John G Bell
Fall '02 - Hill & Gilliam
One common interpersonal style is to engage in deception to avoid conflict, gain advantage or force dialogue on some issue because the issue isn't what the Other will engage.
I was in an integrative class at Lower Columbia College in 1989. In that class, we played a war game about disarmament. When we played that game, I was selected as one of the negotiators for my team and I had figured out that because of the sequence of events in each turn that it was actually possible to make more points than any other way by both teams disarming completely. Having figured this out, I then went to the summit between the two teams and proceeded to try to explain to the other team's negotiators that completely disarming was the way we could all win the most points. It was at that point that I started to laugh. This is the part that has stuck with me for so long: I realized that even though I was sitting across from one of my friends and had a genuine motivation to mutual disarmament, that there was absolutely no way for the other negotiators to know if I was telling the truth or not. This was because I realized I would be saying the exact same words to them if I were trying to get the other team to completely disarm so that my team could attack with full force on the final round as if I was trying to genuinely, mutually disarm. Our game ended in the 5th or 6th round out of 10 possible when the other team launched an attack to destroy my team. That moment has stayed with me as one of the most powerful points in my life. At no time since have I been able to avoid thinking back to this when seeing any kind of negotiations either in my life or on the news. The fact that any group of people can sit down and come to the same table, let alone any kind of mutual agreement, in spite of their fears and suspicions seems to me nothing short of miraculous. I realized that there seemed to be no semantic content to anything I could say because the motive was unknown and impossible to verify. However, the other side of this is the possibility that one may be able to maintain semantic content by ignoring the search for motive, or real issue, and take each actor's position at face value without question.
This war game demonstrated to me that the motive of an actor may not ever be known by the other actors in any dialogue. Not only this, each actor may not know their own motives especially in the case of the war game due to the fact that no actor can be sure how the rest of the team will vote during decision round. Similarly, even on a personal level, one might not be able to know one's own motive until much after any given event.
In the conflict between the loggers and the environmentalists in both “In Timber Country” and “El Dorado” the two sides could only engage on specific issues that were tangential to the core reasons for the conflict. The environmentalists focused on the leverage provided by legal issues and the preservation of the spotted owl, and the loggers built resentment and anger over those issues. However, the real issues for the environmentalists were more global and the specific issues that they were able to force were not the core issues because the Other would not have taken them seriously otherwise. For the loggers, there was a great deal of resentment over feeling manipulated and that their core issues were being ignored by all the focus on the legal and endangered species issues. The environmentalists and loggers had to engage over the legal and endangered species issues as the authentic issues in the conflict when both knew that there were bigger issues that were the more important ones but would not force a confrontation.
In both “Holler If You Hear Me” and “A Force More Powerful” there is a conflict over what group represents the authentic voice of the culture. In “Holler If You Hear Me” the conflict is over whether the “thug” or the “positive black” represents the authentic voice of the black culture in this country. In “A Force More Powerful” the conflict is over whether the militant or social revolutionaries represent the authentic voice of the Palestinian people. By focusing on these divisions, each group tacitly ignores the issues of the other group which, by the very nature of being involved in the conflict in the first place, is as viable voice in the culture as any. In both groups, the conflict appears to be between the “anarchic individuals” and the altruistic social revolutionaries.
In the book “Women's ways of knowing,” there's a link made between connected vs separate ways of knowing and traditionally female and male gender roles. I found it interesting that in “Holler If You Hear Me,” there seemed to be several points where Tupac is portrayed as having connected and compassionate ways of dealing with the world, especially in the sections that talked about the TV interview with him when he was 17. There seems to be a link in the book between his strong, revolutionary mother and this tendency toward connected, compassionate communication. I found this especially interesting because I identified with this history to the extent that I was raised mostly by my mother who is a strong and very intelligent woman. Realizing that I'm one of very few males in this class, I could see that there might be a link between my own inclination toward what “Women's Ways of Knowing” characterized as a typically female, connected way of relating which matched a similar inclination and history for Tupac.
Another pair of opposites was presented in the article “Compassionate Communication” as the Giraffe vs. Jackal styles. 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.” This division is similar to the previously mentioned connected vs. separate ways of knowing.
