Saturday, August 22, 2009

Post No. 132: There’s More than Just the Difference in the Price of Your Ticket on the Train


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We’ve always found conflict to be of little value. And generally unproductive.

What we’ve found encouraging has been the absence of conflict, despite differences.

We’ve expressed our concerns about the tone of discourse in America, and what it portends for our collective future. We recently ran across a blog whose title might be paraphrased as, “Yell and Scream First, and Then Reason.” We thought, “There’s a lot of that going on,” and later realized that the yelling and screaming usually end the interaction.

In April, we generated a piece entitled, It All Depends on the Price of Your Ticket on the Train. We used Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to show how good people could legitimately have different perceptions of reality, and thus different values and priorities.

In thinking about this issue further, it also occurred to us that who you are willing to engage in a conversation, across from your seat on the train, can significantly affect your view of the world, and what you get out of the journey.

We’re convinced that a citizenry incapable of sitting down together, in some civilized way to collaboratively address problems, will not get the most out of its people long term. The tensions and emotions can only put further strain on that glue which holds them together.

We thought about this issue twice today. The first time was during the re-airing of a presentation on C-Span2 Book TV, of an interview of the Harvard professor who was recently arrested. The presentation aired in February, prior to the controversial arrest. (Click here to see the video.)

We saw a likeable, affable, intelligent man who had worked hard in an academic setting. However, we kept returning to the image painted by many after his arrest: arrogant, elitist, bi-polar, degenerate, a fraud, a clown, and proof that affirmative action does not work.

The second event consisted of the recent comments of two of our regular readers. There have been times in the past when they have seemingly been at each other’s throats. One could not imagine more polar opposites philosophically.

However, earlier this week, they agreed on something. In fact, they have done so on a number of occasions, although perhaps not with the passion with which they have disagreed on others.

We thought about how different their interaction might be if they both appreciated and focused on the views which they share, as opposed to their interaction being defined by the issues on which they differ. We also wondered whether they realized the number of times there was agreement.

There are two “odd ball” relationships which we frequently mention in our presentations on college campuses. The first involves Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler Magazine, who is generally regarded at the “King of Smut,” a label he relishes.

In one issue of the magazine, he published a parody of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. He suggested that Falwell’s first sexual encounter with his mother was in an out-house, which prompted Falwell to sue Flynt.

For many years, they traveled around the country debating one another, on the subjects of obscenity and pornography. We saw one during the 1990s, and we were fascinated by their relationship: one of mutual respect, despite their differences. After Falwell's death, Flynt acknowledged that they became great friends.

The second “odd ball” relationship which has always intrigued us is that involving an ardent white, male segregationist and a black, female civil rights advocate, who battled over school desegregation in North Carolina. They are now also the best of friends, and make presentations together regularly.

Earlier we suggested that conflict is unproductive in nature, and that despite differences of opinion, progress might be made in achieving goals, if the focus is shifted from the conflict. Our recently minted President suggested that he was going to stress the ties that bind us, rather than highlight the differences which separate us.

Thus far, it does not appear to have worked out that way. Interestingly, in the blogosphere, the most consistent comment we see made about Mr. Obama is that he has done more to set back civil discourse during his brief tenure, than anyone in the past.

We suspect that this loud rancor has little to do with the current occupant of the Oval Office, and more to do with some deep seated, unresolved issues which have been developing for centuries. They’ve just now clearly revealed themselves through the tears in the fabric of our nation, now that we facing inclement weather.

We’d best take note now, and engage those across from our train seat in an honest and direct conversation, lest we all miss the developments outside our train car windows, which is the assault on our prosperity. The glass could break, and make the journey even chillier.

26 comments:

  1. I would point out, first, that the good professor's image was heavily damaged by the picture of him in handcuffs on his porch with his mouth wide open, rage clearly on his face. Justified or not, his reaction was the issue to most. Not the cause of that reaction.

    Which brings me to this point. Most angry and loud interactions come about because the side that begins shouting first is the one who feels his perspective is being ignored. In other words, we often raise our voices because we feel we are not being heard. It is a symptom of frustration.

