30th September 2006
Guidelines for Critical Dialogue between Worldviews
as exemplified by the need for non-antisemitic
dialogue with Israelis?
- / -
Published in abridged form in Journal
of Futures Studies: epistemology, methods, applied and alternative futures, 11, 2, November 2006, pp. 137-154
Challenge of dialogue with an alternative worldview
Isomorphs of the Israeli case: challenging parallels and distinctions
| Academic disciplines
| Political ideology
| Nationalism and ethnic culture
-- Physically characterized social groups
| Social status and behavioural skills
| Lifestyle preferences
-- Alternative and hypothetical
Sources of the sense of "choseenness"
Characteristics of dialogue with "the chosen"
-- Critical dialogue amongst "the chosen"
| Critical discourse by "the chosen"
-- Preferred non-critical dialogue
| Critical dialogue with "divinity"
-- Radical dialogue and "anathema"
-- Unacceptable denial of formative existential experience
-- Transformation of human rights into a defensive shield against feedback
-- Dialogue with gated communities
Consequences of "inappropriate" dialogue
-- Justification for extremist action
-- Retraction and apology
-- Complicity with extremist action
Degrees of isomorphism, equivalence or analogy
Exemplary test cases: symbols vs trivia?
Mapping the terrain of hypersensitive dialogue
Critical comments on the policies of Israel in its handling of the crisis
with Hizbollah (July-August 2006) [more],
or more generally with Palestinians, have evoked accusations of "anti-semitism".
Both the criticism and the accusations have been characteristic of interaction
with Israelis over decades -- and, more generally, over centuries with
regard to Jews. Considerable effort has gone into recognizing what constitutes
the "anti-semitic" characteristics
of such criticism. Although references are occasionally made to "non-anti-semitism",
and the need to demonstrate it, it is not clear that any effort has been
devoted to clarifying what constitutes "non-anti-semitic" dialogue
that is critical of Israel or of positions favoured by Jews in particular.
The situation with respect to Israel may usefully be considered as exemplifying
a challenge with respect to the proponents of any worldview, whether those
of other religions (especially including Islam and Christianity), schools
of thought, academic disciplines, etc. In effect the situation with respect
to Israel is considered here as isomorphic with other psychosocial conditions. These have the potential to offer more general learnings, as
well as clues to how the challenge can be more elegantly and fruitfully handled.
What follows is an effort
to determine whether there are any guidelines for critical dialogue with
proponents of a worldview strongly held, possibly so strongly as to be
intimately associated with the very identity of the proponents. Preferably
the guidelines should be offered by those holding the worldview, rather
than by those critical of its consequences -- and seeking an appropriate
window of opportunity through which to dialogue. If there is any implication
that one may occasionally be "wrong", at least from some other
perspective, it is useful to clarify the conditions under which others
may point this out.
This exercise is not concerned with the much-explored question of "tolerance" --
namely tolerating an alternative worldview and its associated practices
-- rather it is concerned with the guidelines for engaging critically with
such a worldview where it is experienced as problematic. The practice of
tolerance is commonly understood to be one which deliberately abstains
from critical feedback -- that may in fact be vital to the sustainability
of any relationship. Cris Cullinan
Privilege, and the Limits of Tolerance, 1999) makes the point:
As long as some of us receive automatic presumptions of innocence, worthiness and competence and yet refuse to hear and understand that others do not share these benefits, we can do little to create a respectful and inclusive environment. This is not necessarily because we do not want to help create this kind of environment.
Challenge of dialogue with an alternative worldview
What are the guidelines for criticizing those who use particular styles
of dialogue to define themselves as beyond criticism -- beyond the bounds
of human behaviour considered acceptable from other perspectives? The
corollary is that any who engage in such criticism are necessarily to be
considered as acting unfairly, unethically, discriminatorily. Such critics
may then, by their own choice, be seen to be laying themselves open to
counter-measures -- of which those criticized are the sole judge of appropriateness.
It might be expected that those subscribing to such a logical position
would offer careful guidelines to others who might wish to offer criticism.
This does not appear to be the case. The following is therefore a contribution
to the extensive literature on critical
One focus of this exploration
is the particular case of the much debated question as to whether it is
possible to be critical of anything with which a Jewish person is associated,
notably the State of Israel, without being automatically labelled as anti-semitic.
To clarify the boundaries of appropriateness, some comparison is made with
many other situations where people have well-established reasons to think
of themselves as specially distinct from other human groups.
Isomorphs of the Israeli case: challenging parallels and distinctions
It is instructive to explore the following tentatively
clustered, well-known cases where one worldview considers itself more developed,
informed or appropriate than another -- and, to that extent, "above
They seem to have dimensions with a degree of isomorphism to that of the
challenges of critical dialogue with Israel and Israelis. The key questions
- whether and how to draw parallels or
distinctions between potential isomorphs?
- what forms of criticism is a coherent worldview not "above" receiving?
The problem in the case of Israel is frequently framed in relation to
the challenge of a "chosen people" -- a people specially chosen
by God and therefore necessarily "above criticism" (cf The
Peace Encyclopedia: Chosenness, The Chosen People, Superiority;
Paul Eidelberg, The
Chosen People, 1998; Dovid Gottlieb, The
Chosen People). There
are other peoples who have traditionally considered themselves to be similarly "chosen",
including the Chinese and the Japanese -- and, much more recently, the
Americans. But the special divine relation, and its associated responsibilities,
is also commonly recognized amongst many indigenous peoples.
It is therefore potentially more fruitful to review the challenge, for
the "unchosen", of appropriate dialogue with "chosen people" in terms of a much wider spectrum
of situations in which variants of this condition obtain.
Religion: Those subscribing to a religious belief are
typically faced with similar perspectives and must develop a mode of dealing
with anti-religious dialogue, notably as characteristic of humanists and
atheists. The lack of any faith, irrespective of the faith chosen, may
be considered as extremely problematic, notably according to the views
of Islam (regarding an infidel, or kafir).
Here the challenge is one of
dialogue with unbelievers stigmatized as having an anti-religious attitude.
The corresponding challenge is that for the "unbeliever" in dialoguing
with a person holding a particular belief. Whilst religions give a great
deal of attention to dialogue (on their own terms) with unbelievers, as part of the proselytizing
process, none is given to the guidelines for unbelievers in engaging critically, for mutual benefit, with
those holding a religious belief.
It is a characteristic of religious belief to consider the truths
of the chosen religion to be more fundamental than those of other beliefs,
thus making them preferable if not superior -- offering a specially
privileged understanding (and associated status). The challenge comes
from any consequent constraints on dialogue. Examples include:
- anti-Catholic: criticism of the Catholic worldview
and its associated practices dates back over centuries -- notably
resulting in the often violent relationships with "protestant" Christians
stigmatized as "anti-Catholic" (as in Northern Ireland)
and with Muslims (as in the period of the Crusades). It is however
unclear that participation of Catholics in recent inter-faith dialogue
initiatives has established guidelines acceptable to Catholics for
critical feedback from those not subscribing to the Catholic worldview
(whether other Christians, Jews or Muslims) -- especially when the
Pope has so controversially asserted the superiority of Christianity
over other faiths and especially Islam. Nevertheless the Pope
has stressed that "We
are in great need of an authentic dialogue between religions and
between cultures" (25
September 2006). The situation is not facilitated by the Pope's typically
strong views on the superiority of the Catholic faith above all others.
