John G Bell
Fall '02 - Hill & Gilliam
PALOD4 Midterm - The “Relephants” of Interprefacts
“Relephant” adj. Having or providing a different perspective on the matter at hand.
Different types of communication vary from each other on how many people are involved, who has control or power, and how structured. For example, one could create several polar pairs and place different types of conversation along the line between these two. Not only is this the perfect question with which it awaken my inner Jackal, but can serve to both define and differentiate these terms.
To create a polar pair that is measured on the number of people involved, one could start with a single person monologue and end with a mob's cacophony. Along this continuum, I would place conversations between a small number of people, closer to monologue and as the numbers increase move to cacophony. Conversations like those that take place between lovers and intimate personal friends and even personal negotiations between employee and and employer would appear close to monologue. Conversations like talk-shows, debates and rallies would appear closer to cacophony.
Another continuum might lead from non-connected to connected communication, and perhaps beyond connected to conversations that lead to emergent benefits. By this I mean that beyond simply connecting with the Other, the participants are able to find new and revolutionary topics that develop from the connectedness of the participants. For example, one could start with drive-by debate and lead to another pole in true dialogue. Conversations like chatting, which is a quick, slightly connected talk appears closer to drive-by debate. However, compassionate communication appears closer to true dialogue, meaning that true dialogue emerges from compassionate communication but is a further advancement due to the idea of Tertium Quid, inherent in the idea of dialogues.
When thinking about how controlled conversations are in comparison, one could create a line from very controlled conversations like radio talk shows or newspaper editorials through debates to less controlled, less outcome-based communication like compassionate listening and dialogue. I'm not sure, but I was thinking that conversations like those that take place between lovers or chatting friends might be even less outcome based than even dialogues and compassionate communication.
When speaking of how conversations can be arranged sequentially, the first thing that comes to mind is the prerequisite of compassionate communication for dialogues. Between these two might appear communications like conversations of respect.
Another continuum I imagine is one that leads from win-lose styles to win-win styles. This continuum looks very much like the one I imagined for how controlled the conversation is, so there's an interesting parallel. I start with debate and end with the dialogue, placing chatting and love talk even farther out on the line than dialogue. Between these I would place conversations like talk shows closer to debate and conversations like compassionate listening closer to dialogue, but still recognizing that compassionate communication doesn't ask people to agree, as stated in the compassionate listening project presentation, thus preserving the status quo of each person's personal win-lose evaluations until dialogue is reached.
The first step in the concept of the region of validity is to accept the idea of “interprefacts” in that the idea of truth as we use it is not absolute reality, but rather the subjective reality that includes interpretation and perception. By this I mean, what I perceive as truth is informed by my past ideas, my present state including the conditions imposed beyond my control and my intentionality, toward to future.
A further step is to accept the idea that due to the subjective nature of truth, my ideas of truth may differ from the ideas another may have about the same shared context. This is the idea of relativism, where something that is true for one person may be false for another. Of course, this is hopelessly linked to the Aristotelean logic of true-false which doesn't recognize that there is a possibility for questions to be true, false, unknown and even meaningless.
Stepping from the idea that a question must be true or false to the possibility that there's also unknown and meaninglessness is half way to realizing that a question can be true, false, unknown and meaningless all at the same time. Depending on the context in which a truth is examined the answer could vary. This is working toward the idea of the region of validity. The question to ask is in what context is the truth for a person true: “How is this true?” From that, one can work to find the context from which the person found that truth and examine what is true for oneself based on that context. These truths may seem very different, but they are both informed by the same context.
Beyond the region of validity is an opportunity for shared understanding. If each person can identify their own truth from the same context, then they can share these truths. In sharing these truths, the participants may find that they are able to recognize their truth in the story of the other. That is when mutual understanding begins to develop. In some sense this is also a process of backgrounding one's own views in order to foreground those of the Other. This is part of why this kind of communication can be threatening. In order to make room in a shared narrative for another story, one has to be willing to background some of one's own narrative.
I've had the opportunity to attempt to apply the concept of the region of validity during the Study Circle on Race. A big example was during a recent meeting where one member hijacked the session with issues we were unable to resolve. During that session, I attempted to validate the member's concerns and find the truth in their statements. It was an amazingly difficult session and no satisfactory solution was made.
I was also successfully able to apply the region of validity during the conversation in class with the compassionate republican, Dan Sweeker. There were several issues where I was able to work at thinking how his views could be true, and then moving toward further clarification. I think that I was able to better moving from my initial debate mode reaction to some issues to a more dialogue based mode because of this exercise.
In the context of increased confusion and decentralized leadership, too many people involved in taking leadership positions can create chaos and project failures. However, organized cooperation between people can create efficiencies not possible on an individual basis. These two ideas may seem incompatible because they speak about groups being good and bad at the same time, but this is in different contexts of leadership and cooperation. This is the way that these truths are relative, but also how each has a context in which the idea is true.
The idea that no war is civil speaks to the fact that civility is a form of cooperation, not conflict. So, when there's a state of war, the boundaries of civility have been crossed. To say that all wars are civil wars speaks to the fact that all wars involves people, the civilians. The contexts here are actually different meanings of the word civil. This is the way that these truths are relative, but also how each has a context in which the idea is true.
When one has some experience of a phenomena one can accept that it exists more easily than when without such experience. Conversely, if one believes something strongly enough, one tends to find ways to show that belief system to be real. The apparent conflict in these statements is based on the question of whether one has some belief system that being contradicted by evidence. For example, if I have a belief system I tend to find ways to support that or at least I tend to see phenomena within the context of that system, however in order to step outside that system I tend to need to have phenomena that aren't easily explained or are unexpected based on that system's context. This is the way that these truths are relative, but also how each has a context in which the idea is true.
In the original parable of the blind people and the elephant, there is a king that decides to have some entertainment by having blind people examine an elephant and try to determine what they think the elephant is. In the parable, the blind people each find themselves experiencing different parts of the elephant and cannot agree on what the elephant is because their experiences do not match. The king is amused by the confusion and laughs at the blind people unable to see what seemed obvious to him.
There are quite a few dysfunctions at play in this parable. First is that the project is built to create conflict from the beginning by the King interested in his amusement not understanding. The next is that each parson examining the elephant is unable to accept that there's any interpretation or experience other than their own, and so there isn't an opportunity for the people to work together toward real understanding. This is an attempt to illustrate how each person's interpretation of experience is never a complete experience of something, that an individual's understanding is always provisional and incomplete even under the best circumstances.
The parable is often used to demonstrate the relationship between objective and subjective reality, a metaphor for questions about the nature of knowledge and existence. In this class, we're talking about the way people communicate their experience with others and how this works and doesn't work. Altered versions of the parable some with new dysfunctions or removed dysfunctions are used to further illustrate limitations and powers of this process.
The first modification to the parable could be to remove the king. Since the king not only defines the project but also is the way that we know there's an elephant in the parable, this quickly become confusing for the blind people. For example, the blind people may never find any part of the elephant, perhaps picking a different project such as smelling flowers. However, assuming that the blind people do find themselves examining the elephant, without an external perception the elephant may never be “discovered” as an elephant by the participants, just like the first parable.
A following version of the parable might have multiple blind people examining the same part of the elephant, which increases their ability to create a shared understanding of the elephant. Or, the blind people could compare their different experiences with each other and switch parts of the elephant they are experiencing. These modifications are examples of a continuing process of shared understanding which is an example the attempts to show the power of communication between people.
Some other modifications introduce different dysfunctions. For example, there could be further filters to the experience of the elephant. The blind people may not be allowed to directly experience the elephant instead being fed information about the elephant by another source, like the media. This modification is an attempt to illustrate how we are tacitly participating in the limited understanding provided by our sources of information.
There are also some fanciful alterations. In one example, two elephants experience each other without the need for the blind people at all. I actually came up with one idea for a modification similar to this. In my own modification, the elephant decided to make itself known to the blind people, becoming it's own king by redefining the project for itself.
Understanding is a rather imprecise term. There are many different senses to the idea of understanding.
