Today I am thinking about conversation and the demonization of dissent.
We hear a litany of truisms every day.
Proportional representation is good. Buying 'local' is good. Generic versions of prescription drugs are good. Big pharmaceuticals are bad. Genetically modified food is bad. Case closed.
The media is a great developer and supporter of new truisms. I was surprised to hear of a course in a journalism college called 'Transformational Journalism.' But there we are. Early on, potential truisms are often called 'issues.' Potential truisms gradually garner support from concerned and interested individuals who listen and believe. The truist is born. And the truist must act.
How many of us have heard a recent convert say, "What can I do about this? I must do something!" So they begin to gather like-minded people together in order to 'do something good.'
We have all heard the dreaded invitation, "We need your support!"
What truists really mean is, "We expect your support!"
If anyone approached by a truist has a differing opinion about a truism, the offer of a clarifying and informative 'conversation' ensues. "Oh, you aren't on board yet? No problem. We should have a 'conversation.' " Or, "I would love to have a 'conversation' with you about this!"
Of course, after a reasonable amount of time participating in this 'conversation,' it becomes ever more clear that there is a tacit expectation that you will eventually 'understand.'
I don't know, but I suspect many of you are like me.
When invited to participate in a 'conversation' about 'the issues,' I grope wildly for ways to head the 'evangelist' off at the pass because I have had no success in having any dissenting point of view regarding a new 'truism' heard - ever! I remember how shocked a person was one day when I declined the opportunity to sign a petition. "But, this issue is crucial! We need your support. Do you need to know more about it? Here, I have important information for you." I did not agree with the truism contained in the petition, but the 'conversation' was beginning. I pathetically said, "Actually, I don't sign petitions." And I escaped. I admit I was a coward. I am not proud of what I did. But no one wants to be singled out and potentially publicly shamed for not supporting the truist and their truism.
On the surface it looks like I might be saying that today, truism and the truist using the 'conversation to conversion method' wins.
Not at all. I am saying that this invitation to 'conversation' with a view to 'conversion' is not unifying and life-giving. This method is divisive and destructive.
How many dissenters, offered the opportunity to participate in a project based on a truism and promoted by a truist, simply say, "Maybe - let me think about it," even when they have no intention of supporting the project?
How many dissenters become so anxious, they are even driven to lie, for example, when they sign the petition in order to avoid having the 'conversation,' even though they have no intention of supporting the cause?
And of course -
How many projects crash and burn because the 'assumed' support for the proposed activity was not material?
In the context of truisms, the word 'conversation' has lost it's meaning. 'Conversation' now means 'conversion' - which we all try to avoid like the plague.
The respect for differing opinions is indeed a lost value today.
The demonizing of dissent by truism and truists is a great evil.
It has made the mutual exchange of ideas - conversation - impossible.
And that makes it very, very difficult to get anything done well.
The best colour for today is a reassuring Cobalt Turquoise.