In “Holler If You Hear Me” there's a suggestion that the rise of “anarchic individualism” is a response to the failure of altruism, a recognition of failure within and without the revolutionaries. This is similar to the failure of the social revolutionaries in Palestine, due to effective dismemberment by Israel, which led to the further rise of the militant revolutionaries.
In an article, that I researched to find out more information about game theory, titled “Games, Dilemmas, and Traps” by Duen Hsi Yen, there is a section that talks about the two polar system in US politics in game theory terms. The liberal is linked to the “cooperator” strategy and the conservative is linked to the “defector” strategy. A “cooperator” is “someone willing to share, and even be taken advantage of if there is a chance the common good will benefit.” A “defector” is someone that believes “one should enjoy the fruits of ones labor alone, not share then with anyone else.” In this sense these liberal/cooperator and conservative/defector strategies can be compared to the connected/Giraffe and separate/jackal styles. In the war game mentioned previously, the cooperator strategy would be to completely disarm and attempt to convince the other team to also disarm. Unfortunately, as I realized, the defector strategy also involves convincing the other team to disarm, but is matched by working to completely arm and attack at an advantageous point in the game.
In this class, we're talking about a paradigm shift toward authentic dialogue based in intermural, connected and compassionate communication. This cooperator strategy is leading with the vulnerability of possible forgone benefits and is connected, compassionate communication. However, it's just one strategy.
What does it mean that there's other effective strategies? Some people may never accept cooperator & connected strategies if there seems to be more personal advantage using another more exclusive strategy. An example of this is the difference between liberal and conservative viewpoints, mentioned previously. One wouldn't expect a conservative to suddenly switch to a liberal strategy. Why would it be reasonable to think that a defector would suddenly switch to cooperator strategies?
Any time there's any agenda, there's utility toward deception in dialogue that at least equals the benefit to be gained from mutual altruism when the defector strategy is employed against altruism.
In my own life I recognize that there have been times in my life that I've engaged in a dialogue and not realized what my real motives were until afterward, sometimes much later. I also recognize that there have been times that I have willfully engaged on issues that are not what I feel are the authentic issues of importance to me because I feel that I can't engage the Other in a dialogue without this deception. Further, I recognize that there have been times that I've determined motives behind the actions of the Other that they denied, but later recognized to actually be true.
In the face of unknown motives, the best strategy would be to ignore motives, and consistently engage on whatever issues are presented. Looking for a motive behind each issue removes the semantic value from the dialogue and undermines any meaningful progress. The only real way around the uncertainty of motives is to honestly engage as if the stated issue is the authentic issue.
However, always picking the cooperator strategy makes it more valuable for the defectors. In seminar, if everyone is working on mutual altruism and cooperator strategies, then a sole defector can not only take over, but can force the cooperator strategy to fail. In the presence of defector strategies, the cooperator strategy fails. In the face of cooperator strategies, defector strategy succeeds. The likely outcome for a cooperator in the face of being trumped by a defector strategy is at least disappointment, perhaps resentment and at worst a change of strategy toward the defector style. Cooperator strategy success in the here and now comes when met with further cooperator styles, but the existence of defectors removes value from any outcome for cooperators.
An example of this is the 20% rule. If someone is willing to ignore this rule, then they have the opportunity to say what ever is on their mind. If the cooperators stick to the cooperator strategy then they are guaranteed to not be able to say everything they have to say. Further, if the cooperator contributes to topics other than their own, then they are guaranteed to not be able to get meaningful critical time for their own issues, especially if those issues are pushed constantly by the time constraints imposed by acquiescence to the defectors in the group.
In my life I find myself consistently trying to pick a cooperator strategy. Just like Tupac being resentful over the success of the “bad boys,” I find myself full of resentment and anger in the face of defectors. In some cases, I feel constitutionally incapable of being a defector, and sometimes feel like that's some kind of wound from which I cannot heal. As an example of this, in seminar I find myself angry and resentful that I am trying so hard to work within the 20% rule, but then I find others more than willing to speak beyond this and that any chance I have for meaningful, critical dialogue on issues important for me are pushed to the last possible minute or that the people able to engage in dialogue with me in seminar feel like they have to stop in order to not take up too much time.