One form of understanding is in using one's own experience to inform the idea of what another may be experiencing. In this example, one can only understand as much as one has themselves experienced. If one has lived a sheltered life or in some way is impoverished in their own experiences, one would have a harder time accurately informing the idea of what the other person may have experienced. Another limitation may be that one takes shortcuts to understanding by not going to the effort of really finding out about another's experience.
Another form of understanding would be compassionate listening. In this method of understanding, one does not engage to agree with the other person's experience, but to hear the other without judgment. This is a powerful prerequisite to real dialogue, but could be the end of the line if the participants aren't willing or able to go further. At this stage, there also seems to be the need for a facilitator to keep the process working. In this sense, compassionate communication is a powerful way to start conversation between people who are at odds and have not been able to hear the other's stories.
Two similar ways of understanding are relativism and the region of validity. The first is attempting to understand by accepting that another may have a version of truth that is different than one's own, perhaps incompatible. The idea of the region of validity is that the other person's truth has a context which makes something true for myself. The region of validity is useful because it doesn't invalidate the diversity of experience of the participants.
One way to develop understanding that's different that those I've already mentioned is to have sustained contact with another's experience. The project of extended experiential understanding is a pretty difficult one for people that live in the modern world, but examples of this like study abroad programs are amazingly effective transformative experiences for all the participants.
In the article “Compassionate Communication,” the idea of the Giraffe and Jackal were introduced. These two animals were introduced as representative styles of communication. The Giraffe style is described as “a language of the heart, a form of interacting that promotes the well-being of ourselves and other people.” The Jackal style is “a moralistic classification idiom that labels people; it has a splendid vocabulary for analyzing and criticizing.”
The Jackal stands for the drive-by, win-lose, debate oriented style. The Giraffe represents the compassionate, connected, win-win communicator. In my integrative paper, I used definitions from an article on game theory, titled “Games, Dilemmas, and Traps” by Duen Hsi Yen, to enrich this metaphor. The Giraffe, the cooperator, is “someone willing to share, and even be taken advantage of if there is a chance the common good will benefit.” The Jackal, the defector, is someone that believes “one should enjoy the fruits of ones labor alone, not share then with anyone else.”
People tend to be compassionate within their own intramural group. Therefore it could be possible to think of the Jackal, a dog-like animal as any Other. The Jackal is the Other with which we are able and willing to engage, even though that Other is threatening, in the process of widening our circle of compassion. The Jackal represents that part of the ultimate Other with which it's possible to reciprocally engage.
If the project of this class is to engage with our own other then staying with the safe intramural conversations with the Giraffes in our herd isn't enough. One has to engage the Other even if that Other will consistently take a chunk out of every Giraffe if there's a hope for progress in dialogue.
I've talked about the dilemma of whether and how I can possibly engage this inimical Other. Either the defectors are recognized as a genuine voice in the dialogue, an authentic strategy, or they are excluded. If the defector strategies are excluded, then the project of engaging in intermural dialogue has not just failed but completely abandoned. If they are not excluded, and if they are always met with cooperator strategies, they will never find that their strategy always succeeds and thus have no reason to change. In fact, in the face of sustained cooperator strategies, the defector may become an even more entrenched option.
The question I raised in my integrative paper was how to resolve this dilemma. Where's the third way that makes it possible for the Jackals and the Giraffes to coexist successfully? If there isn't a way then I've reached the edge of the compassionate listening paradigm to find that there's ultimately no way to bridge between the two strategies. If I've reached the edge of the paradigm, then as all paradigms by Kuhn's definition include the seeds for their own demise, here's the boundary where further experimentation will result in the development of yet another new paradigm.
At each point we create Giraffes from Jackals, but the pack of dog-like others is merely extended further out not eliminated. This Jackal as the ultimate other is never fully engaged because there would be elements of the pack that would destroy both the herd of Giraffes and the maverick Jackals in the pack that are willing to engage.
