[eDebate] ans Warner
Wed Jul 18 10:58:03 CDT 2007
"1) Regarding your description of my approach as revolutionary, I'm wondering what is it specifically that you find so radical about my approach? I suggested to a group of people (a minority) whose ideas are losing out to another group of people (the majority), a different way to organize for the purpose of better utilizing the same tools of the political system to achieve change that are used by the majority. Even the topic committee chair supported my initiative wholeheartedly. So...
...just as I perhaps stereotyped you in terms of where I thought you would be positioned on this issue, have you substituted generic perceptions about me in terms of taking a hard look at the actual policy being offered? If you are a supporter of broader topics, why would you not consider joining a political coalition engaged in smart, well-thought, comprehensive activism to achieve the political change you seek?"
i had misgivings about using the word "revolution" after i sent the post, because you are right, you aren't calling for that. i defer to your more accurate description "a political coalition engaged in smart, well-thought, comprehensive activism to achieve the political change you seek".
the reason i used the term "revolution" is that you are calling for a particular political solution, one which focuses on wresting decision-making authority from those who have it now and acquiring it for those who want substantial change. and i do think "revolution" has been used to refer to those situations, but you are correct, the normal meanings of the term refer to more drastic political actions than you call for.
but i prefer argument to authority for a few reasons.
a) is that i generally think people are willing, within limits, to bend their interests to the force of the better argument. the folks in this community, especially, are more responsive to the force of good reasons than most. So i don't think it is optimism or naivete to think that good reasons will get general community support for ideas.
b) is that i just don't think the problem is who is making the decisions: the problem is what reasons they are giving priority to, what choices they think are before them, and their political estimation of what the community wants. i think that if we shift the reasons, the choices, and the community zeitgeist a little that current decision-makers will respond accordingly.
c) this is going to be cheesy. sorry in advance. I have been listening to Philip Glass again after a couple decades respite. his portrait opera, Satyagraha, of Gandhi during his years in South Africa, is titled after Gandhi's idea of the "truth-force". even for a crusty pragmatic centrist, that is a powerful concept: it isn't just 3 decades in debate that make the force of the better argument an important thing in one's life. so... yeah... Satyagraha.
d) wresting authority is inherently divisive in a way that argument and the presentation of reasons need not be. when Elliott names particular programs that he thinks are a problem or when Eric calls for a complete break, i cringe. i appreciate the pressure that puts on some folks, but mostly it just pisses people off, hardens existing positions, and polarizes the issue pointlessly. there is a big difference between demonizing and pointing out privilege, between giving folks an opportunity to do the right thing and giving them the finger before separating yourself permanently from them. and i am not saying you are doing that, you clearly aren't. it is just that i think we can do this with even less division than political solutions would generate. perhaps even heal a division or two in the process...
e) and this one is pretty important to me. i am not sure i am right. i think i am. political solutions short-circuit the reasoning and deliberation which might change my mind as well as the minds of those who see things differently.
2) Regarding your alternative that debate folk can be persuaded by the smart arguments for a non-policy resolution, I'm curious which arguments are you prepared to advance that the small but vocal group that has consistently fought for non-policy resolutions has missed? If you argument about the community's susceptibility to quality persuasion is sufficient to create change, and if the arguments for alternative resolutions have been repeatedly made by a small segment of the community, why were their arguments not able to achieve broader acceptance of alternative resolutions? And even if you have the magical, well-reasoned persuasive argument, exactly who in the current debate ideological divide will shift their allegiances enough to produce a winning topic area vote? The same is true for who on the current topic committee will be persuaded to produce solely non-policy resolutions after the problem area is written?
fair questions, even if i don't have answers to them. i am not good with political organizing or campaigns or the nuts and bolts of politics. in fact, i suck at it. because i distrust and dislike politics. some of the reasons are above. a few others are how it constructs people as means to political ends, how it invariably shuts off deliberation about goals and issues by focusing us on how to get our way, and how it reorganizes a community of deliberation into a community of power.
no magical arguments here. but i do think the connections that are being elaborated this summer between topicality, resolutions, various forms of privilege, and participation are fresh and might move people. also, the time may finally be right. timing is everything they say and i think it is time. come on... when Tuna acknowledges publically and passionately that he thinks it is time for this change, you don't think that gets people's attention?
those folks who have been advancing this idea, every now and then, always enmeshed within more radical agendas, and only occasionally elaborating their reasons publically, are owed the thanks of those folks who come to it this summer. is that enough?
but Ede, for my part, i have no interest in counting votes or supporting candidates or running campaigns. my interest is making arguments and coming to terms with refutations. and if others don't see it my way, well, that's cool because it isn't about who has the power, it is about the force of the better argument.
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