As just one example of how this seems to recur for me, many years ago, in the same class where I participated in the war game I've previously mentioned, I had attempted in seminar to explore the similarity between US involvement in Vietnam and drug addiction. One component of our class was the psychology of adjustment, so I was interested in how the symptoms of US involvement matched the signs of addiction according to the Diagnostic Services Manual (DSM-III), a standard tool in diagnostic determination. After the seminar, the instructor of my class made a point of taking me aside and saying that the work I'd just done in seminar was graduate level work, but that I needed to pull back because I was scaring the other seminar members. So, instead of being able to authentically engage on a topic important and likely to result in some intellectual growth, I was asked to not speak and sublimate my own education in order to cooperate in the education of everyone else in the group except myself.
In this case, my inclination to take a cooperator strategy seems to leave me without the benefit of meaningful dialogue. If it is true that I can't think critically on my own, then I'm forced by my strategies to forego thinking critically about my own authentic issues. It seems like the only way around that would be to break my agreement and force more time on my issues. I have to try to present my issue and get feedback in a total of 5 minutes, or be satisfied with what feedback I can eek out during the breaks with people actually willing to engage outside the official seminar forum. One could argue that this creates a structural hierarchy by making special rules for some members of the dialogue and thus violates the attempt to maintain equality across participants as suggested in “Decalogue of Dialogue.”
Another example is that I have had quite a few members of this class make a point of telling me that I was making them look bad with all the work that I've put into my book responses. I feel that part of the reason that I spend so much time working on the book responses is that I've come to expect that I will have to go it alone in the end and rely on my own efforts to eek out some kind of meaningful feedback and engage in a solo dialogue over the issues that I find important. I feel that I am constantly asked to avoid working to my best potential, and to some extent this is part of my feeling of resentment at working under the 20% rule. I also recognize that part of this is a selfish anger at not getting positive feedback because no one gets what I'm talking about.
So, I'm struggling with what seems to be a constant pattern in my life of attempting to follow connected, liberal, cooperator strategies and being disappointed and frustrated by not only those following the opportunistic, conservative, defector strategies but also with the self imposed limitations in the strategies themselves. Many times when faced with with a feeling of having my strategies undermined by opposing strategies, I find myself wondering why I even bother trying to be involved in dialogue with others. If I'm only going to be able to engage in issues that aren't authentic to myself then why spend the effort to engage at all with others when I could just as easily spend that energy on my authentic issues, on my own. Even within the context of a group that's agreed to a strong covenant, this continues to be a dilemma for me.
There are so many examples of the same conflicting strategies: liberal vs. conservative, connected vs. separate, cooperator vs. defector, thug vs. “positive black,” militant revolutionaries vs. social revolutionaries. This is language that separates, not that helps bridge these intermural boundaries. We don't seem to have a language that allows these differences to be inclusive. That there are repeated examples of these kinds of polar pairs, and that there's even the question of which is an authentic voice leads to this dilemma.
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 failed. If they are not excluded, then if they are always met with cooperator strategies then they will never find that their strategy fails and thus have no reason to change. In fact, in the face of sustained cooperator strategies, the defector become an even more effective option.
To some extent I feel there have been people in this class willing to take advantage of my own struggle to stick to the agreements in the covenant such as the 20% rule. However, a perfect example occurred tonight in the study circle on race. A particular person in the group that has consistently been willing to break the ground rules, specifically a rule about not interrupting others, and equally willing to complain when others break that same rule, entered the circle tonight with a whole lot of issues and baggage that interfered with the group. On one side, I find myself hoping that she follows through on her threats to not come back to the group, but on the other side I completely recognize that by losing her our study group will have failed to keep a member with a different set of issues and motives and strategies. In the face of this group member that was taking a more defector strategy, the group was disrupted and dominated by this person's stated issues that appeared to have no direct link to whatever her authentic core issues were.