    If you feel you are not being heard, you have two choices:

    1. Raise your voice (the loud voice in anger)

    2. Walk away (apathy)

    Which would you feel is the right thing to do? I say the answer depends upon the circumstances of moment.

    Finally, I believe you meant "deep seated" rather than "deep seeded" though th elatter is an interesting phrase in that context.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Douglas--
    As much as I would love to disagree with you--if only to unleash my inner doberman--I find nothing in what you've written above to argue about. You even beat me to the punch with the "deep seeded" thing. Have you been attending night school, or what? ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks Douglas. You are correct about our inadvertent use of "deep-seeded" as opposed to "deep-seated," and we agree with you that it is an interesting phrase in the context, even though unintentional.

    You've previously read our pieces on the subject of anger, Is There a Positive Side to Anger, and That Positive Side to Anger Which So Many of You See. While we appreciate and understand it to some extent, we just don't see where anger is particularly helpful when people are trying to solve problems which they consider serious.

    In our view, "being heard" is an individual issue. We're not quite sure whether "being heard" is really that important to most humans as opposed to feeling that you matter, or your actions have an impact or make a difference, or that society recognizes your value. However, we do not pretend to be an authority on what humans value.

    ReplyDelete
  4. By the way folks, we do not have a problem with people correcting us about something which we have written, or challenging us on some point. In fact, we've found errors on occasion and wished that someone would have alerted us to the error earlier. It's all constructive.

    We refer to such as "spinach in the teeth" heads-ups.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Do not take me wrong, I was not trying to say the anger was productive. What I was trying to say is that there are reasons for the anger which are quite, well, human. In the case of Professor Gates, he felt completely justified in being angry. And there are many who agreed with him. As we saw, it was not productive (unless the intent was to get arrested or to get a lot of publicity). If the intent was to resolve the matter quickly, it was a poor strategy.

    Still, I understand why he got angry (I may even postulate that he was tired from his trip, frustrated by the stuck door, and in a generally bad mood).

    But when we are tired, frustrated, and unhappy for whatever reason, we will lash out. When you feel, in addition, that you are being ignored (not listened to) then you are likely to get louder and in the face of those you disagree with.

    This is what anger management classes are all about. Teaching you to manage those emotions. Often by helping you recognize the triggers.

    I hate to write an entire piece here but I have always been impressed by those who kept their heads, spoke calmly and with assurance, when less cooler heads had been prevailing. Often, the cooler heads were high level managers or senior officers. I wondered if the behavior was learned along the way or came natural (and, therefore, led to the lofty position).

    One final note: I have also observed that it is possible to raise the voice just enough to get attention and command respect. It is another sign of effective command, I believe.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I suppose it's appropriate to raise ones voice in a town hall meeting, football game, or to warn someone who is about to fall over a ledge. At the same time it is probably inappropriate to raise ones voice when being questioned by the police, at your boss, or at your spouse. Thus proving that not all conversations are a 'ride on the train'.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for your comment Mr. Walker.

    In our view, appropriate is a very different concept than "necessary." In our view, it's rarely "necessary" to raise one's voice.

    As for the ride on the train, we were simply trying to alert our readers of the value of recognizing that others have legitimate reasons for their points of view (even if inconsistent with our own), and that by being open to them, we might be able to more effectively address some societal problems in a collaborative fashion.

    Thanks for paying us a visit again.

    ReplyDelete
  8. In our view, appropriate is a very different concept than "necessary." In our view, it's rarely "necessary" to raise one's voice.

    Hmmmmm... "rarely" I see you have not ruled it out entirely yet.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Douglas"

    "Rarely necessary" translates into "during an emergency."

