April 10, 2007

Appreciative of each person

A small group of people, of whom one is a good friend, has been meeting regularly since November 2002 to search for common ground on a greatly contentious, divisive, acrimonious issue. The participants represent all sides of the issue. At the start of each meeting, they read out the following "Purpose and Traditions"; at the end, they read the "Closing Thought".

See if you can fill in the blanks in these words.


Purpose and Traditions

1. We gather together in dialogue realizing that while our views about ___ may differ, we bring to the table a unified desire to find common ground, and to lessen the chance of violence in our community.

2. We come in peace without intention to impose our views about ___ on one another, but with a commitment to understand those views, to differentiate fact and fiction on the issue, and to get to know each other as people and as citizens of this community.

3. We participate in this dialogue recognizing the importance of this process. We participate in hopes of increasing communication among ourselves which we anticipate will lead to greater mutual respect among all sides of the ___ issue even beyond our immediate group.

4. We recognize that our discussions may involve controversial subjects and sensitive topics that mean much to each of us. Thus, in our discussions, we will not gossip, interrupt each other, or try to dominate but will consciously seek to listen carefully, speak respectfully, and be open and honest in our expressions.

5. While the fact that we are meeting is not a secret, we agree to keep the details of what we discuss confidential among those of us in this room, unless we agree otherwise on particular points.

Closing Thought

We leave here thankful for the opportunity to talk, appreciative of each person in this group, and committed to continuing to build respect among all sides of the ___ issue in our community. We go in peace until we meet again.


Whatever you came up with to fill in the blanks, here's something to ask: where's the effort like this on so many divisive, acrimonious issues we know and experience daily? I mean, take your pick: reservations, Babri Masjid, Gujarat, Narmada, economic reforms, Kaveri water ... Where is the sane, level-headed, mutually respectful initiative, even a tiny one, to bridge even one of these divides? Please tell me if you know of any.

Especially in these days that I remember my travel through Gujarat five years ago, I've been thinking of great divides. Must we remain content with acrimony, content to throw insults across them? Are there people who are tired of insults and want to sit down to sincerely search for common ground, like the group above?

Who out there is willing to take this idea forward with me?


Anonymous said...

I realize your post is about meetings IRL, but with _______ = reservations, I have been trying to do something like this at the blogs of realitycheck and shivamvij.

I dont know enough facts to really participate at the level most people do on those blogs though. I bring an open (and not too far from empty :-( ) mind to the topic.

Its been a long time since you blogged on the reservation tangle. If you dont want to participate in discussion at those places, maybe you could start one here.

Here are the links to DDS previous posts on reservation.



There is some good discussion on the comment threads with some fairly well known bloggers ( I recognized falstaff, confused, realitycheck).


Dilip D'Souza said...

Jai, I don't believe such a dialogue can happen on a blog. It must happen face-to-face where people can work out a consensus on contentious issues.

I don't know that I have anything more to contribute to the reservation issue, besides hoping that time will lower the levels of abusive and supercilious rhetoric that flies about.

On another note, I wonder what the lack of response to this post indicates:

* that nobody reads this space
* that of those who read it, nobody thinks this is a worthwhile pursuit
* that too few people really want dialogue; too many are content with acrimony and insults
* that nobody trusts me enough to take this forward with some chosen issue
* something else.

Anonymous said...

1. Thanks for the response. I have scaled back a bit myself from the reservation chat, partly because I found some of that abuse and stereotyping difficult to take.

2. Re the lack of response, it could be option 'b'. People think it is unlikely to make a difference and hence dont even try.

3. I have to risk what may be a fragile peace and say I kind of liked the multiple choice you had here in the response.

IMHO a certain kind of readership is attracted to writing where the writer has thought through and provided 'real' options in a multiple choice. The possible real options I saw were 'b' and 'd'.

This would be the kind of readership I would like to have if I were to actively blog. Just my unsolicited 2-center.