In this way, tonight resembled the conflict between the loggers and the environmentalists, where each group resented the need to manipulate and be manipulated into dialogue over a issue that wasn't an authentic issue for either group. Tonight's study circle felt like it was hijacked by someone that was only interested in getting personal validation from the group at all costs, including making ultimatums about fracturing the circle. By both having and failing to keep this person that engaged in defector strategy in our group, we failed to find a way to maintain a place where real dialogue, as we talk about it in class, could take place. Tonight was an example of how the cooperator strategy will fail when confronted by the defector strategy, and by structurally failing the dialogue fails to reach beyond the barriers that separate these two strategic styles.
I also fully recognize that I am resentful and angry at the manipulation I felt during this event. Attempting to honestly, and to be fully honest imperfectly, maintain a safe, connected, compassionate space was my goal. However, I am filled with anger about having to appease this person and apparently wasted my effort with someone completely uninterested in moving from a separate, self-centered strategy. At this point I find I feel cheated and betrayed for having been willing to attempt to create that space and have it taken advantage of by someone clearly invested in an opposite style. I've felt this many other times, including in seminar when I find the only way I could get meaningful feedback would be to break the rules and thus forego that benefit for myself; when I find others more than willing to speak at great length appearing to force advantage for themselves at the expense of others in the group.
I am having trouble imagining a way to have changed tonight's outcome, and am suspicious of even starting on the project with a motive of changing another person. If I attempt to start a project with the motive of changing the other person, then I've started by invalidating their viewpoint completely. By insisting on the threshold of dialogue to be that someone be willing to authentically engage using a cooperator strategy, I would be refusing to step beyond the intramural boundaries of my own strategy. By saying that there's this threshold, I would be essentially saying that I was unwilling to hear the story of the group of people committed to this opposing strategy.
Here's the double edged sword. Either the defector is excluded from the attempted dialogue by enforcing a threshold based on styles and the goal of intermural connectedness is abandoned, or the defector is included and allowed to take full continued advantage of the cooperators until they decide to move on and exclude themselves. Either way the project of compassionate, connected, intermural communication seems to have at best succeeded at the cost of creating resentment and anger or at worst simply to have failed outright.
The Socio-economic Forces of Dialogue
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.
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 Thomas Kuhn's definition, in his work “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” 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. Goldberg 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.
As socio-economic styles, the Jackal-Giraffe pair represents the polar opposites of Militant-Passive and Intellect-Emotion. The Jackal represents the intellectual and aggressive urges, the will to power and the perhaps the super-ego. The Giraffe represents the emotion and passive urges, the need for safety and perhaps the id. The similarity is that both are willing to engage. The difference between the Jackal and the Hyena is this willingness. The similarity between the Rhinoceros and the Giraffe is a connectedness which contrasts the separateness of the Jackal and the Hyena. The Jackal and the Rhinoceros share a desire to control, which is the Thanatos urge, which is contrasted by the Eros urge of the Giraffe.
On the continuum from control to chaos, the willing Rhinoceros is opposed to the willing Monkey. The Monkey is named after the monkey-wrenching tactics they often employ without malice. The unwilling Rhinoceros is the Shark, a force which desires control and is unwilling to engage with others in cooperating activities and instead works to maintain control over everyone and everything. The unwilling Monkey is the Locust, a force which is intent on sabotaging strategies. The whereas the unwilling match to the Jackal is the Hyena, the unwilling emotional-passive force is the Geoduck. The Shark, Rhinoceros, Giraffe and Geoduck are all connected forces which are matched by the separate forces of the Hyena, Jackal, Monkey and Locust. The Shark, Rhinoceros, Hyenas and Jackal are all manifestations of the Thanatos urge which are matched by the Eros urge typified by the Monkey, Locust, Giraffe and Geoduck. The Thanatos-Eros conflict is from “Beyond the Pleasure Prinicple” by Sigmund Freud. The conflict is between the death or destructive instinct and the sexual or generative instinct.
These are not just individual styles, but also socio-economic forces that can be embodied by groups and conditions. There's some work that I could do to compare these with systems like DeBono's “Six thinking hats” and other systems of strategies for inclusion and understanding. A person that exhibits giraffe like qualities about one issue could easily have different strategies on other issues. Further, groups, like the media and the government, can exhibit some or all of these strategies on various topics. These groups can act as destabilizing forces seeking to polarize participants away from the center of the graph, toward the outside edges.