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have an entirely different view of anger from one of the commenters here. Anger because you are frustrated is not so much a symptom of your point of view being ignored (correct perception or not), but evidence of lacking skills to maintain or further the debate, as opposed to an argument.
    Much of the time the debaters come to a point where the debate has run it's natural course, and a determination of the facts made and agreed upon, with concession.
    Anger and frustration arise from an unwillingness of one party simply not willing to give up the fight, so to speak. There's no concession, nor agreement to disagree. In many of today's popular debates, the stakes are so high, and lives in the brink that it's become a winner take all venue. Like ultimate fighting.
    We've become a society of fighters, rather than debaters, engaging in honest debate with the intent of moving the dialogue forward.
    Seemingly intentionally, but likely not, the activity is to filibuster an issue, to keep the dialogue from ever moving forward, lest actual engagement be undertaken on anyone's part.
    There are two factions at work in our society today: One is intent to progress - whether wrong or right - to move forward down the road. The other is to stop movement all together. Not even to go backward so much as to impede those who seek to move forward. Moving forward in any direction, will take specific activity and engagement by those who seek no activity. In other words, they ain't gonna do it.
    Your post is outstanding, by the way!

    Blondetwit

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thank you Anonymous/Blondetwit for visiting our site and providing a thoughtful comment. You characterized the debate in an interesting manner:

    "There are two factions at work in our society today: One's intent [is] to progress - whether wrong or right - to move forward down the road. The other's [intent] is to stop movement all together. Not even to go backward so much as to impede those who seek to move forward. Moving forward in any direction, will take specific activity and engagement by those who seek no activity. In other words, they ain't gonna do it."

    Obviously, should conditions not improve in our country as a result of the implementation of the "progressive" policies, then those advocating no change will be able to assign blame on the progressives. It remains to be seen whether this strategy will prove successful.

    Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
  12. In modern personal conflict resolution, we used to be trained to remain calm and unflustered at all costs. We're now told that an angry repsonse to an angry interjection can be justified and even effective, if not taken too far.

    I don't think being angry and louds completely negates rationality.

    ReplyDelete
  13. ‘Spector,

    I understand your perspective; it can best be described as a call for civility.

    However, I would hasten to point out that, in some contemporary quarters, “civility’ is simply a euphemism for “polite censorship”. And it is the voices of those who feel threatened by censorship which are most strident -- and indeed SHOULD be most strident.

    Moreover, when someone suggests that I should politely sit down at a table and participate in the process of bargaining away my Constitutional liberties, then you are damn right I am going to get loud. What part of “Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting . . . infring[ing] . . . violat[ing] . . .etc.” don’t they understand? These are my “loudness triggers” – as they should be. My Constitutional guarantees are not up for negotiation, thank you very much.

    And by the way: you might want to consider the fact that, because the 1770s patriots DIDN’T sit down at the negotiating table with King George, you enjoy a guaranteed right (at least for the nonce) to publish this blog -- and we are not all Royal subjects who sing “God Save the Queen” at tea time.

    As Hank Williams Jr. beseeches us, “Come on, little children, get loud!” When you see devious sophistry masquerading as “civility”, it is indeed time to do a little hootin’ and hollerin’.

    Jeff Dreibus

    ReplyDelete
  14. Jules and Jeff:

    Thanks much for your comments.

    Here's the bottom line from our perspective. One has a goal. One is interested in most effectively and efficiently achieving that goal. Even though one has a goal, others living in the same space have different goals, and right now at least, all of them have chosen to live in the same space.

    Please explain to us how being loud increases the probability of successfully achieving anyone's goals? (We imagine that there might be some situations in life where one side simply beats the other side down into submission, or eliminates or subjugates them, thus effectively "winning." However, our assumption is that both sides will continue to survive.)

    It just seems to us that when people are loud, and yelling and screaming, no one is listening to the other, each side gets defensive, and the underlying issues are not discussed.

    Please tell us how that helps ANYONE, and advances the interests of society.

    ReplyDelete
  15. 'Spector,

    Better to ask the hippies/yippies from the '60s and '70s; or ask Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson; or ask the environmentalists. They all seem to enjoy a pretty effective track record with "loud". In fact, it is these groups from whence I draw my own inspiration -- though our goals are clearly divergent.

    Jeff Dreibus

    ReplyDelete
  16. Jeff:

    This is a very interesting collection of " s" which you have assembled here.