- anti-Protestant: this situation is typically the
reverse of the anti-Catholic situation. It is exacerbated by the
fundamentalist beliefs of some Christian denominations, naturally
convinced of the primacy of their worldview and their divine mandate
-- notably in response to the Muslim worldview. Again there is little
evidence of the emergence of any guidelines from such groups on the
appropriate form of critical feedback.
- anti-Semitic: criticism of the Jewish worldview and
its associated practices also dates back over centuries -- with many
horrific consequences. Judaism is also characterized by a range
of denominations with contrasting worldviews (Orthodox, Conservative,
Reform, Haredi, Hasidic, Modern Orthodoxy, Reconstructionist, Karaite,
Rabbinic, and Alternative). Given this variety, the question is what
guidelines might be formulated by Jews for fruitful critical feedback
that could be usefully distinguished from "anti-semitism".
- anti-Muslim: the past decade has seen intensive debate
on the Muslim worldview by other worldviews (whether religious or secular)
-- of which a major proportion is considered to be "anti-Muslim" by
Muslims. The question for all concerned, as with "anti-semitism" in
particular, is what guidelines might be offered by Muslims as to fruitful
critical feedback -- if any is admissible. The possibility is complicated
by the quality of the critical "dialogue" between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.
- anti-Buddhist: although less well-known in the West,
Buddhism has been subject to strong anti-Buddhist actions (cf Great
Anti-Buddhist Persecution) but also has a proactive approach
to critical views (cf Against
Buddhism - Anti-Buddhist ; Arguments; Anti-Buddhism
Buddhism has engendered one of the oldest attempts to create a framework
for mutually incompatible views in the classical text on The
All-Embracing Net of Views (Bhikku Bodhi, 1978) which identifies
62 philosophical views as constituting a complete set of inappropriate
or unsustainable views -- together constituting a larger
and more appropriate framework. Whilst these may be usefully framed as
classical errors of interpretation, it is not clear however that Buddhism
has generated guidelines for more spontaneous criticism.
- anti-Taoist: criticism of early Taoism is clarified
in an annotated commentary by Livia Kohn (Laughing
at the Tao: Debates Among Buddhists and Taoists in Medieval China,
Journal of Religion, 1997). Of particular interest in the
case of Taoism is the special role given to polarities, raising the
technical question of the modalities by which a polarizing
external critical perspective is integrated (9-fold
Higher Order Patterning of Tao Te Ching Insights, 2003; Discovering
richer patterns of comprehension to reframe polarization,
It is not clear that Taoism has reflected its understanding of such
dynamics in guidelines for its critics.
- anti-Hindu: typically Hinduism is naturally
accepting of non-Hindu philosophies and practices, although anti-Hindu prejudices
within Indian tribal populations and amongst fundamentalists of Muslim
and Christian persuasion have notably led to massacres of
the Hindu population. As with Taoism, the Hindu concept of Indra's
Net points to an encompassing of the total variety of views
and counter-views. But again it is not clear that Hinduism has generated
guidelines for critical feedback on its worldview.
This conclusion would also appear to apply to contemporary spiritual
leaders of Hindu inspiration.
Christianity has been the most successful in occupying the moral highground
by ensuring that "unchristian" is widely held to mean "uncharitable" or "uncompassionate" --
if not "inhumane". Other religions have however successfully
elaborated powerful symbolic understandings of "impurity", "uncleanness" and
the like -- which would in each case typically apply to the practices of
another worldview, including the Christian (cf Susan Handelman, On
the Essence of Ritual Impurity (in Judaism), 1996; Christine Hayes, Gentile
Impurities and Jewish Identities, 2002; Ritual
Impurity (hadath and najasa in Islam); Guide
to Ritual Impurity (asaucham in Hinduism)). Dialogue
under such conditions calls for special precautions that need elaboration.
Academic and other disciplines and skills: It
is a characteristic of those having acquired a discipline, often through
long and arduous training, to be constrained in their dialogue with those
lacking the understanding (and possibly status) arising from the associated
insights. Typically the points made from other perspectives are held to
be "unacceptable", "ill-informed", "unfounded" or "naive".
This is the case with the "professionals" of many disciplines,
whether mountaineers, meditators, masons, or musicians (a breadth of spectrum
favoured by Paul
Feyerabend (Against Method: outline of an anarchistic theory of
Here the challenge is one of dialogue
with non-professionals, possibly pejoratively stigmatized as "amateurs"
or "undisciplined" or having an anti-professional or anti-disciplinary
attitude. The corresponding challenge is that for the "amateur" --
or one without skill -- in dialoguing with a person skilled in a particular
discipline. Whilst professionals may give a great
deal of attention to dialogue (on their own terms) with those lacking their skills,
as part of persuading others to develop that skill,
none is given to the guidelines for amateurs, especially the unskilled,
in engaging in critical dialogue with skilled practitioners, for mutual benefit.
This cluster is most instructive in the case of science, especially the "pure" or "fundamental" sciences.
Practitioners of such disciplines are renowned for the reservations they
have in dialoguing with non-practitioners, which may extend behaviourally
into forms of self-appreciation and elitism, including an unfortunate degree
of intellectual arrogance. Many efforts are made to explain to wider audiences
the excitement of the perspectives of these disciplines and the discoveries
they make. This may be understood as a form of dialogue with those who
are not necessarily persuaded of the fundamental value of science over
all other approaches to truth. A striking example, highly critical of religion,
has recently been offered by Richard
God Delusion, 2006).
Such explanations are considered vital to ensure that voters and politicians continue to support fundamental research. But curiously those scientists who perform this role are often disparaged by their colleagues as "popularizers" who endanger their academic standing and research careers by doing so. Whilst pure scientists consider any other form of thinking as "unscientific" and subject to condemnation for its logical and methodological inadequacies, little attention is given to the challenge of how the unscientific should engage in dialogue with scientists other than on the terms of the latter.
The challenge applies not only to dialogue with non-scientists but in
different ways to dialogue between practitioners of different sciences,
whether or not they are "fundamental" or "pure". The
problems with such dialogue -- whether or not it extends beyond the natural
sciences into the social sciences and other disciplines -- have been explored
under the heading of "interdisciplinarity" and "transdisciplinarity".
For the practitioners of particular disciplines any such efforts may be
seen to be as dangerously suspect as the concerns about syncretism in interfaith
Of particular interest are the cases where the discipline has preoccupations with the subjective rather than the objective -- as with psychology, philosophy and aesthetics.
Political ideology: To the politically
engaged, those who do not have a political commitment are typically considered
naive, possibly dangerously so. This is exemplified by the adage: whether
or not you concern yourself with politics, politics will certainly concern
itself with you.
Here the challenge for politicians -- exemplified by voter apathy and the
"democratic deficit" -- is one of dialogue with the apathetic, possibly stigmatized
pejoratively as having an anti-political attitude. This has been a concern
in both democratic countries and under more totalitarian regimes. The corresponding
challenge is that for someone without political convictions, an "unbeliever", in
dialoguing with a person with particular political convictions [more].
Whilst political parties give a great deal of attention to dialogue (on their own terms) with
unconvinced voters, in the process of campaigns to solicit votes,
none is given to the guidelines for the unconvinced in engaging critically, for mutual benefit, with those
holding (strong) political convictions.