The Power and Limitations of Dialogue
"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 the media…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." - John G. Bell
"Lack of willingness or ability to participate and reflect in the above mentioned ways can inhibit dialogue, but ultimately the limitations are self-selected, and can therefore be overcome once we are able to recognize them and shift our way of being to a compassionate way. Once we get beyond our self-imposed limitations, we will be possessed of the creativity to determine when someone else is ready to dialogue, and what dialogical language we should use in interacting with them. These same factors can be the limitations that others are struggling with that in the immediate moment make dialogue unattainable. However, those things are immediate barriers, and in the long term, with enough extended experiential exposure and creativity on our parts, there is no limit to our ability to dialogue with another if we approach them with compassion.” - Ashley Aaron
"After working through this midterm, I feel that dialogue is pretty much like truth. It is a fictional goal or concept, which cannot exist because perfection, 'true' purity, does not exist. Dialogue has no limitations, as Ashley has suggested in seminar, but people are not perfect, and so cannot realize perfection. We place limitations on every thing we encounter. Dialogue exists only in a theoretical realm, not in reality. Although there is no 'true' reality either.” - Lisa Vorwerk
"Pretty much all the commandments of the Decalogue would be fulfilled if people could wholeheartedly cross the threshold. Exchanges of ideas would flow freely and lovingly if the world could cross over and be within the other. Obviously, I think this is the linchpin to dialogue. The concept of totally believing another's thoughts, ideas and beliefs seems at once intoxicating and impossible.” - Christine Vernon
If one starts with an agenda to dialogue, one's already sabotaged the project because one's entered the conversation from a position which precludes equality and creates a threshold that artificially bars entry to participants. The attempt to control the development of dialogue, requiring others involved to change, is very likely to be self-defeating since entering a dialogue requires the participants to be as equal as possible. One can enter a conversation with an agenda to compassionately listen, to listen with respect and without judgment, but one cannot force dialogue because it requires the willing participation of the Other. The Other's willing participation is outside our control and the agenda to dialogue is an attempt to control this.
An attempt to control the behavior of the Other is not only a form of selective compassion that leaves the Other as an Outsider, but it is also something that creates a high barrier to entry to dialogue for the participants. Entering into the project of compassionate listening requires that the participants be willing to engage in listening to the Other and to minimize judgment about the Other's narratives. Creating a higher barriers to the entry of the Other into conversation is likely to preclude their participation from the outset of the project.
Here's where the language I have to speak about difference starts to show a weakness. The weakness is that I'm going to talk about difference and it's going to seem to imply hierarchy. The closest metaphoric example of difference without hierarchy I have is that of the group cooperation of a symphony but even here there's the hierarchy of the solo performance, the 1st violin and the conductor. The least hierarchical metaphor I can think of still contains ideas of superiority.
If I am going to willing accept the project of conversation within the rules of the Decalogue of Dialogue, I need to enter conversations without hierarchy. I need to be neither teacher nor learner, but an equal with the Other. I cannot imagine that my strategies and agendas are either superior or inferior to those of the Other. However, what if that Other is not willing to engage me within the project defined by the Decalogue of Dialogue?
If I come to the conversation with the agenda that I will be a compassionate and non-judgmental participant, I have entered the conversation as an equal. I enter the conversation willing and able to accept the opportunity for change. I do not require that the Other engage me at the same level or with the same strategy. However, what if the Other is inimical and intends to wound me or take value from me in this conversation or relationship?
I need to not only be compassionate with the Other, but also compassionate with myself. I have the right to maintain my own need for compassion. I have the right to stop my own participation in a conversation that crosses my own boundaries of personal compassion. Further, by entering into a conversation with the Other, I have to be willing to recognize the Other's right to maintain their own need for compassion.
