Maybe the stresses of the world we all lived through in 2017 (and for a few years before that it feels) are finally getting to us all. Maybe it is the accelerating pace of technology and the number of new branches and innovations that has us confused and bedraggled. Maybe it is because we are all getting older and a little more crunchy about the edges…
Where am I heading with this?
Three of the groups, organisations, communities, call them what you will, that I belong to and deeply care about have had some turbulence of late. To be honest some of it is old wounds left to fester, some is exciting new directions, and then there is that boundless puppy enthusiasm that is too harshly kicked (as old dog’s despise new tricks as just a repeat of the old trick with shiny bits).
However there is, one would say, some issue.
For me the biggest problem stems from that of simple discursive maturity, and let me elaborate on that.
Do a quick search on rationalism and you will uncover something akin to this:
the practice or principle of basing opinions and actions on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response.
PHILOSOPHY: the theory that reason rather than experience is the foundation of certainty in knowledge.
THEOLOGY: the practice of treating reason as the ultimate authority in religion.’
I personally am fond of the rational use of discourse. It allows us to talk freely about subjects in an open manner and often using concepts or positions that are unfamiliar, and maybe objectionable, to others. This isn’t to say that I forgive malice or abusive discourse, they are not rational so I abhor people who use freedom of expression as an excuse.
Nor does being rational mean that you have no emotion at all. There is always room for passion as long as it is about subject and not aimed at people after being weaponised.
It means that when someone holds a strong position, or more usually presents such an opinionÂ just so that it can be discussed, I can engage with them and appreciate the discussion without seeing harm.
This is how we are to progress. This is, somewhat, in essence that Socratic view of Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis. We can have opposing arguments or positions and find a balanced position. A rationale.
So when someone presents such a strong position, but does it in an open manner, I try to engage with them in that same way even if I find their position antithetical to my own understanding. That is also how we learn.
Not only that. If we can discuss, and allow from that discussion a better understanding, and hopefully gain an agreement based on concessions from evidence of a superior position* then it is even finer.
*(Where superior means better for all and not dominant.)
Kingdom of the Kindergarden
However what I have seen a little of recently is too much of what I like to think is the Kingdom of the Kindergarden. The one ruler in the playpen who everyone must respect and no-one else should be heard.
There will be tears. There will be hair pulling and gnashing of teeth. There will be wails, grunts, cries of unfair, and they started it. There will be name calling and sometimes worse, there may be vengeful, painful, abuse.
We can all fall so easily into being the ruler of the playpen. We can all move our toys with velocitous speed from our crib with cries of displeasure and calls of unfair. Some of us may even storm from the room allowing everyone to hear our departure and allowing no one but ourselves to have the last word.
We can all do it.
Some of us do not.
When the Kindergarden rules the adults tend to try and calm the situation. They try to ameliorate, discuss, understand and compromise. When that fails, they leave. The adults quietly walk away and allow the children to cry and wail. They stop the discourse because that’s what adults do. Adults are not the masters of the playpen. They are not its citizens.
If there can be no rationality, there really can be no real discourse. The most reasoned voices are not the ones who win, they are the ones who left. A reasoned voice knows that community comes from compromise not from dominance.
They don’t throw a cup, with a beverage in it or not, at a wall. They drink their tea, put the cup in the sink, and walk quietly out of the door.
As for my cup?
Well I have just poured myself a drink and I am looking out of the window…