Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Un Voz

Many meanings could be gleaned from the statement "The more we listen to those who experiences and perspectives are unfamiliar, the more we realize what draws us together." One that jumps out at me: In the context of social activism and possible conflict between participant groups, while different parties will always hold different values and views, the connecting fiber is the desire to create positive change and the passion to pursue that end. This for me is the commonality that all social activists must remain aware of.

Another possible interpretation: Through listening to unfamiliar perspectives and experiences we find that the people sharing them are not themselves unfamiliar or strange. The common truth of the human experience exists in every story. It is this central element, this basic connection between us, which is a stand-alone benefit of confronting and evaluating the experiences of others. Loeb alluded to this same fact earlier in his book when he discussed the call of stories.

And yet one third thing that occurs to me about this quote: Again something I feel Loeb touched on earlier is the idea that the direct experience described is both the means and the end. That is to say, the very courage, open-mindedness, and common respect that is needed to listen to something aversive or unfamiliar is what draws us together. In being open and willing to listen, we are both learning and learned, accomplishing and accomplished.

A specific story from this chapter comes to mind when looking for an example of “opposites” coming together for positive change. The story was that of the UJO and El Puente activist groups who had a long history of conflict and misunderstanding. However, when a towering incinerator was to be built near their community, they were able to put aside differences and work together in opposing it. Although the book does not elucidate on this fact, I would bet that after the work the two groups had a much better relationship and a better understanding of each other. To get conspiracy-theory for a moment: It is important that those who choose to become socially active and create a positive change in this world remember who the “enemy” is. The “powers that be” would love nothing more than for socially-minded people to get bogged down in battling each other. This leaves much less energy to be directed at “them.” So, while addressing social injustice is a passionate endeavor that inspires us to raise a strong voice, we must be careful not to drown eachother in the din of ever-rising argument. This is why I talk earlier in this post about finding that commonality, of understanding that beneath incidental differences in opinion there is much more that makes us the same than that makes us different.

Being a fairly confident, open-minded person, I put special effort into approaching those who seem to hold radically different views, values, or opinions from my own. I love knowledge, and I firmly believe that for mankind as a species to move forward we must do away with misinformation, assumptions, and false judgment. The best way to do this, as Loeb argues, is by exposure! Get out there, mix it up, speak your mind, listen fully, and never ever be afraid of being wrong! One of my absolute favorite experiences these days is to find out I am really, really wrong about something! It opens up new possibilities, enriches me as a person, and helps eliminate my own misinformation.


Kraxpelax said...
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bowker3273 said...

I like it derrick. I seem to be getting a better understanding of why we get along fairly well when we get the chance to hang out! lol.
On another note, I do agree that we need to treat eachother like an unforseen force "could" be there. It is with dissension and chaos that we turn towards ourselves rather than facing other obstacles. Thanks Derrick, always a pleasure!