    Although drawing attention to one's self might ultimately lead to advancing the long term positive interests of a group or society collectively, we do not consider loudness and effectiveness to be synonymous.

    Of the three groups you outlined, in our opinion, the environmentalists might be your strongest hand to play. They first caught our attention, then raised issues, and eventually a large enough segment of the mainstream population began to buy into their positions to effect some change. Additionally, there were many environmentalists who spoke softly and accomplished much.

    As for the hippies/yippies, one might argue that they were somewhat effective in prompting our withdrawal from Vietnam, but little else. Even with respect to the war, a large enough segment of the mainstream population also felt that the war was unsupportable.

    As for Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, we doubt that you could find 10% of the black population of this country who could clearly articulate anything which they accomplished, other than drawing attention to themselves.

    On the other hand, we could generate a list of famous people who did far more than those groups you listed to effect unquestionable positive change in society, without ever raising their voices.

    You see Jeff, we do not see the necessity of being loud. In our view, in order for loudness to be viewed as an effective tactic, it would have to gain one MORE than would otherwise be gained by communicating the same message without the accompanying loudness factor. Additionally, loudness is usually accompanied by invective, which is never necessary in our book.

    ReplyDelete
  17. 'Spector,

    I must respectfully disagree.

    The hippies/yippies influenced far more than our withdrawal from Vietnam. Their lingering social influence extends (in my opinion) to modern society's media practices, sexual practices, intolerance of Christianity and of course to our overwhelming drug problem.

    Jesse, Al et al have been good stewards of the "victim" mentality which LBJ wished upon black people in the early 1960s, thereby enriching themselves in the process of keeping those whom they pretend to "represent" out of the societal mainstream and in poverty -- nice racket.

    And I definitely put the socioeconomic influence of the enviros right up there with that of corporate greed. They gleefully held the door as our American industry and energy production exited stage left and left us artificially dependent upon hostile foreign nations for our manufactured goods and oil. The punchline: those entities whom the anti-capitalists sought to punish by so doing are now richer than ever and only the middle- and lower-classes ended up suffering the fruits of their misplaced idealism.

    Now: with all of that negative mojo arising from the quality of "loud", isn't it time that ordinary Americans -- such as the Tea partiers -- get a little loud and try to undo some of the damage?

    Jeff Dreibus

    ReplyDelete
  18. Jeff:

    Thanks much for being actively engaged in this discussion. You've provided much food for thought, and we will respond shortly, once others have had an opportunity to share their thoughts.

    However, we will say this at this point.

    Obviously in operating a written blog where readers provide written comments, we do not have an accompanying "audio" component, as might be the case with a blog with more video posts, which would also allow video comments. We could theoretically quantify the audio component using some sort of device to measure the "decibel" or loudness factor.

    However, you have been following us for quite some time now, and you have provided some very well-articulated, insightful responses to our posts. You have always struck us as respectful of the views of others, even those with whom you disagree. You've never used invective or vituperative language. You've never attacked another reader.

    As one reads your comments, one subconsciously inserts a "voice" based on the TONE of the words strung together.

    Even though we do not always agree on the subjects discussed, you keep coming back, we want you to come back, the exchange is always civil, and we hope that we both learned a few things during our exchanges. At no time have we considered anything you have said to be said with "loudness."

    That has permitted us to continue the exchange, absorb your thoughts, and consider them without emotion. Nor have we ever been offended by, or taken personally, anything that you have said.

    Although you suggest that there is some positive, productive aspect to being loud, we have not seen you employ such a tactic. Nor have we.

    We suspect that's why we have maintained this ongoing exchange, and for that we must thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks, Inspector.

    No invective, huh? You've obviously never seen me at a TEA Party . . . ;-)

    Seriously, I am only disrespectful (loud) to those who are disrespectful to We, the People . . . and most particularly to those who are elected and otherwise charged with "representing" us – but fail to do so.