This suggests that there's two kinds of dog-like Others. I'd like to extend the idea of the Jackal to include another type of dog-like creature. If the Jackal is that part of the dog-like Other pack with which we are able to engage, then there's part of the Other with which we are not willing or able to engage. This remaining Other could be represented by the Hyena. The Jackal is that Other we are able to engage, even though the jackal may not be able to be compassionate and connected. The Jackal is willing to engage, the Hyena is not. The Jackal may take bites out of each and every Giraffe, but will stop feeding when it is full, when it's needs are met, like the child in the article that is finally able to communicate about the authentic issues. The Hyena will take bites from every Giraffe that it meets, and will continue eating until there nothing left to eat, including attacking the Jackals. The Jackal has authentic needs that can be met by the herd of Giraffes in order to make a bridge between the styles. The Hyenas refuse to engage even if all efforts are made to satisfy their needs.
The Giraffe is the dialogue promoting and the Jackal is the inhibiting factor of dialogue that I am able to control, in a general sense of control as affecting and influencing. The Hyena is that inhibiting effect on dialogue over which I do not have control. That leaves an empty spot in the enhanced metaphor.
In many of the embryonic dialogues and initial attempts at compassionate communication have all had chaperones or facilitators. Beverly Brown acted in this role for “In Timber Country” and B.Z. acted in this capacity in “Promises.” The people in these roles have functions that are different than the other participants. Since the role is different, it would be better to have a new term. If there's some kind of authority to enforce rules and help keep the Giraffes safe from Hyenas while trying to communicate with Jackals, then there's something else, more than Jackal, Giraffe or Hyena. If the facilitator exists the process too soon, the process fails to maintain a positive vector. I'd like to speak about this facilitator role as the Rhinoceros. The Rhino is herbivorous so will not eat either Giraffe nor Jackal. The Rhino also clearly has prodigious strength and is thus able to chase away the Hyenas and keep Jackals in line.
At some point we may find that we've reached the 100th Giraffe, with apologies to the ideas in Ken Keyes, jr.'s book The Hundredth Monkey. What I'm simply suggesting is that at some critical mass, there may be enough intermural conversation between the Giraffes and the Jackals that a massive revolution occurs that separates all potential Jackals from the pack of dog-like Others. This would leave a pack of only the Hyenas to be confronted by the combined forces of the Giraffes and the Jackals without needing recourse to the Rhino.
At this point, the cooperating Jackals and Giraffes are able to join forces to use non-violent means in confronting and forcing dialogue with the recalcitrant Hyenas. So here's the additional strategy that may make it possible for the forces of dialogue to meet their ultimate Other. At some point, compassionate communication acts as the rich soil from which true dialogue grows and hopefully outgrows the need for external authority to define and focus the exchange. However, in order to progress beyond the willing Other one may need to resort to building a large enough coalition to engage the non-willing other in dialogue with the formidable weapons of non-violence. Until there's a strong enough coalition, confronting the non-willing other would be at least non-productive and at worst dangerous. However, where there is a sufficient coalition, that is the theoretical point when the Rhino can exit the dialogue without a loss of positive vector.
As a real world example, we could use this enhanced metaphor to analyze the dynamic of conflict between Palestine and Israel. Each side is an intramural herd that views the other as a potentially dangerous pack of Other. Within that Other, there are elements that are willing and able to engage in the beginning of a dialogue. However, there are also radical militant elements that are willing but unable to engage. These willing but unable Others are the Jackals that will help form the coalition when enough Jackals create a critical mass. At the point that there's a critical mass, a coalition between enough Giraffes and Jackals, the remaining intractable Hyenas can be handled by the group. Until that point, there's need for some kind of Rhino to help create the chance for dialogue and communication.
Another important point about the facilitator is that to some extent the Rhino defines the project. This is like the King in the elephant parable. The King defined and limited the project. In the modification without the King it might be possible that the project could continue, but it could as easily ended up with the blind men deciding to go smell flowers instead. So, there's an important place for the facilitator in supporting the project, but at the same time the facilitator's understanding can become a limit on the progress. For example, in the elephant parable, the King's purpose is to be amused and would have no reason to let the project progress to the point that the blind men actually figured out there was an elephant. After all, that's not entertainment. In the same way, the facilitator in other dialogues can become a limiting factor for the other participants. Not only is there a point where the facilitator is necessary, but at some point the Rhino must let the participants continue the project on their own or risk destroying just as surely as if they left the conversation too soon.