Well-known examples, usefully clustered as complementary pairs, include:
- capitalism: capitalists present their case with great
fervour and see their approach as fundamental to economic development.
The "anti-business" resistance
from "anti-capitalists" is seen as exceptionally problematic.
For some corporate interests it justifies the use of "dirty tricks",
possibly resulting in the death of labour leaders, whistleblowers, or
demonstrators. Whilst dialogue by business to make the case for capitalism
is conducted with moral fervour enhanced by public relations, there is
no guidance from capitalists as how to make a reasoned critical case
against the capitalist perspective, notably as formulated in the pro-globalization
discourse. Any such critical discourse is viewed as highly suspect if
not subversive. Interestingly however, "criticism tolerance" is
viewed as a highly important characteristic impacting on interpersonal
effectiveness and leadership -- successful startup entrepreneurs seem
to have a higher criticism tolerance [more].
- communism: as with capitalists, communists present
their case with great fervour. Any "anti-communist" perspective
is viewed as highly suspect. But no guidelines are offered by communists
on how to engage in appropriate critical dialogue regarding the inadequacies
of communism. Unlike capitalism, of particular interest is the emphasis
on "critical" discourse
within communism of whatever flavour -- even "self-criticism" (eg Soviet,
Chinese, Cuban, Albanian). But the degree or scope of criticism is severely
circumscribed. It is important to avoid "crossing a line" into
- imperialism: in the past century imperialists made
a strong case for the self-evident logic of their actions, subsequently
discredited during the period of anti-colonialism and progressive national
independence. Such logic was also seen as coherent in earlier centuries
-- back to the Roman Empire. Resistance by "anti-imperialists" was
considered completely unacceptable and resulted in swift stigmatization
of those proposing civil liberties or independence -- associated with
many bloody conflicts between righteous imperialists and the local insurgents
in their colonies. The imperial logic has returned to fashion with the
for a New American Century and, somewhat
differently, through the logic of "globalization". Perhaps
not surprisingly this is historically coincidental with pejorative framing
of active resistants as "terrorists". No indications are offered
by imperialists regarding the modalities of appropriate discourse critical
- independence: the fervour of independence from the
yoke of imperialism has successfully resulted in the independence of
many countries. Pressures however continue to manifest in favour of secession
from existing national entities -- resisted with a logic similar to that
of imperialism. Again no indications are offered by those opposing such
secession regarding the appropriate critical discourse in favour of secession
-- possibly vital in the event of such dialogue within the USA..
- militarism: the arguments for military preparedness
and for military action are presented through a well-known logical framework,
supported by appeals to various principles and values: honour, defence
of the motherland, noble cause, etc. The discourse in support of conscription
is also well-honed -- currently on campuses in relation to military needs
of the USA. Any criticism of the military enterprise is quickly framed
in terms of disloyalty, cowardice and even treachery. Demonstrations
made evoke a violently repressive response. No effort is made by those
favouring military action to clarify the guidelines for appropriate dialogue
with those presenting critical views of such action.
- pacifism: here again, pacifists do not offer guidelines
on acceptable modes of discourse critical of their position. Again contrary
arguments, and those presenting them, are viewed with the greatest suspicion
and stigmatized pejoratively.
- industrialism: this well-recognized manifestation
of the economic and developmental imperative does not suggest guidelines
for appropriate critical dialogue from those highly critical of its
assumptions and consequences
- environmentalism: in this case it is environmentalists
who present a coherent case -- regarding pollution, climate change, endangered
species, etc -- and view contrary arguments with the greatest suspicion.
Those offering such arguments are readily
labelled with various pejorative descriptors. Environmentalists, despite
recognition of the vital function of feedback loops, do not offer guidelines
on acceptable critical dialogue against their position.
- "consumerism": this widely promoted approach
to the achievement of well-being and happiness through wealth does not
offer guidelines for appropriate feedback critical of its consequences
- "simplicity": advocates of the cultivation
of voluntary simplicity, and creative approaches to relative poverty,
do not offer guidelines for critical feedback to those pursuing wealth
and a consumer lifestyle
Nationalism and ethnic culture: For
those especially proud of their country, their culture or their ethnic
group, any particular criticism is quickly framed as antipathy to the group
as whole. Typically it is described as being "anti-X" and is
seen as exemplifying an unacceptable discriminatory attitude -- even an
infringement of the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human
Here the challenge is one of
dialogue with those unsympathetic to the culture and quickly stigmatized
in terms of their antipathetic attitude. The corresponding challenge is
for the latter, given their criticism of attitudes
or behaviours of the particular nation or ethnic group. National cultures
give a great deal of attention to dialogue (on their own terms) with the
cultures of other groups to increase understanding -- as part of the process
of cultural exchange that promotes tourism. In this spirit the United Nations
proclaimed 2001 to be the Year
of Dialogue Among Civilizations -- ironically, given the consequences
of 9/11. Very little attention is however given to the challenge for those
critical of the behaviour of a collectivity to formulate their criticism
in appropriate terms as a basis for such dialogue, for mutual benefit.
Classical examples include:
- America: the USA is notable for recognizing its special
relation to God and a sense of Manifest
Destiny. Much has been written about "anti-American" attitudes
and the consequent challenge for Americans of "winning hearts and
minds" -- winning them over to the American perspective. Americans
themselves have engaged in an awkward internal process of penalizing "un-American" initiatives.
Little effort has been devoted by Americans to elaborating the guidelines
for acceptable dialogue critical of American attitudes and behaviours.
- Japan: continuing concerns are symbolized by the repeated
visits of Japanese prime ministers to the Yasukuni
shrine where convicted war criminals are honoured together with 2.5
million war dead, calling into questions the validity of the war crimes
trials. This pattern has inhibited political summits between China and
Japan since 2001. This complex mix of "anti-Japanese" perceptions
by foreigners and political pressures on Japanese prime ministers to
avoid "un-Japanese" behaviour is further complicated by the
particularities of Japanese attitudes to foreigners (gaijin).
Again little effort is made by Japan to clarify how others should fruitfully
engage cortically with Japan under such circumstances.
- Germany: as illustrated by the policies of the Nazi
era regarding the Aryan
race and the discriminatory and genocidal measures taken against
non-Aryans -- now a theme of neo-nazism.
- Israel: as reflected in Zionist policies,
in support of the State of Israel, in response to anti-semitism and the
subsequent confusion of "anti-Zionism" with
anti-semitism. Seemingly there is no clarification by Zionists of the
appropriate form of dialogue critical of Zionism, if this possibility
is even envisaged as beneficial.
- Other countries, notably those confronted by immigrants
and multiculturalism, continue to express concern with erosion of national
identity -- framed pejoratively (in English) as "un-British", "un-Australian",
"un-Canadian", "un-Irish", for example. Turkey notably
has legislation to curtail criticism of "Turkishness", especially
by writers. How should the "un-British" engage critically
with the "British"? How should those immigrants stigmatized
as "un-European" engage with "Europeans"?