    Jeff Dreibus

    ReplyDelete
  20. I'll OPEN The WINDOW let the cars get COLD, If the "Current Occupant" is not the problem? Well I guess your correct in that any Black Man ELECTED to the Highest Office in the Land would face the same. But the where rubber meets with asphalt is it is RACISM that is at the heart of the issue today.
    I will NOT STAND By, I will NOT TURN AWAY, I WILL Yell OVER THE TOP.
    When I read mostly in TWITTER by the way, ( REAL PEOPLE ) there is NO Even DISCOURSE with a Racist, they WANT a 2nd Civil War! TeaParty Members threat to use force "Sharron Angel" Said 2nd Amendment remedies may have to be taken. I take her at her word. She wants a Revolt, she wants YOU DEAD unless your in Her American Taliban Party.
    They can HIDE under their "Patriotic" ( Read Masonic ) Symbols trying to convince their OWN they are not Racist. But rather worried about the "Constitution" which they seek to Destroy.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Crybabyprize:

    Thanks for visiting our forum and for providing us with your thoughts.

    We welcome and appreciate all points of view here. If your position works for you, resolves the conflict, and constructively advances societal interests, then go for it, with gusto.

    ReplyDelete
  22. As you stated, one's reality is not another's. Perhaps people say our President has separated us because he has repeatedly blamed the Republicans and Pres. Bush for the current state of the country. What happened to bi-partisanship? It ended immediately when the Dems got in power. Where does that get us? No where. The Democrats have controlled Congress since 2007. They had two years to address the issues but they continually said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were fine. They voted for the Medicare bill which increased our debt substantially without addressing the cost. Disagreeing with our President does not mean people are racist. We must get over the race issue. From now on, we're all Americans. Wouldn't that be nice? Now, on to our economic problems with out of control debt that is threatening to take this country down and increasing unemployment. Keynesian economics has proven it's a bust, but the Dems keep wanting to spend more money. Where's it coming from? Each American owes about $44,000. That's unacceptable. But still we hear of more spending. It's time for ALL Americans to lay down our differences and restore us to fiscal and economic sanity.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Suedi52:

    Welcome to our forum, and thanks for taking the time to post your well thought through comment.

    Your comment was "pithy" and you said many things about the past leadership, as well as the current leadership - some of which you might draw agreement from some circles, and disagreement from others.

    But if we interpreted your comment correctly, the bottom line was that, "From now on, we're all Americans."

    It is absolutely imperative that we figure out some way to "...lay down our differences and restore [the nation] to fiscal and economic sanity." Bickering and dissension might be tolerable, and even desirable during periods of relatively mild discomfort; however, this has gotten beyond serious, and the enemy is not a small one with negligible power which might result in negligible consequences.

    It might be analogized to coming together as Allies to fight a World Economic War. Time to come together.

    ReplyDelete
  24. 'Spector,

    I must respectfully disagree.

    The hippies/yippies influenced far more than our withdrawal from Vietnam. Their lingering social influence extends (in my opinion) to modern society's media practices, sexual practices, intolerance of Christianity and of course to our overwhelming drug problem.

    Jesse, Al et al have been good stewards of the "victim" mentality which LBJ wished upon black people in the early 1960s, thereby enriching themselves in the process of keeping those whom they pretend to "represent" out of the societal mainstream and in poverty -- nice racket.

    And I definitely put the socioeconomic influence of the enviros right up there with that of corporate greed. They gleefully held the door as our American industry and energy production exited stage left and left us artificially dependent upon hostile foreign nations for our manufactured goods and oil. The punchline: those entities whom the anti-capitalists sought to punish by so doing are now richer than ever and only the middle- and lower-classes ended up suffering the fruits of their misplaced idealism.

    Now: with all of that negative mojo arising from the quality of "loud", isn't it time that ordinary Americans -- such as the Tea partiers -- get a little loud and try to undo some of the damage?

    Jeff Dreibus

    ReplyDelete

"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense should be a Way of Life"™

Opportunity to Serve as "Guest Author"

This forum was designed to be YOUR forum for the civil exchange of ideas by people with all points of views. We welcome the submission of articles by all of our readers, as long as they are in compliance with our Guidelines contained in Post No. 34. We look forward to receiving your submissions.