In the movie “Dead Man Walking” there is a scene where Sister Helen approaches the Piercys attempting to compassionately listen to their story. The Piercys accept Sister Helen's advances until they find out that she is still engaged in conversation with Matthew Poncelet, the man that is on death row for the murder of their daughter. At this transition point, the Piercys reject Sister Helen's conversation and reject having her in their house. The Piercys are exercising their right to maintain their personal compassion. What I mean by this is that they feel that the price of continuing conversation with Sister Helen is too high, too painful to them and their lives. Sister Helen is able to respect this need and not force continued conversation, which would be the kind of arrogance that she was accused of by Mr. Delacroix earlier in the film when she has yet to be willing to approach the Others.
I can examine this exchange between Sister Helen and the Piercys and say that the difference between the two participants was that one was willing and able to enter into the conversation and the other was not. This unfortunately sounds like a kind of indictment against the Piercys, but this difference should not imply a hierarchical relationship. The Sister Helen was able to respect that the Piercys were not willing to continue the conversation with her because she recognized that they had the right to determine and define for themselves their willingness and ability to participate. Sister Helen recognized that the willingness and ability of the Piercys to engage was beyond her control and did not force the conversation.
With enough extended experiential exposure on less controversial, contentious issues, the Piercys and Sister Helen may have been able to find was to have conversation. They may have found issues about which they were both able and willing to engage non-judgmentally over time and this may have led to progress on the more contentious issues. By this I mean that while the Piercys were Hyena-like, and neither willing nor able to engage, they may have been able to be Giraffe-like one other issues which could have led to a developing conversation on the Hyena issues. However, this is not a way of saying that the Piercys were wrong. In fact, they were correct to act as they did for themselves, in their own determination.
If both participants are willing and able to engage in the conversation of respect, then it's possible that true dialogue could have developed and emerged. It is also possible that the conditions aren't right for dialogue to emerge. For example, participants may be willing to engage but not to have the ability, the tools, to be effective. Participants might want to have conversations with the Other but be unable to background their own beliefs to make space to foreground the Other, part of the process of finding the region of validity. To a certain extent, I think that if one has the ability to engage that the willingness is inherently present, but this is a much bigger question that revolves around whether, as in Plato, knowing the truth means doing the truth.
There's a potential problem if the Other defines their needs for personal compassion in such a way that boundary violates my own needs. An example of this was present during the conflicts in the American south between civil rights activists and the powers arrayed against them. The governments of the southern states defined a need for compassion that violated the needs of the African Americans, and this is a dilemma. Both groups were drawing lines of compassion around themselves that were in conflict with the Other.
“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. It's immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
“I think there are plenty of good people in America but there are also plenty of bad people in America and the bad ones are the ones who seem to have all the power and be in these positions to block things that you and I need. Because this is the situation, you and I have to preserve the right to do what is necessary to bring an end to that situation and it doesn't mean I advocate violence but at the same time I am not against using violence in self defense. I don't even call it violence when it's self defense. I call it intelligence.” - Malcolm X
“You have to become Non-violent.” - Ammon Hennacy
“Why?” - Utah Philips
“It will save your life.” - Ammon Hennacy
(Quoted by Utah Phillips on the CD “The past didn't go anywhere”)
How does one deal with the coming struggle with the violent Hyena strategy that is unwilling to engage with those forces attempting to create conversations of respect leading to dialogue? There's a legitimate need to maintain one's own safety, a personal boundary of need for compassion. Each person should be allowed to define for themselves the place where they are no longer able to participate and this boundary should be respected. However, this could create a situation of conflict when there's two or more participants needing to define boundaries that cross each other.
In cases where there's a conflict between boundaries, there's not really an option to accept the boundary without question, so a conversation of respect is necessary to resolve this situation. However, in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or between the participants in the race conflict in the United States, one of these participants could be in a position of power and not be willing to engage in the conversation at all. This is the point at which participants may need to resort to non-violent resistance to force a conversation.
Acts of civil disobedience, protests and progressive organizing are all examples of the kind of tools that may be necessary to force conversations between participants that are seriously unbalanced. The need to self-protect must be met with appropriate response. Appropriate response in this case should be the kind of response that allows for continued conversation and progressive movement, and this is only possible by the use of non-violent means.