Aesthetics: Many of the issues of dialogue are highlighted by the interactions between different schools of aesthetic preferences, notably in the period in which new preferences and styles emerge, challenging dominant preferences. An effort has been made to map these differences by W T Jones (The Romantic Syndrome; toward a new methodology in cultural anthropology and the history of ideas, 1961). Of particular interest are the strong preferences in the case of religious iconography, ranging from prohibition of any form of image of deity in the case of Islam, through the varying preferences of Christianity (from Catholic to Quaker), to the explicit non-attachment to imagery in Zen Buddhism (see below). This may be a factor in shared meditation -- as an ultimate form of dialogue (Aesthetic
Challenge of Interfaith Dialogue as Exemplified by Meditation, 1997).
Physically-characterized social groups: Those
distinguished by certain physical characteristics may have a tendency to
frame any critical feedback as inappropriately discriminatory -- possibly
to the point of using accusations of "discrimination" as a protective
device for what might legitimately be perceived as inappropriate behaviour.
This highlights the challenge of determining how to draw parallels or distinctions
between issues that are:
- gender-related: development of the analyses and empowerment
of women has constrained facile criticism of women and successfully
stigmatized such criticism as anti-women; the challenge for feminists
remains that of providing guidelines for appropriate dialogue critical
of women; the corresponding challenge for men might be how to clarify
fruitful modes of dialogue with women critical of men
- age-related: the considerable empowerment of youth
similarly highlights the challenge of the guidelines that might be fruitfully
produced by youth to enable adults to engage effectively with them in
critical dialogue; a corresponding challenge clearly exists for elders
demanding of respect, perhaps inappropriately
- disability-related: the modalities of appropriate criticism of a physically-challenged person could fruitfully be elaborated by the disabled
- colour-related: whilst considerable attention has been given to colour-based discrimination (of every kind), little attention has been given by those affected to formulate guidelines for any appropriate critical feedback
- size-related: again considerable attention has been given to such discrimination (whether in terms of height, girth, or otherwise), little attention has been given to appropriate guidelines for any appropriate critical feedback
Social status and behavioural skills: Status
and skills are typically used to frame any critical feedback as "out
of place" -- possibly to the point of calling for some form of rebuke
or retribution. They may well be used as a protective device to camouflage
inappropriate behaviour. This raises the question of how any such groups
can formulate guidelines for appropriate dialogue critical of their behaviour:
- social elites, aristocracies and royalty
have long elaborated protocols for dialogue on their own terms, partially
embodied in rules of etiquette. Whilst these may extend to the required
behaviour of "inferiors",
they do not encompass the form of critical feedback from inferiors --
from whom none is expected
- groups of elites
and power-mongers (such as the Club of Rome, the Bilderberg
Group, the Trilateral Commission, World Economic Forum, etc) cultivate
an internal dialogue through which they attempt to influence world events.
They are exposed to criticism which they condemn as inappropriate, but
make no attempt to articulate more fruitful modes of critical feedback.
- employers have long established modalities for interacting with their employees. Trade unions have given considerable attention to procedures for dialoguing with employers. But employers have seldom devoted attention to the guidelines for appropriate critical dialogue on the part of employees.
- intellectual elites typically give little attention to fruitful guidelines for interaction with them on the part of those of lesser intelligence, including the intellectually challenged. It could be argued that a similar point could be made with respect to "emotional elites", although as yet poorly recognized for their degree of emotional intelligence.
Lifestyle preferences: The dialogue
challenges here have been widely acknowledged in the cases of:
anti-smoking, anti-alcohol (temperance), anti-drugs, anti-abortion, anti-sex,
or anti-homosexuality. Typically from the perspective of those critical
of the behaviour for which others have a strong preference, possibly linked
to a sense of fundamental right and even personal identity. Typically the
campaigns against these preferences have offered guidelines as to how to
protest the behaviour. Unfortunately there are few guidelines from those
favouring such behaviour indicating how critics might dialogue appropriately
Alternative and hypothetical: Interesting
challenges to dialogue are illustrated by the following where in each case
there is an opportunity for eliciting (or envisaging) guidelines from the
groups regarding appropriate modes of critical dialogue:
- intentional communities: of whatever kind, these are
typically trapped into an us/them mode characterized by defensive dialogue
with outsiders. What form might guidelines from them take to clarify
appropriate critical engagement with them?
- semi-secret societies, sects and cults: the Freemasons,
Scientologists and Opus Dei, as examples, have all been recently exposed
to criticism but have not indicated what form of critical dialogue by
others might be appropriate in order to engage effectively with them
- hypothetical: what form of guidelines regarding critical
dialogue might be expected from extraterrestrials or from the subjects
of conspiracy theories?
- deluded: whilst many in therapy (and notably in mental
institutions) suffer delusions, and there is concern as to how to dialogue
with them, it is worth considering how to elicit from them guidelines
to appropriate critical dialogue on behaviours resulting from their perspective
Other examples of extreme perspectives posing a challenge for dialogue are given elsewhere (Norms in the Global Struggle against Extremism: "rooting for" normalization vs. "rooting out" extremism? 2005)
A number of these worldviews combine most unfortunately to sustain a pattern
of denial -- notably associated with the consequences of regional conflicts
engendered by them. This is most evident in the widespread use of landmines and cluster
bombs. Millions of unexploded cluster bomblets now endanger civilian
populations in rural areas long after any cease fire. This is the case
in Laos, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. It is a notable consequence of the
military strategy of Israel in southern Lebanon in 2006 (cf Israel's 'immoral' use
of cluster bombs in Lebanon poses major threat, UN News Center,
30 August 2006). Countries adopting such strategies tend to do so covertly,
denying use of inhumane weapons at the time, and offering no guidelines
as to how criticism of such policies could be fruitfully formulated as
a contribution to policy-making (cf Brian Rappert, Controlling
the Weapons of War: politics, persuasion, and the prohibition of inhumanity,
Sources of the sense of "chosenness"
The previous section gives a sense of the varieties of "chosenness".
Clearly the source of this sense may derive from any of the following,
in isolation or in combination:
- divinity: namely where God is understood to have appointed a people or a person as specially "Chosen"; in the case of individuals this may take the form of being "born again"
- inborn talent: where it is a matter of skill, this may well be inherited or inborn, notably with the "specially gifted" -- possibly to be understood as the consequence of reincarnation
- education / training: qualifications of the highest
degree may be acquired through successful pursuit of an educational pathway,
which may include physical and mental endurance (notably as in military
- social circumstances: birth into a well-positioned
family (with a large inheritance), or a social group, may nurture a sense
of having been chosen for a particular role in life (as with dynastic
inheritance such as royalty); being "at the right place, at the
right time" may also lead to a sense of having been chosen by circumstances;
in certain cultures, birth under auspicious circumstances may be a significant
factor, if not the primary one (as with selection of the Dalai Lama)
- appointment / election: leaders of every kind may be chosen by those who wish to follow them or by the previous holder of a mantle of authority -- possibly perceived to be in fulfillment of prophecy
- inner sense: individuals may be persuaded of their self-worth, or unique destiny, through subjective processes, including dreams and delusions; some occupants of mental asylums consider themselves to be specially chosen
- creativity: a creative breakthrough in some area (music, technology, etc) may result in the development of a sense of self-worth
- promotion: commercial and political processes may
result in the promotion of an individual into celebrity status
- ritual: secret societies may offer initiation rituals
(including hazing) that progressively enhance the status of the individual
through a hierarchical system within an elite
- invitation: an individual may be invited into an elite
- luck / fate: especially problematic is where a combination
of circumstances selects one or more individuals, notably in unfortunate
cases of scapegoating (being chosen for victimhood), criminal framing,
mistaken identity, accident and the like; this sense of having been chosen
is typically associated with the question "why me"; individuals
can be arbitrarily selected in this way "to make an example"
- commitment: however triggered, commitment to a cause may be transmuted into a belief in having effectively been "chosen" to complete it (as with, on a larger scale, the myth underlying the faith-based intervention by the Coalition of the Willing)
In addition to the religious sense of being "chosen" through being "born again", other variants of this process may also be considered significant (cf Varieties
of Rebirth: distinguishing ways of being "born again", 2004). The sense of being chosen is of course of particular relevance in the case of acts of life endangering courage -- or of suicide bombers.
