Sunday, November 2, 2014

Mechanisms of conversing with one another in a highly tensed political sphere

There are big words that are constantly tossed around in political debates in every political setting there is, everyone wants change. Change has become the end product that we aspire in activism around societal problems, but change is a process and change is happening everyday whether we like it or not. That's why in order to tackle the abstraction of this fashion of big words such as change we need to reexamine them through reexamining out tactics and aspirations.

As i mentioned change is happening around, as cheesy as it sounds, but i do believe that the only things that might be constant is change itself, staying still is almost impossible because the earth around us is constantly moving, literally. Therefore we might want to reexamine change in specificities, in directions, and question: what type of change are we aspiring for? Change always comes as a positive term, but change is not always good, it might not be always be bad, change is change whether in big events or small ruptures in the every day and change does not come in a linear sense, there is no end product of change but the process itself.

For a long time being a part of several civil society movements that aspire for "change" i always wondered what is it that we are doing wrong, since the change we aspire for is barely happening. Instead, we have clashed among each others on many occasions, and we have among each other formed a frontiers of declared and undeclared political wars. Sometimes, even ourselves we became aggressive, or ever worst, we became passive aggressive and things kept deteriorating.

I do not claim that i figured it all out, and i do not claim that there is one reason why we failed in some places and achieved small victories in other places,  but this is a mere observation that i would like to share about what i noticed in our dynamics. It is that we, as simple and basic as it sounds, do not know how to speak to each other, and our debate mechanisms are highly dysfunctional.

How can we expect the world around us to change (as we want it to change) if we ourselves are immersed in judging and bullying? When we ourselves take mostly dogmatic political stands, by that closing all the roads to a proper conversation with whosoever does not agree with us?

It was very painful to realize and observe how much we bully each other and whosoever does not agree with our political stand. How much we shut down each other without leaving space to talk!

In order to elucidate my point, i will give some examples.

The civil society in lebanon does not exist in vacuum outside the tensions that exist in lebanon. The shift from a civil war society to a civil society might have been a gradual smooth shift, i don't really know, but there is one thing that is very obvious, the othering that the civil war left us stayed entrenched in the way we deal with each other, and the dynamics of the bigger system of ruling gets reproduced in a macro ways in civil society.

Of course there are many other elements in this, one of them is the fact that funding plays a big role in sustaining NGOs in civil society and all the competition that funding produces, influences directly collaboration and sometimes produces polarization, but other times alliances.

Look at everytime a new initiative comes out of an NGO, especially ones that rotate around women rights regarding issues that are either taboos or very sensitive; notice that there is at some place an aggressive attack that does not aim to constructively criticize but aims to destroy. The latter puts everyone on their guards, and we become defensive instead of reflective. We become dogmatic, radically defending our point of view instead of using critique as another perspective of viewing and doing things.  And this is not me pointing fingers, this is a cycle that we are all stuck in and it keeps swallowing us into a polarization that consequently produce wars.

Wars happen when we don't speak, and war happens when we do. Even when we tried to have conversations and political debates in a lot of places the debate was over ruled by patronization of one another, bullying and pointing fingers. In cases where people don't make arguments that are put on the table for discussion, but make statements that aims to destroy.

Most recently i have been in a debate where some of the audience did not agree with the speaker's point of view and their reaction to the speaker was giggling in sarcasm, and when the floor was open for the audience to speak, there was only more sarcasm, more bullying, and no argument was made. How exactly is this constructive?  And this apply to both, the people waging campaigns cannot tolerate a different point of view but their point of view, and the people critiquing the campaigns that do not even bother point out why they disagree to it. I am not trying to be the behavioral police here, i am just questioning the mechanisms we adopt in order to deal with those who we disagree with. I myself can barely have a proper conversation with someone i disagree with, without getting aggressive.

What's with this need for us to be always right? To be the winning side? How did we move away so much from an imagination of movements that want change to a patronizing political sphere that is full of ideological mine field that can blow in our face at any second? And why is it still surprising for me that most of the movements and initiatives that are highly political either broke apart or its on its way to breaking apart! And is the winning we aspire for is an affirmation that we were right? or is it a victory over patriarchy? Is it a victory over one another? is this the change we want? or do we want a change and a victory that deconstruct the base of our oppression? If so, then why are we opening our chests to all the tools of distraction from our goals and fighting among each other instead of fighting the roots?

If we need change to go in directions that we aspire, which is an egalitarian society on every level of equality, we need first to start talking to each other and communicating our point of view instead of imposing them as if they are holly and non-negotiable. We need as well to pay very close attention to the structures of power around us that silences whatever and whosoever disagree with it and gives voice to that which it wants to surface. And mostly we need to stop being condescending, dismissive and bullies towards each other so we can actually start speaking.

Speaking is important, it makes our debates richer and make our politics evolve rather then stagnate. This might be a long process of trial and error but in order to start having a conversation, there's a need to realize that we are not talking, we are patronizing each other, bullying and dismissing each other and one wonders if we realize how counter productive that is! 

1 comment:

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