Question 1: Willingness to learn from the Other
The dialogue quoted between Delacroix and Sister Helen is the first point in the movie where someone approaches another authentically wanting to hear the other person's story. Delacroix is the first person interested in real dialogue, in the sense of wanting to learn from the other person. In the movie, this marks the beginning of the arc for Sister Helen where she becomes a much more effective communicator in her other conversation with Poncelet. Moving from the drive-by debate mode into a more dialogue based mode requires a lot of work, and that can be a barrier when there isn't a lot of time available or willingness to engage.
There's really no mental or physical space in this society for the kind of time and contact necessary for people to develop the skills of dialogue. We've systematically replaced religion, family and community with propaganda, compulsory school and media. Our common spaces have been co-opted by the markets, where even medieval cathedrals were, admittedly religiously focused, common spaces for people to meet, now we have created the mall as a secular, market-controlled space where the only acceptable conversation is about the relative merits of one acquisition versus another. We don't give ourselves, individually or on a society level, the time or opportunity for meeting the people in our own community, let alone those from other communities.
In the early days of this country, there was a training ground for citizenship in the halls of freemasonry, where people learned how to develop the skills necessary for active participation in the new government by the people. This ended up backfiring by becoming a group of elite ruling class members that were seen in opposition to the common people. However, there's an opportunity that our society has failed to take advantage of to create ways for people to become familiar with the skills necessary for active citizenship and dialogue. If the citizenship is to be an active member in the ruling mechanism, the skills and opportunities to engage in dialogue should be heavily encouraged.
Obviously, I'm enrolled in this class. This at least ostensibly means that I'm working to develop these skills, the skills of dialogue and willingness to participate in continuing projects of shared understanding. I know I still have many groups and people about whom I move toward quick judgment. This is one of the reasons that I'm interested in pursuing a continuing dialogue with Dan Swecker. I realize that I'm very uncomfortable with some of the ideas that he expressed, and this is exactly the kind of ground that I need to explore to exercise the dialogical skills from this class.
Question 4: On the threshold of master narratives
In the conversation between the two doctors in “The Mystery of Chi” there's an example of how much effort can be necessary to build shared understanding. There's a problem here in that this could be an essentially insurmountable barrier toward continuing expansion of people's circles of compassion and understanding. If this one issue is so difficult to bridge, then many would likely not be willing or able to attempt building that bridge. Further, if each issue is similar, then one would have to pick a specific issues as a focus and forego the building of bridges to other opportunities and issues.
Within this dialogue are embedded the ideas of crossing the threshold from intramural to intermural understanding, the idea that extended experiential exposure is a way to understand and also the meeting of master narratives. When the narratives meet there is a process of foregrounding and backgrounding, as the two narratives develop into a shared understanding.
One primary change that one might take from this dialogue is to recognize that attempting to understand another simply by using one's own existing experience is not enough. One's experience is useful to inform the framework of understanding, but it isn't really the same as experiencing the other world view from the inside. That's something that really comes from extended experiential exposure, immersion in the other narratives.
The primary example of how I've been applying this in my life is in the extended experiential exposure that I've been having in the Study Circle on Race. I'm also looking into the idea of have some kind of sustained dialogue with Dan Swecker with some of the other people in the program.
Question 5: Co-learning vs. superiority
The “Decalogue of Dialogue” article makes a pretty clear case for the need to engage the other on a level of equality, without allowing one side to assume a position of superiority. A superior tends to engage as a teacher to learner instead of as co-learners. This is something that Beverly Brown stated also when she mentioned that the father apart people are on the socioeconomic scale, the less able they are to engage each other on issues. This was, she said, not only due to the hierarchical differences, but also simply because the concerns of one end of the spectrum are increasingly alien to the other end.