Characteristics of dialogue with "the chosen"
Critical dialogue amongst "the chosen": For
purposes of comparison, it is useful to distinguish the case of critical
dialogue amongst those subscribing to a particular belief whether religious,
scientific, political or otherwise. Here a degree of fundamental agreement
is to be assumed. Criticism and disagreement are essentially superficial
or focused on details of interpretation -- whether or not these are framed
as a "major
debate" between schools of thought of that worldview. The chosen dialogue
amongst themselves within a "circle of trust" -- a complicity
that is called into question by critical dialogue with "others".
In the case of the Jewish diaspora, this might be termed "semitic" dialogue
from which "anti-semitic" dimensions are necessarily to be excluded..
Judgment of those within the circle is muted -- in ways that evoke external criticism -- even when some of its values are betrayed. The P2
scandal of freemasonry provides an example.
Critical discourse by "the chosen": Again for comparative purposes, this is the case where a particular worldview is used as the basis for criticizing the inadequacies of another worldview -- without being open to any criticism in return, except to the extent that the arguments of the latter can be refuted from within the worldview of the former.
Preferred non-critical dialogue: As
a development of the preceding condition, this is the preferred mode of
discourse for exponents of any worldview. Its characteristics include combinations
of the following:
- unquestioning deference to a social authority whether a religious leader, the leading professor of a discipline, a political leader, a military leader, a corporate leader, etc
- unquestioning deference to a moral or spiritual authority, notably including a priest, or guru
- unquestioning reference to an authoritative text, whether a sacred
scripture, or the work of a world renowned scholar
- unquestioning application of a methodology
Under these conditions any questions are only acceptable to the extent that the response can be provided or the question can be proven to be inappropriate. The dialogue may be described in terms of:
- "It is my role to talk, your's is to listen"
- "I correct errors in your understanding"
- "There are no errors in the position that I represent"
Typically the process of such dialogue may consist of a number of stages:
- aspects of the preferred worldview are articulated
- comments from those not subscribing to it are accepted
- responses are made to those comments, correcting errors of understanding
- if the degree of protest against those comments is deemed excessive after a "reasonable" attempt at "dialogue", then the "dialogue" is terminated
- the protestor is stigmatized as "unreasonable" or "beyond reasoning" -- or "beyond saving"
- in certain situations, measures may be taken to intimidate, isolate or even "terminate" the protestor -- some modes of discourse can indeed prove fatal (if only to a career position)
A common defensive strategy in response to this form of dialogue, especially
in corporate culture, is that of the "yes man". Recent examples
of faith-based governance have clarified the extent to which world leaders
-- "chosen people" such as George Bush and Tony Blair -- consider
themselves as "above criticism" normally characteristic of democratic
governance. Ultimately they, and their supporters, consider that only God
can appropriately judge them for the deaths they perpetrate in the name
of spreading Christian Democracy.
Critical dialogue with "divinity": An especially problematic form of the previous variant occurs when a potentially critical dialogue, with potentially "fatal" consequences, takes place with the "ultimate" authority of the worldview rather than with an intermediary interpreting that authority's perspective. This may include:.
- "God": the nature of any "critical" dialogue
with God has been highlighted both with respect to key moments in spiritual
night of the soul", loss of faith, etc) and the experience for
many of deep loss of a loved one. It is typically associated with an accusatory
question as to "why" the situation arises, a sense of unfairness,
and of being betrayed by God (amusingly explored in the movie The
Man Who Sued God). Guidelines are not provided by the divine as
to how to respond critically. An interesting exception is that of Buddhism
where master practitioners have been reputed to destroy sacred texts, and
even images of the Buddha, in order to free themselves from attachment
to anything. A widely-appreciated quote from a Zen master describes the
Buddha as "A dried shit stick" -- a statement which,
if made about Mohammed or Jesus, would provoke outrage amongst Muslims
- "Chief priest": here a person is recognized as the ultimate representative of divinity, typically as a leader of an institutionalized religion of which the clearest example is the Pope as leader of the Catholic Church, notably when speaking ex cathedra.
- "President": this again may be similar to the situation with respect to "God" for many in institutional environments -- and indeed the person in question may be both referred to as "God" and may even perceive themselves as having "divine" attributes. This has notably been the case in monarchies or in those empires where the emperor was held to have divine attributes. Whilst presidents typically surround themselves by "yes men", appreciative tales are told of those few who take specific steps to ensure critical feedback. These have not however been translated into widely available guidelines. An interesting exception is provided by the traditional, and potentially dangerous, role of the court jester.
- "Professor": similar to the situation with respect to "God" is that for a scholar of being confronted with the arbitrariness or betrayal by the ultimate superior in one's school of thought -- often referred to as "God". Professors are seldom reputed for welcoming critical discourse and take steps to avoid it. Guidelines to valuable critical discourse are typically not provided by them.
- "Worldmaker": some highly creative individuals
elaborate worldviews and "worlds", whether through story (eg Lord
of the Rings), movies (eg Star
Wars), interactive computer games (eg EverQuest),
philosophy, or fundamental physical "Theories
of Everything" (cf Nelson Goodman, Ways of Worldmaking, 1978). By their
very nature such constructs have no externalities and their creators
have no need to build into them "backdoors" through which they are open
to critical feedback.
- Elective affinity: to the extent that a loved one
is experienced as "divine" -- and in that sense above criticism
-- the challenge of engaging in critical dialogue is recognized as problematic.
How to communicate to a loved one a problem of inappropriate choice of
clothing, halitosis or snoring? (cf Snoring
of The Other: a politically relevant psycho-spiritual metaphor?,
2006) What guidelines to offer to ensure valuable critical feedback from
those by whom one is above all appreciated?
Radical dialogue and "anathema":
Dialogue with a group may, exceptionally, become of such a radical nature
that it challenges the fundamental assumptions basic to the identity of
the group -- even challenging its very integrity. This may for example
occur in theological debate, in scientific debate, or in political debate.
The consequence may be a schism in the group, with the more authoritative
declaring the other to be the vehicle of heresy. In theological debate,
the excluded perspective and the holder of it, may be declared to be anathema --
implying a degree of denouncement and banishment, namely a form of extreme
Curiously the original Greek sense of anathema implied a form of
suspension, something set apart as sacred -- even offered up to God. This
accords with the sense of the perspective being out of a conventional
frame -- "out of the box"?.
An excellent example has been provided, on the occasion of the Israel-Hizbollah
conflict, by the widely publicized commentary of the renowned Norwegian
Chosen People, Aftenposten, 5 August 2006), expressing
his outrage against Israel's military operations and foreign policy since
1967. Vehemently contested by many (cf Shimon Samuels, Open
Letter to Norway from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, 8 August 2006),
his text, has been perceived by some as attacking not only Israel and
Israeli policy, but also Jews and Judaism in general, and as such is considered
an extreme example of anti-semitism [more].