Non-violence should not be taken to mean being passive just because it is not violent. As Martin Luther King, Jr. explains in “The Strength to Love,” non-violence is the middle ground between violence and passivity, a kind of militant passivity. This option is neither easy nor immediate, but the advantages far outweigh the alternatives. Instead of complete passivity, one has to decide that the cause is important enough to stand up and pursue. Further, one has to accept that further violence will only be self-defeating.
In “A Force More Powerful” non-violence is put forward as simply a tool, not a moral imperative. In “The Strength to Love” non-violence is clearly offered as a moral imperative. To reduce non-violence, and the need for dialogue, to a simple agenda, a tool to get the outcome one desires, is to fall short of the potential. If one is able to become aggressively non-violent and enter a conversation of respect with an inimical Other, then there's an opportunity to create a synergistic learning community. To speak only in terms of what one can force the other to capitulate is to reject the project of co-learning from the outset and self-defeating to the possibility for true dialogue.
The Socio-economic Forces of Dialogue, Revisited
“'Autonomy is impossible' because to be a self is to be in relationship with others ...” - Heinz Kohut quoted by Thandeka, “Learning to Be White”
“Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence when it helps us to see the enemy's point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weakness of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.” - Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”
There is one final place in this array of animals. Jackal, Giraffe, Rhino and Monkey – these four archetypes, that are willing to take part in conversations of respect, accepting the constraints of the Decalogue of Dialogue, surround a central core spot. The very center of this chart is a place where the willingness to meet the Other is matched by a careful maintenance of one's personal boundary of compassion, a balance between the intramural and intermural groups, the willingness to meet with the Other as an equal deserving to be be as respected as much as providing respect. This is the middle ground also between the militant and passive strategies, as suggested by Martin Luther King, jr. in “The Strength to Love” where the third strategy of non-violence, a kind of militant passivity, exists. This is also the center between the orderly and chaotic urges, the creative center. This central nexus in these continuums is typified by the Mongoose, which represents the non-violent, threshold-crossing, creative strategy.
The mongoose, at the center of all the dichotomies in the graph, is a place of aggressively compassionate dialogical partners. Perhaps one way to look at this it to think of the Jackals and Giraffes, the intramural and intermural, each crossing the threshold into a middle ground, a third way, where a conversation of respect can take place in spite of alienating forces to the contrary. This middle ground is the Mongoose. Here is where the “learning community” becomes a reality, here is the balance between the self-protective and the altruistic balance, the point at which creativity is possible. This is the fertile ground from which real dialogue can develop.
Being both willing and able to engage in conversations that could develop into dialogue is the bull's eye at the center of all the various forces that are pulling the participants to polarize to the edges of the graph. My willingness to engage in a learning community is exemplified by two primary actions. The first action is to enter conversation with the agenda of non-judgmental, compassionate listening. The second action is to enter conversation willing to respect both my own and the other participants right to self-define the need for personal respect. At the balance of the archetypal forces, I am able to enter into a conversation with a personal agenda, but am free from an agenda that requires specific actions from the other participants. I am able to allow the other participants to define for themselves their ability and willingness to enter into the conversation of respect with me, without making that an entry requirement to my own willingness to participate.
The need to dialogue and as preconditions becoming non-violent and compassionate towards others is thus a moral imperative. It is not a tool to gain a specific outcome, but rather a process of personal growth. This personal growth is not something that can occur alone in the same sense that “autonomy is impossible.” These are goals I have not reached. I still find myself thinking violent thoughts and becoming angry at injustice but also by things as small as inconveniences. I find myself failing to be compassionate towards both others that I do not know and others that I don't know well enough, including myself. I may have more tools available, but I still have a lot of work to fully accept that this project is a moral imperative. I need to both be willing and able to enter into conversations of respect with the possibility for real change and be open to the possibility for true dialogue.
