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August 02, 2003

Nice Talking to You
Kaveh Khodjasteh  [info|posts]

dialogue2.jpg What makes religious/political dialogues so tragically unsuccessful? Why is it that money, guns, books, music or "love" have played major roles in the rugged history of Iran, daresay I, even the world, while dialogue been in use traditionally only by philosophers, scientists, beaurocrats and alike? Is dialogue fundamentally flawed?

David Bohm, a name I should be very cautious to use in my research, outlines the following requirement for a succesful dialogue:

  1. Suspend assumptions.
  2. Regard each other as colleagues.
  3. There must be a Facilitator who holds the context of dialogue. If group is experienced, facilitator can just kind of blend in, especially once the atmosphere is established.

My own perception is that the first requirement is extremely hard to meet among political/religious adversaries. Most of our assumptions are simply ours by inheritance. They are only a result of our family, social class, nationality. Even education and rationalization has surprisingly little lever on our assumptions. I personally think that the first requirement is not impossible, but has to be proposed as an idealization.

The second requirement has to do with our ego, the fact that we usually think of ourselves as superheros of thoughts and reason. In the intellectual community, humiliation and disrespect of the clergy is de rigeur while in the clerical circles the godless intellectuals are lost in a sea of eternal darkness. To the conservative politician, a Marxist activist is nothing but a pot-loving-loudspeaker, while activists will not even listen to anyone in a suit. In my opinion this second requirement is less difficult than the first to meet, but still too idealistic to work in politics or religion.

Now who is the moderator? Who is going to remove the insults and humiliations from the discussion? Who is going to let everyone has her say? Who has the clear understanding of the context and stands in the middle of it? With the cleavage between spectra* becoming deeper and deeper everyday, where should we look for the moderators?

I do not want to sound too pessimistic but according to Bohm's requirements (and I should say that as a student of science I like them very much) dialogues are having a hard time these days.

* This is a dominant trend in almost all contexts in the post modern world.
michelle at August 5, 2003 03:38 PM [permalink]:

One interesting attempt to engage in the sort of dialogue you describe-- and over the emotionally, religiously, and politically charged issue of abortion-- can be found here: