I’ve watched relevant videos, listened to speakers, read articles and books on civility and engaged in peaceful disagreements. I’m beginning to wonder to what end.
Could it be possible that we all may be trying to come together to reach political goals in the wrong way? While relationships and civil discourse are great goals and achievements if possible, they leave people who, are starving for closure, still very hungry. If we flip the focus towards negotiated outcomes we may be able to satisfy that hunger.
In personal relationships, egos can be so invested in certain outcomes, the relationship will have to suffer or completely fall unless one of the participants moves towards the other or changes positions. In a politically democratic relationship, we each have to compromise or suffer together as a nation. If we suffer, it usually means that one side or the other wins one or more internal battles but eventually -if the wins are too one sided- both sides lose the war of unity.
Although my theory of a flipped focus may work well in personal situations, because of love and/or loyalty, for the purposes of this essay, I’m going to disable the flipped focus idea. I’m doing that because the success of personal relationships depends upon too many factors that motivate the relators for personal benefit. People either stay to fight for the relationship or leave -in sadness or distrust-to fend for themselves.
Because personal factors often need to be sidelined or forgotten, for political reasons, my focus will only center on the possibility of healing political relationships. In political disagreements, the old saw, “Let’s agree to disagree”, is catchy, it’s part of an unsatisfactory mind game. Such a “resolution” never solves disagreements and leaves people at a frustrated, sometimes friendship impaired, impasse.
Political adversaries will only feel satisfied if both win. Since that’s an impossibility, the general outcome of the political game is that one or both sides will lose. A win requires both sides working together, each giving up something, to reach a common goal. Although the desired goal may not be ideal, if it’s a livable goal it’s a win for both sides.
Unified and unifying outcomes are based upon social contract theories posited by philosophers, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and in our time frame, John Rawls. If all of us are willing to give up our political egos and start from social contract theories, and especially for a democracy, Rawls’ “original position” argument, the outcome will be as fair as possible.
Imagine that two tethered people want to get to the same destination. Each person starts yelling at the other as to their opinion on how to get there. We can easily see that they won’t go anywhere as long as they’re stuck yelling at each other. If each side is civil in stating how they should get to the destination, they will also go nowhere. If each side agrees to disagree, they will also stay in place. For that reason, I think political disagreements, that are civil but don’t move from that spot or those that end with “let’s agree to disagree”, are actually huge wastes of time, unless you’re in a Miss Manners’ class on cocktail talk.
In order for us to move forward, as political participants, towards a constructive ends, I believe that we all must start backwards from the agreed upon goal, with built in assumptions that despite each person’s stated political goal, in order to move in a politically positive direction, each side will have to negotiate and will not arrive at their exact envisioned goal.
In our modern times, much of our self centered, egotistical, positions come from biased social media and biased news media buzzing around the negotiating table, making it almost impossible for each side to hear the other. These disturbances have a kind of power over us, unlike any other, and unlike at any other time, in American history.
Biased media sources, because of greed, refuse to adhere to Rawls’ original position theory. The almost all time consuming presence of social and news media, enveloping our lives, forces us (unless we consciously opt out) not only to be fed 24/7, but worse to consume only tailor made, algorithmic based, information, to see, hear, or read, based upon involuntary seizures of our personal information. We are then told to think that we can only believe that “our” side is to be believed, distracting us from unifying social contract goals.
To overcome this theft of thought, we have to exert tremendous energy away from media pulls. Although withdrawal is not easy, it’s absolutely necessary and must be done in order for us to survive outside of our puppet social media posts. We can successfully engage in that withdrawal if we remember that, while our goals are to be unified, media forces, through craftily designed algorithms, have the ultimate goal of pulling us apart.
Such decisions, for freedom from the thefts of our abilities to think, means that we have to be willing to focus on social contract outcomes that won’t promise us the rose colored glasses outcomes media forces want us to believe are possible. Social contract outcomes must be viewed through more realistic lenses.
The two following philosophical ideas, from the writings of Emily Perl Kingsley and Kristen Groseclose bring this realistic vision home. Each woman gave birth to and raised a disabled child. Emily Perl Kingsley in her essay, “Welcome To Holland”, was able to make peace with having a disabled baby, through her wistful acceptance of visiting Holland rather than her planned trip to Italy. Kristen Groseclose described her acceptance through the discussion of a Haiku, authored by Mizuta Masahide, a seventeenth-century Japanese poet. Masahide wrote of a negotiated outcome as one which “speaks to the competing joys and sorrows”, of a burned down barn, that now allows us to see the moon. The burned out space is obviously not the result either side would hope for but it allows room to rebuild with the moon as a bright light as a guide through the darkness.
If, social and news media forces had been at play, after the birth, each mother would have been told that her baby was perfect and could be raised as any mother would raise a normal child, making no acknowledgements nor allowances for realistic problems the child might have or might encounter. With that rose colored, egotistical vision of a normal child, the result would have been disastrous for the mother and for the child.
In political negotiations, although each “mother” believes that its baby is perfect, the outcome of how best to raise it will be a stalemate, at best, and war, at worst if realism isn’t part of the planning.
To keep the process moving in a direction of growth for the well being of both children, each side will be supported by sharing their problems and their goals. Then they can begin to work together to create compromises that will keep the process moving toward acceptable outcomes.
When each side is focused on and mired in it’s own egotistical vision of perfection and how to get to the goal, nothing gets accomplished. If each side remains fixated on egotistical outcomes, each side isn’t talking about reaching realistic goals, but instead focusing on agreeing to be disagreeable.
Ego focus never works and always leaves people at a frustrated impasse. Sometimes getting to an agreed upon goal, means that some egotistical baggage can’t be taken on the journey and will have to be discarded at the beginning of the journey or along the way. Winnable negotiated ends require a process of flexibly focused methods.
However, as hopeful as that sounds, we must always keep in mind, that our flexible process, in this time of our history, is being eroded by biased media forces, lining their pockets with proceeds from their contrary selfish goals. They are not our friends in reaching the goals inherent in a peaceful social contract. They don’t care if they sink us, as a unified country, as long as they can sell one side or the other off as tomorrow’s headlines.
In order to achieve our desired social contract outcomes, we must be constantly aware of left wing and right wing biases in the media, which have goals contrary to ours of a peaceful social contract. Only if we strive to fight against those biased media enemies, by seeing them for what and who they are and by not allowing them their unbridled power over us, will we be able to stop them from destroy our hopes for peaceful social contract outcomes.
More and more of political bias is showing up in the least likely previously untouched places, in subtle ways that want to funnel us into separate shouting rooms: advertising (there are too many examples to mention. Just be on the lookout for the messages), previously fun websites that now have a political agenda, (Bored Panda), books, art, theatre, and music (now subject to self cancellations, pursuant to cancel culture dictates).
Although freedom of speech and the press should never be suppressed, just known for all its warts, it is being suppressed every minute of every day, by media moguls who are currently misusing the power of censorship given to them by Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
That section has made media moguls the ultimate censors and decision makers of what we read, see, and hear. Since our forefathers were very careful to insure that our freedoms were not meant to be suppressed in that or any other manner, Section 230 is a huge hole in the fabric of social contract unity that needs repair against biases designed to keep us ignorant, fearful and divided.
If knowledge is truly power and if we can keep the knowledge in our minds, of that censorship hole in our social fabric, as well as the fact that biased media’s means to achieve goals that, more often than not, work against us, we can use that knowledge as a beacon to warn us of the strengths of those greedy attempts to control us and to hinder our negotiations. Given that knowledge, despite those strong forces, we can still work on successfully negotiating peaceful, social contract, outcomes.
Although we’re all in danger of falling through the social fabric holes, straight into the clutches of nefarious media forces, it’s up to us to stay awake in a non woke way. The new cancel culture woke agenda is just another countervailing media force, determined to pull us apart, and one over which we need to exert, unified, social contract control.
Working towards common social contract goals, with awareness of forces that seek to divide us, outcomes may be less than ideal for either party. However, if we trust the the lawyers’ old adage about settlements, we won’t go wrong: “if everyone is unhappy it’s a great settlement”.