Gaarder himself repeatedly dismissed such interpretations. Critics considered
that he had "crossed a line", whether or not he realized it.
Supporters, including the former prime minister of Norway, Kåre Willoch,
criticized the attacks on Gaarder, stating that "whenever Israel's
politics are criticized, there are attempts to divert the attention from
what this is really about." [more]
Another example, arousing worldwide protest, is the Pope's quotation, without qualification, of the views of a predecessor claiming that Muhammed's innovations were "evil and inhuman" (12 September 2006). As noted by Jonathan Freedland (The Pope should know better than to endorse the idea of a war of faiths, The Guardian, 20 September 2006):
The Pope seems unaware that, for hundreds of millions of people, religious affiliation is not a matter of intellectual adherence to a set of abstract principles, but a question of identity. Many Muslims, like many Jews or Hindus, may not fully subscribe to the religious doctrine concerned, and yet their Muslimness, or Jewishness or Hinduness, is a central part of their make-up. Theology plays a lesser part than history, culture, folklore, tradition and kinship. In this respect, religious groups begin to look more like ethnic ones. Which means that a slur on a religion is experienced much like a racist insult.
Anything that is "anti-" that which has been "chosen" must
necessarily be the epitome of "evil" (for religion), "ignorance" (for
science), "incompetence" (for competitive business), "anarchy" (for
politics and governance), "ugliness" (for aesthetics), "unknown" (national/ethnic
Unacceptable denial of formative existential experience:
Of major significance in any dialogue situation of the kind described above
is any implied challenge, by the critic, to a fundamental formative experience sustaining
the worldview that is questioned. Examples of such experiences from the
- religion: For Christians this is the founding myth
and mystery associated with the crucifixion of Jesus, and the many Christian
martyrs thereafter. Miracles are also important to Islam [more].
Most religions, especially Judaism, attach great significance to the
persecution of their adherents down the centuries. In terms of personal
identity, individuals subscribing to the worldview may attach fundamental,
if not overriding, significance to conversion and "rebirth" experiences
-- often following intense personal struggle to overcome dysfunctional
patterns of behaviour..
- science: The founding myths of science are associated
with the struggles of those discovering, formulating and promulgating
new theories against the resistance of the dominant worldview of the
time. In terms of personal identity, individuals may attach great significance
to their long educational struggle (and their associated penury as a
student) to acquire the insights they now profess.
- ethnic identity: The most horrific types of formative
experience are those associated with genocidal massacre, forced resettlement,
deliberate starvation and the withholding of assistance. The denial or
demeaning of such experience is especially problematic. The case of the
Holocaust is particularly significant as a central act of European civilization
perpetrated by Europeans on Europeans with the complicity of Europeans.
The efforts made by the Jewish people to ensure that it is not forgotten
are therefore understandable in relation to the promise that Israel
represents -- hence the challenge represented by the highly
controversial study by Roger Garaudy (The
Founding Myths of Modern Israel, 2000; The
Theological Myths) [more more]. Although
the validity of comparisons is questionable, other such acts may be as
formative for the identity of the people concerned (eg the Armenian massacre,
Hiroshima/Nagasaki, the Rwandan massacre, the Cambodian massacre, and many
others -- some, such as Dafur, currently underway).
- labour: The struggle of workers to achieve rights
from government and employers, now enshrined as principles in the international
labour conventions, has often involved violently repressive measures
justified by national institutions. These have constituted formative
experiences for those in the trade unions movement -- notably exemplified
by the Solidarity movement in Poland.
In a dialogue situation great weight is naturally attached to such formative experiences.
This may be articulated in the form of statements indicating that the there
is absolutely no way in which the critic can understand how such considerations
completely outweigh the validity of any criticism. Those of a younger generation
are typically exposed to such argument from their elders, especially their
parents, who attach a high degree of significance to the challenging conditions from which
they have developed, from which the young now benefit. Typically the young
attach relatively little weight to such arguments and view them with suspicion,
whatever their respect for their parents.
Transformation of human rights into a defensive shield against feedback: The general approach to the above challenges has been articulated in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Unfortunately this document limits
itself to promoting a high degree of tolerance and says almost nothing
about the real-world situation of when, and how, to provide feedback to those
who may be considered by others to be acting inappropriately -- in terms of those
very same principles. As in the religious case of the 10 Commandments about what (not) to do, there are potentially 10 Missing Commandments about what to do in the event of failure to respect them -- beyond provision for "an eye for an eye" and a presumptuous anticipation of God's retributive justice..
Article 30 might be interpreted as pointing in a necessary direction, but only
in a negative sense. It reads:
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.
Some efforts have been made by some groups to formulate corresponding
declarations of human responsibilities (Universal
Declaration of Human Responsibilities, InterAction Council, 1997-8; Citizens'
Public Trust Treaty: a treaty of ethics, equity and ecology, 1997-8;
Oscar Aries, Some Contributions to a Universal Declaration of Human
Obligations, 1997). Such initiatives have been contested as ill-founded
Research paper on the Draft Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities,
Southern Cross Bioethics Institute, 2006; Sandra Mims Rowe, American
Society of Newspaper Editors, 1997; Charter
of Responsibilities Bill 2004, Canberra Parliament). Responses
to such initiatives have been well summarized by Ben Saul (In
the Shadow of Human Rights: Human Duties, Obligations and Responsibilities,
2001) -- with the conclusion that no further action is expected by the
United Nations. But again such initiatives themselves fail to indicate when and how
to provide feedback in appropriate form.
Such concerns regarding critical feedback may be implicit in proposals
of the Hamelink Declaration (also termed the Draft Declaration on
the Right to Communicate,
2002 or the People's
Communication Charter) but objections to it by the group Article
19: Global Campaign for Free Expression (Note
on the draft Declaration on the Right To Communicate
prepared by C. Hamelink, 2003) raise issues of whether:
- it would provide a broad licence to governments to repress critical or oppositional viewpoints.
- it means, for example, that no one is allowed to criticize other people's
- the proposed right to freedom of religion could
be seen as prohibiting individuals from criticizing religions, a legitimate
exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
- to repress criticism of a controversial government policy on the
basis that this is likely to encourage 'illegal' demonstrations against it, breaching the
- open public debate depends on criticism of other
people's ideas and creative work, even unreasonable or excessively harsh criticism.
They become totally unacceptable when cast, as in the Hamelink Declaration, as
obligations, which implies a legal requirement
The weakness of any such legal focus on isolated "rights" or "responsibilities" it that it fails to acknowledge the dynamics of the systemic communication processes through which feedback is provided to ensure a sustainable, self-correcting balance between freedoms and obligations. Critical feedback is a vital feature of this self-correcting dynamic.