The primary point is that people should approach each other willing and able to be co-learners. This means that they must not only be interested in the project but have the tools and freedom necessary to engage. If anyone in the conversation feels that they aren't able to speak freely and safely, then they are inhibited from participating as an equal. If anyone in the conversation feels that they are superior to the other participants, that is also something that inhibits participation.
In my own life, I struggle with elitism constantly. This is something that I've talked about in my small seminar group. I have struggled to keep within the 20% rule for input and have been finding where the boundary is in my own participation. For example, if I say too much then I can inhibit conversation, but at the same time if I pull back from participation too much then I often end up exploding with topics that I've been holding back in one big burst making discussion on any one topic difficult to maintain.
Question 6: Using the Self to understand
Using the self to understand another's experience can be useful, but there's also several dangers inherent in the process. The primary one is if one's own experiences are so limited that one doesn't have a rich enough toolbox from which to come close to the other experience. Another problem is that one needs to be able communicate with the other in a way that they are able to see their own story in one's own, and the also presupposes the other's willingness to see their story paraphrased toward understanding.
This is a primary illustration of the idea that one can use the self to understand another. It's also an example of creating a shared narrative and working toward understanding by paraphrasing the other's story. There's also an admission by the speaker that he's only got a limited understanding and that he's not sure what to do about the feelings he has, which is a nice example of leading with one's vulnerability.
I think that using one's own experience to understand the other is a very useful tool. It's the primary tool used in theatre to create a believable character, but it really is not complete understanding. It's a good first step, but stopping there would lose a great deal of the richness and subtlety to the other's experience. To stop with one's own experience is a way to avoid having to step outside one's own comfort zone. Unless there's a realization that the other's experience cannot be fully understood by only using one's own, one is in a sense implying that the other's experience can be completely explained by one's own, implying a kind of superiority. That the speaker admits that his understanding in this way is limited and that he's not sure how to deal with the feelings this give him, he is opening the way for continued shared understanding with the others.
In this sense, I'm keeping in mind the limitation of understanding from my own experience in providing a process of understanding. Not only must I continue to seek exposure to increase my available experiences, but I must keep in mind that my own understanding of another's experience is on ongoing process, not a end that can be reached.
Question 7: Repeating the story of the Other
The Lerner article does a great job of making a case that the only way to dialogue is to start with a foundation in compassionate listening and being able to repeat the story of the other in a way that the other can recognize themselves. This is fundamentally good advice for any kind of conflict. This primary issue is whether one is willing to engage the authentic issues of the others. For example, in the conflict between the loggers and the environmentalist, there was a huge amount of anger and resentment on both sides about having to engage over issues of legality that were not authentic core issues for either group. If they had undertaken a project to learn the core issues of the other, they may have been able to start to work from that foundation toward a solution both could support. Clearly, the difficulty here is that this process takes time and there's an element of need to forestall the action of those in power by forcing them into dialogue. Unfortunately in the case of the loggers, they were caught between the two sides, the environmentalists and the timber companies.
To some extent this is an attempt to modify the parable of the blind people and the elephant by having them communicate with each other. They are stepping beyond their own understanding into the understanding of the other and creating a shared reality.
It would be wonderful if there were always a way to engage the Other on mutually authentic issues. It's dysfunctional that we have to use non-authentic issues to engage the non-willing other. In the case of the loggers, it would have been ideal if the environmentalists and loggers could have engaged in authentic dialogue and then confronted the timber companies as a unified force. Unfortunately, neither the timber companies nor the loggers were willing participants in that dialogue until they were forced by the non-authentic issues of legality. There are times that taking time is suicide, like in the case of the environment where failure to force dialogue results in irreversible damage.
I guess for my own life, this is a lesson in needing to engage in as many attempts to dialogue with others before it's a matter of needing to force dialogue. If there's an opportunity to engage the Other without the pressure of needed outcome, then there's more chance that authentic issues would be discussed when the time comes.