Physical and Mental Space for Dialogue
“Plans are underway to replace community, family and church with propaganda, education, and mass media.” - Edward A. Ross, “Social Control”
“Today, much of this economic, political, and technological power is in the hands of global corporations wielding immense influence over our government in very intricate ways. One industry after another, not the least being the mass media, is dominated by increasingly fewer giant companies. The trajectory of this power is to centralize control - using our own government, wherever necessary, against its own people - and advance short-term commercial interests at the expense of the elevated living conditions and realizable horizons that should be the just rewards of all people.” - Ralph Nader, “Crashing the Party”
“Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.” - Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”
There are forces that have to be balanced in order for dialogue to be possible. Dialogue is an emergent effect from the extended experiential exposure of compassionate communication. Dialogue is a process not an end. It has a starting point, which can be inhibited, but does not have a point of completion. Participants have the right to define their own needs for respect. Non-violent confrontation may be required to create conversation between entrenched opposites, but cannot be a means to force a specific agenda or else the equality necessary for dialogue will not exist. Extended experiential exposure in a conversation of respect, compassionate communication is necessary for the dialogue to develop between participants. There must be a physical and mental space for this dialogue and for the abilities necessary for dialogue to develop.
The new faith is the gruesome message of the media and the culture of fear. The new family is the government controlled foster care of the educational system. The new community commons is the corporate consumer's cathedral of the mall. The language of poetry, music and all art have been co-opted by the science of advertising. Even the friendly greeting has been co-opted by the corporate interests as the vacuous smile and pitch of the salesperson.
The loss of community is one of the essential barriers to communication and the sustained experiential exposure necessary for dialogue to emerge from compassionate communication. In order to recover community a time and space needs to be created for dialogue in our society that is not controlled by corporate interests. This is reclaiming the community commons from the forces that would bring us together to shop and the forces that would drive us apart to gain control.
There are a great many intrapersonal, interpersonal and extrapersonal forces that are pulling people toward the outside edges of the archetype graph. These forces are attempting to alienate the willing participants in conversations of respect from one another. It is essential to meet this challenge on two levels. I feel it is important that those willing to have these conversations are able to meet and I feel it is also important that those willing are also enabled with the tools and skills necessary to enrich conversations of respect to the possibility of true dialogue.
1. Community Commons not Corporate Consumerism
I intend to work on participation in groups and activities that provide space for discussion and conversation. Philosopher's Cafe and study circle groups are examples. I want to find space for a community commons, the spaces where people can meet to discuss issues that are important to them.
I want to continue working with the study circle people. I have volunteered to help them with a website to provide a place where they can distribute news and materials, acting as an information portal for their activities. Creating and collection from these information portals will be an important part of the “Activism Works” idea. Additionally, I hope to participate in learning the role of facilitator for the study circles. There will be a study circle in January on the topic of religion in which I may be able to participate.
The various groups on campus and off such as the Philosopher's Cafe group that meets at the Voyeur each month are something that I want to investigate more. I want to get a better idea of what community groups there are interested in conversations and dialogues and what kind of activities they are doing.
2. Cooperation not Conflict, Consensus not Control
I intend to explore some intentional learning and progressive communities, specifically to develop my own awareness and skills in consensus decision making and in how it is possible to create progressive space within the context of the larger society. For this reason, I will not be looking for monastic communes, but rather will focus on those intentional, progressive communities that are actively engaged in society. The catholic worker house in Tacoma is one possible focus in this regard since I have already made initial contacts. I'd like to investigate opportunities to involve my younger brothers in some of the activities that happen at the Tacoma house, such as the distribution of hygiene amenities and coffee in the morning to people living on the streets.
3. Dialogue not Debate, Poetry not Politics
I feel that it is essential that I work to develop and promote mental and physical space for dialogue, especially between progressive groups, and secondarily share successful tactics and techniques. I have in mind the name “Activism Works” for this project. I have already registered a domain name, started work on a website and have a logo. However, the primary goal is that I want to investigate over the next few months the process of putting together a 30 or 60 minute show which I see being run on one of the cable public access stations. I'm imagining that this might go into production around Spring quarter.
The show will be for the kind of news about progressive groups that no one hears. For example, most people only know about a progressive campaign from the people collecting signatures for some impending event, but then never hear what happened. One of the important things that I want to have is a space where progressive groups can talk about the things that worked and didn't work for them. I intend to minimize the amount of time spent seeking support of initiatives so that I can focus on sharing of progressive techniques and strategies. I will also hope to promote groups focused on conversation and have talked to the study circle group about providing demonstrations of the study circle process for the show. The website will be a place for information and links to the topics and events covered on the show.