It is within the context of the Universal Declaration, and various
supporting treaties, that the question of how -- given the principle of
free speech -- actions considered inappropriate may be criticized, in particular
(as an example) when the person undertaking or promoting those actions
is Jewish. In the case of charges of "anti-semitism", as condemned
by the Universal Declaration, the challenge for all is to clarify
when the charge is appropriately made. If the charge is extended as a protective
device for any action undertaken by a Jewish person, its weight and value
is progressively diminished. The consequence is illustrated by the well-known
tale of the little boy who cried "wolf". In a dialogue situation
it would be most useful to benefit from the insights of those sensitive
to the charge to clarify what is "anti-semitic" and what is not
-- and the grey areas to which all should be sensitive
The difficulty from a systemic perspective is that the charge of "anti-semitism" is
used by some on occasion to block critical feedback, possibly dynamically.
Michael Neumann (What
is Antisemitism? June 2002) defines this dynamic as
an identity shell-game:
"Antisemitism", properly and narrowly speaking, doesn't mean
hatred of semites; that is to confuse etymology with definition. It means
hatred of Jews. But here, immediately, we come up against the venerable
shell-game of Jewish identity: "Look! We're a religion! No! a race!
No! a cultural entity! Sorry--a religion!" When we tire of this
game, we get suckered into another: "anti-Zionism is antisemitism! " quickly
alternates with: "Don't confuse Zionism with Judaism! How dare you,
The question in such a dynamic context is then how to formulate critical
feedback -- or is it the case that none is ever acceptable
in the case of "the
any variety)? Clarification of the scope for dialogue is especially problematic
when the charge is coupled with reference to the Holocaust as a guarantee
of unquestionable validity. It then becomes a potential dialogic weapon
-- the ultimate moral weapon -- to which no response is possible without
triggering the device. Further dialogue is impossible. Suicide bombings
-- perversely mirroring the perpetration of genocide -- might then be considered
a response by individuals placed in this "dialogue" situation.
Dialogue with gated communities: As noted elsewhere (Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge society ,
2004), increasingly social groups, typical of the diversity of civil society,
might be usefully understood as forming into psycho-social analogues of
the "gated communities" that
are now emerging in affluent suburbs [more]. Whilst in the latter case it is for security reasons to sustain a particular lifestyle, in the psycho-social case it would appear to be a question of sustaining a particular belief system or worldview. The process is being reinforced by the rapid commercialization of the web and the creation of exclusion zones -- gated communities in cyberspace -- accessible only to those who can afford access to them and therefore explored as viable business models [more].
A distinction was made there between:
- Conventional gated communities: residential; business incubators; nonprofit incubators; residential intentional communities
- Conceptually gated communities:
- worldviews and mindsets: exclusive clubs and groups; sects, cults and closed groups; scholarly schools of thought; invisible colleges; secret societies; movements of opinion;
- self-referencing research networks: mutual citation networks; academic citation networks; networks of equivalent security clearances; financial constrained networks
- dialogue networks: web dialogues and fora; balkanization of the internet; incestuous conferencing; quality dialogue
- political, ideological and business worldviews: self-referential networks; strategic gaming; faith-based governance; constraining power of dark vision;
- designed environments: thinktanks; networks and centres
of excellence; intentional communities; cocoons; developmental groups
- media-engendered contexts
- language-related contexts
- contexts determined by physical aspect
- preference-related contexts
- personality-centred contexts: media stars; political personality
cults; spiritual leaders
- timing-based contexts: style and fashion; improvised music; dance; service delivery; "timeships"
- open source contexts: software development; reference tools
The generic challenge is then one of dialogue with such a conceptually
gated community -- a conceptually walled worldview -- when that community
is essentially defined dynamically by its "internal" dialogue
processes and their distinction from excluded external processes. "Internal" may
of course be understood to include modes of "externality" such
as the divine, with conventional understandings of externality then reframed
as mundanities to be transcended. Dynamic "gating" may also be understood
in terms of communication specialization of operational responsibility
in an emergent self-organizing system requiring conservation of variety.
Two distinct dialogue situations then
- where the boundary is primarily created and sustained by
the walled community, as in most of the situations above defined by "the chosen". However, it also includes:
- many national boundaries
- fortified boundary walls as with: the Great
Wall of China, Hadrian's
the Iron Curtain,
Wall, the USA-Mexico
border fence, or that separating North and South Korea
- fortresses, closed monasteries (including Mount Athos), secure
establishments (research laboratories, intelligence facilities, think
- compounds as with "diplomatic ghettos", the Green
Zone, and those for expats in Arab countries
- where the boundary is primarily created and sustained by
the surrounding environment, as with reservations, ghettos and certain institutions (penitentiaries, asylums, quarantine zones, etc), or the Israeli
West Bank Barrier (to contain Palestinians)
More generally there is a case for seeing any form of constructed
shelter as a container for relatively exclusive dialogue. The sets of
such dialogues might then be seen as visibly replicating the pattern of
such constructs -- from the castles and fortified chateaux of past elites
to the ambitious corporate skyscrapers of their modern counterparts, including
the range of institutional architecture. Urban street layouts and buildings
may then be understood as effectively mapping specialized dialogue settings,
the relationships between them, and the challenge of "access" to "ring-fenced"
environments. They can be understood as a kind of "dialogue architecture"
embodied in concrete. This framework of course raises interesting questions
about suburban monotony and the quality of dialogue contained and enabled
by slum dwellings and favelas. This architectural metaphor gives
focus to the universality of disputes between neighbours as an exemplification
of the encounter between contrasting worldviews.
Any dialogue across constructed boundaries is severely conditioned by
the coherence of the language on either side and the force with which it
seeks to penetrate the barrier -- or oppose such penetration -- with or
without the consent of the other. Those on one side may adopt a highly
defensive attitude. Much may be dependent on the image that those on either
side cultivate of the other -- or project onto the other. Typically any
such "wall" is
an edifice of binary logic -- separating an understanding of "appropriateness" from
an understanding of "inappropriateness" or some form of "impurity".
Consequences of "inappropriate" dialogue
Justification for extremist action: With
respect to any of the forms of "chosenness", it is instructive to note
the controversial comment of Roger Garaudy who has argued that:
The idea of a chosen people is politically criminal, for it has
always sanctified aggression, expansion and domination. The idea of a chosen
people is theologically intolerable, for if some are 'chosen' that means
that others are 'rejected'.
most worldviews do not provide any guidelines for acceptable criticism
of their perspective, a number provide rationalizations or guidelines for
responses to critical discourse deemed inappropriate -- notably when this
is framed to include forms of apostasy,
namely the renunciation of a worldview as the result of revolt or defection.
Of particular importance is the religious and moral justification for war
-- known as just war.
Other examples from the monotheistic "religions of the book" (Christianity,
Islam, Judaism) have included:
- Islam: a well-defined legal pronouncement in Islam, provides for the issuance of a fatwa on a specialized issue as in the case of:
A number of widely publicized incidents of violent response by Muslims
to blasphemy (cf Jyllands-Posten
Muhammad cartoons controversy, 2005) are seen as an appropriate
response to insult to the faith. Islam provides for the death penalty in
the case of apostasy (ridda)
(Syed Mumtaz Ali, Apostasy
and Blasphemy in Islam; Daniel Pipes, How
Dare You Defame Islam, Commentary, November 1999). Scriptures
can be narrowly interpreted to justify jihad in
the form of religious warfare.
- Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989, pronouncing a death sentence on Salman Rushdie (Satanic Verses)
- Osama bin Laden in 1998, declaring war on the USA.
- Judaism: widespread response to critics such as Jostein Gaarder (see above) is based on scriptural provisions; These may be interpreted as justifications for death threats.
