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25 February 2004 @ 11:21 am
Civil Discourse and Effecting Change  
Observing and participating in various discussions about Political Hot Buttons leads me to want to make some fairly useless points about the use of Civil Discourse in a free society and about the best means of effecting change.

Note that I have not necessarily seen the triggers for these points in current LJ friends' discussions. They are mostly feelings that I have picked up over many years and that color my own reactions to political and social discussions.

Feel free to disparage at will.

1) Constructive Civil Discourse cannot take place without an acknowledgement that one's opponent has valid reasons for supporting their position. One does not have to agree with those reasons or even see them as valid, but proceeding from the assumption that one's opponent is an idiot or a bigot or some other convenient label destroys the chance to reach a solution. If it is true, there is no point in the discourse in the first place.

2) Preaching to the Converted gives one a false sense of the strength of one's position. Those who travel only in circles that share their own opinions become convinced that everyone (or at least a majority) share their own opinions. They tend also to become convinced that the only other opinion in the spectrum is the one that directly opposes theirs. They forget that there are plenty of people who may:

  • not care and therefore will be fine with the status quo
  • care but have a completely different view of the situation
  • care but be unconvinced by either of the directly opposing viewpoints


3) By one's arguments, one makes an irrevocable choice between Effecting Change and Spitting In The Opponent's Eye. Once one has done the spitting, it is extremely difficult to reach a workable solution. The opponent is less inclined to take one's position seriously. Outside observers become inclined to believe that one's personal position and ego are more important than the change. Sometimes it is true, but it should be a choice, not an accident, and one should be prepared for the consequences and the work it will take to overcome them.

4) Radical Change can seldom be effected except by the unwilling suppression of the proponents of the status quo. This can occur through revolution, through reducing the numbers of the opponents (through effective argument and conversion or through other means) until they are ineffective, or by suppressing their ideas.

5) Radical Change always seems like a good idea if it is one's own change.

6) Effective Change must take into account the effects on all members of society, not just the group benefitting from the change. Positive effects bring allies for the change. Negative effects bring opponents and must be countered in some way. Neutral effects tend to bring opponents because change itself is perceived as negative by most human beings. These effects are subjective to those affected - in other words, it is their perception of the effects that matters.

7) "Two steps forward and one step back" has produced more positive, permanent change in society than any other means. Even revolution is often only successful if many small steps have been taken such that revolution is just the final piece of the puzzle. Without preparation for revolution, counter-revolution is inevitable.


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Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful
 
 
 
Scott Snyderbardiclug on February 25th, 2004 10:57 am (UTC)
*raises hand*

Is there going to be a quiz on this? ;)
Bill Suttonbedlamhouse on February 25th, 2004 11:20 am (UTC)
Only on chapters 8-15.
Bill Roperbillroper on February 25th, 2004 01:39 pm (UTC)
It almost seems like a manifesto for true conservatism, recognizing that the root word is "to conserve". :)
Travellermrpsyklops on February 25th, 2004 05:25 pm (UTC)
Yep, what you said. Real, lasting change in a culture, when not imposed from outside or created by changing environmental conditions, is a slow process. If the change agents are consistent and effective, it begins to be real in about 20 years (a generation, more or less). The first step as an individual is to work with other individuals to establish processes that support the desired change. It is also important to remember that the political spectrum is not the cultural spectrum - local change agents will have supporters and detractors from any given national political party.

(NB - By "changing environmental conditions" I had in mind a change such as the increasing number of hispanic residents in rural Georgia. This change causes significant changes in the local cultures, which have been dealing with race as a two-valued factor and ignoring ethnicity for some hundreds of years.)

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