
We watched a short video on Ann Arbor's A2Ethics "Big Ethical Question Slam" as a refresher. David relayed that he's reached out to Mobilize Chico's Anti-Polarization subcommittee to gauge their interest in partnering with us on the Slam, date TBD. We'll contact A2Ethics to start the planning process.
Our next meeting is Sunday, June 18 at the usual time. Come prepared to share from your experiences with civil dialogue!
I received this in today's mail. No return address. No idea who sent it.
For our mutual edification?
[Click to enlarge]
Civil Dialoguer Lisa Flores shared this wonderful video with me today. We may use it for an upcoming meeting. Enjoy!
Our third meeting of the Guild for Civil Politics took place on Sunday, 4/23/17, with 13 participants, 7 of them first-timers.
Doors opened at 3:30PM. A few of us gathered to share a little conversation with light fare and drink.
The meeting started at 4PM. David reviewed our work from the previous two meetings, and we agreed on the proposed agenda for this meeting.
David introduced the topic "Getting Past Disagreement to Understanding, a.k.a. How Do You Have a Worthwhile Conversation With Someone With Whom You Disagree?" by reading a selection from Madison's essay on factions in The Federalist Papers, number 10 (posted previously in this blog).
Learning from our previous meetings, we broke into groups of 3 or 4 to (1) introduce ourselves to each other, (2) share any civil dialogue situations/outcomes from the previous month, and (3) describe what techniques we've found useful in having a conversation with someone with whom we disagree.
We reconvened and each group shared their wisdom. Some themes:
• Keep in mind that most of us are trying our best.
• It helps to re-frame the conversation with things we share in common.
• Another way to re-frame is to do something you may both enjoy.
• Sometimes conversations go awry -- sometimes you have to walk away.
• It helps to get curious: what's behind the other opinion?
As we continued to explore these themes we came back to a central question:
Why do we think we want civil discourse? This can be hard work. What's in it for us?
We recognize that as voters there is an incentive there to convince our fellow voters to go along with our viewpoints.
Personal world views can supply qualitatively different motivations for dialogue. These may have religious, humanitarian, Darwinian or other expressions. If we aren't aware of how our own personal philosophies have shaped our views, it may be difficult to appreciate how another's is shaped.
David shared his default philosophy as an example, and challenged the group to pay attention over the coming month to how personal philosophy enters into civil dialogue.
Those gathered affirmed interest in producing a Big Ethical Question Slam in the fall of this year, modeled after A2Ethics events.
We agreed to change our thinking about "rules of the road" for our group. Instead we will frame up some best practices and use these as a positive guide that should serve our Guild for Civil Dialogue and life in general.
Our next meeting is Sunday, May 21 at the usual time. Our theme will be: "Mind Frames / Re-framing Conversations." Come prepared to share what you've learned about how your personal philosophy enters into your conversations!