Question 1: The price is too high
The Percys think that the price of dialogue is too high. Thich Nhat Han thinks that the price of not having dialogue is too high. This is the question of whether crossing the threshold from intramural to meet the challenge of intermural conversations is a worthy exercise. There is a barrier in knowing that one will become uncomfortably alienated from one's intramural reality by crossing the threshold to meet different ideas. I think it's important to remain compassionate with oneself through the process or else the whole project will fail. Like in the Dyson book, Tupac says that one has to start with the self. In Spike Lee's X, Malcom X says something very similar. He says, “There can be no unity between Black and White until there's Black unity.”
I'm not entirely sure I agree that it's a one step before the other. For example, when Malcom X makes his comment he just came back from Mecca having experienced multiracial unity, so clearly he was able to experience some unity which informed his idea of the possibility of ultimate unity.
Question 2: The need to bridge from here to there
Victor is a connected Giraffe saying, “I have to connect, but you don't have to.” Yarko is a separate Jackal saying, “I don't want to connect.” Moishe is, using my new terminology, a separate Hyena saying, “I'm not going to connect.”
These three examples demonstrate various states of willingness to engage the project of dialogue, but none is ideal. Victor is in some sense troubled by the same dilemma I posed in my integrative paper about what to do about the resentment and anger at constantly being bitten by the Jackals. Yarko is a willing Jackal, but is in need of the facilitating Rhino to sustain the connection. Moishe is unwilling to dialogue and just isn't going to be willing to until forced to do so in a way beyond his control, and thus is the perfect example of a Hyena that must be surrounded by the combined forces of dialogue.
I recognize that I've played all four parts in my life. As Giraffe, I am comfortably compassionate to my close circle of friends. I'm a willing Jackal in dialogues like the Study Circle on Race, attempting to join forces or extend my circle of compassion. I'm also a Hyena to groups or people that I'm still not willing to attempt to connect with. At times, I also step into the role of Rhino attempting to facilitate and moderate dialogues that happen around me.
Question 3: Identity and differences
All three of these quotes are talking about identity and difference. The core roadblock pointed out in these quotes is a connection between difference and equality. Difference always seems to imply hierarchy and not celebratory coexistence. When these two things are not confused it's possible to speak about difference without being separate, to be equitable but not equal in the sense of identity. It's after equity, not after equality that we can reach for true dialogue. There's an inherent humanity behind all the differences that should set aside ideas of hierarchy, but this should not mean the loss of diversity.
Personally, I find that I have significant problems in feeling superior to other people. I've admitted this in seminar, saying that I recognize that I have a problem with an attitude of elitism. I also have a conflicting inferiority complex about feeling superior, so it's a wonderful mixture.
Question 4: Two ways of understanding.
In the first quote, the idea is that one can use other experiences to move toward understanding. The second quote speaks about admitting that one doesn't have direct experience and lead with that as a vulnerability. Especially in the second quote the person is addressing the use of “understanding” as a way of implying that there's an end to the process that one's reached. Compassionate listening which acts as the foundation to dialogue is a ongoing part of the process, not an end to be reached. The point of compassionate listening is to open the way toward extended experiential understanding, not as a way to end the conversation abruptly. Part of the extended experiential understanding is that the other is able and willing to recognize themselves in the Other's story, a collaborative understanding. The drive-by debate style of understanding is a separate statement of identity, but the understanding of compassionate communication is a continuing community process.
Question 5: Getting beyond win-lose
The first quote frames the conflict as a permanent fight between logging & the environment while the second bemoans that there should be a third way, a solution beyond a win-lose scenario. Stagnant conflict can take an incredible effort to sustain, but when people are emotionally invested in the outcome they can go to great lengths to preserve that conflict. Both quotes talk about believing, wanting a solution, being committed, wanting dialogue, wanting understanding and think that sustained effort without creativity is worse that unproductive to the point of being dangerous.
This is really where I see something that I've talked about before. These two seem to be engaged on a secondary issue that isn't authentic for themselves. However, they build resentment and anger over having to engage on this secondary issue because their authentic issues aren't being met with understanding. If both sides were willing to engage the authentic issues of the Other, then they might have more opportunity to progress. Until that point, these two would likely need the facilitation of a Rhino to keep the communication active.
“Reality is a continuing process of community understanding”