Judaism provides for a death penalty in the case of apostasy (Deuteronomy 13:6-10)
some denominations may provide for shunning or excommunication in
the case of heresy or apostasy [more more].
Military action, sanctioned by the Pope, has long been a characteristic
of Christianity, most notably at the time of the crusades.
Other forms of extreme action that have been justified (as a means of "saving
souls") have been persecutions and inquisitions -- or condoning
such actions by others. A militaristic tradition persists:
- millions of children have been exposed to hymns joyously employing
military metaphors [more]
| more] | more | more]
such as: "Onward Christian soldiers, Marching as to War
/ With the Cross of Jesus, Going on Before".
- Reverend Pat Robertson (a former US Presidential Candidate) speaking to 7 million viewers of the evangelical Christian Broadcasting Network on 23 August 2005 [more] called for the assassination of the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez: "We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come to exercise that ability... It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with." [more more more]
- violent anti-abortion activists see themselves as "helping
God" in his just retribution (Matthias Beier, On
the Psychology of Violent Christian Fundamentalism: Fighting to Matter
Ultimately, Psychoanalytic Review, 93, April 2006)
Although other examples of the above are widely available (on the web), even quoting the scriptural basis for such justifications from sacred texts tends to be interpreted as a justification for retribution. As "religions of the book" it might be said that these religions are deserving of the rationalizations they have developed for their bloody treatment of each other -- purportedly in the name of a common deity.
Other variants are notably associated with semi-secret societies and sects,
of which well-known examples include:
- Freemasonry: breach of the binding oaths of a freemason provides for "no less penalty than that of having my body severed in two, my bowels taken from thence and burned to ashes" or "to have my body opened perpendicularly and to be exposed for eight hours in the open air, so that the venomous flies may eat my entrails, my head to be cut off and put on the highest pinnacle of the world, and I will always be ready to inflict the same punishment on those who shall disclose this degree and break this obligation" [more].
- Mafia: inductees, governed by the code of omerta, commit to obedience, including murder, in defence of their society and for the advancement of its interests [more]
In the world of politics, business and the military, the priorities of
the operating logic provide rationalizations for the undermining of those
with opposing worldviews where other modes of dialogue prove inadequate.
Legislative measures may be developed to facilitate a form of "dialogue" with
detainees suspected of terrorism, for example [more | more].
It will be interesting to observe whether subsequent web versions of this
article -- possibly including this sentence -- have been subject to prudent editing in response to pressures appropriately
Intimidation: With the aid of such rationalizations a range of techniques -- including various forms of harassment, threats and bullying -- may be deployed against those who have evidenced various forms of inappropriate dialogue:
Another range of variants is associated with politics, business and the security services:
- "dirty tricks". In politics and business,
these refer to unethical, duplicitous, slanderous or illegal tactics
employed to destroy or diminish the effectiveness of those with an opposing
- security services: When it is in their interests,
secret services are alleged to provide "friendly warnings" to
those whose activities they wish to constrain, perhaps extended into
various forms of legal harassment. "Covert operations" (black
ops) are not only clandestine (undertaken in a manner that disguises
the identity of the perpetrators) but also covert, i.e. denied by the
governments that undertake them. [more]
- science: Typically intimidation from superiors in
a discipline takes the form of (implicit) threats to block publishing
opportunities, conference participation, research funding or
Invaders of a particular religious persuasion have typically intimidated populations to convert. Christians and Muslims down the centuries have accused each other of religious conversion under intimidation -- "by the sword". Considerable protest was engendered by the Pope through quoting a predecessor's view that Muhammed had commanded his followers "to spread by the sword the faith he preached" (12 September 2006).
It is now unfortunately impossible for the adherents of any powerful
worldview to prove with any credibility that those questioning that perspective
are not subject to constraining intimidation and harassment, whether deliberately
Retraction and apology: Typically highly publicized
critical statements evoke protests, and requests for retraction and apology.
In the USA, for example, the Anti-Defamation
League (ADL) has a policy of requesting
retractions from those who have made anti-Jewish statements [more | more].
Defense League (JDL) is allegedly more militant in this respect.
Under conditions of accusation, denial and counter-accusation, it is difficult
to determine the extent to which retractions and apologies are made in
response to intimidation. Three days after publishing his criticism, Jostein
Gaarder announced his intention to "withdraw from the debate." [more] An earlier highly publicized retraction and apology was that of Mel Gibson [more].
Again, it is now unfortunately impossible for the adherents of any powerful
worldview to prove with any credibility that those questioning that perspective
are not subject to intimidation and harassment to ensure the retraction
of any publicized statement and the dissemination of an associated apology.
Perhaps the most delayed apology of historical significance was that of
Pope John Paul II in 1992 to Galileo Galilei condemned in 1633 and forced
to abjure -- for teaching that the Earth revolved around the Sun. It is
claimed that the apology implied that Galileo did not suffer from the church
as such, but from "churchmen and church bodies." [more]
Galileo has long constituted an exemplar of the conflict of authority and
freedom of thought, particularly with science, in Western society.
Complicity with extremist action: Given the dominant
psychosocial, political or economic role of the worldview subject to criticism,
and given the rationale for extremist action, there is a widespread tendency
towards tolerance of any action against a critic, even complicity in that
action. This might be understood as a perversion of "tolerance".
- religion: there is little tendency within a dominant
religion to protest the actions of extremists against those stigmatized
as critical of the fundamental beliefs of the religion. "Christians" are
extremely circumspect in their protest against the actions of Christian
fundamentalists. Muslims are equally circumspect in their protest against
the actions of Muslim fundamentalists. The same situation applies with
respect to Jewish fundamentalists.
- science: there is little tendency within a scientific
discipline to protest the discriminatory measures taken against those
who challenge dominant theories. Scientists have proven to be extremely
tolerant of the use of medical research on humans in institutionalized
settings (whether in concentration camps, prisons, or the military).
There is little protest against the development of inhumane weapons,
or against marine biologists repeatedly involved in "scientific
- politics: there is little tendency amongst politicians
to protest against unethical campaign fund raising or "dirty tricks" applied
against opposing parties
- business: the business community is extremely circumspect
in its criticism of corporations discovered to have been using "dirty
tricks" of the most
unethical and reprehensible kind. An extreme example is the case of
corporations trading with the enemy in wartime or who largely derived
their wealth from such activity.
Yet again, it is now unfortunately impossible for the adherents of any
powerful worldview -- by which the the rules of dialogue are defined --
to prove with any credibility that those rules are not systematically abused,
whether deliberately or inadvertently. Again, it is possible, but unwise,
to name groups whom it is widely acknowledged engage actively in intimidation
-- and even "termination with prejudice" -- and with whom many
are knowingly or inadvertently complicit.
Adherents of a dominant worldview
are unable to demonstrate credibly their noncomplicity in extremist actions
in their name. It is unfortunate that any approach to more radical forms
of dialogue is inhibited by extremists from whom the honorable are both
unable, and unwilling, to distinguish themselves.
Degrees of isomorphism, equivalence or analogy
The many examples given above have been presented to highlight similarities
between seemingly quite disparate domains and behaviours. The argument
here is that in terms of dialogue there are instructive parallels between
them. The question is how to determine the degree of similarity.
One mode of argument has it that unless there is exact equivalence then
any comparison is inappropriate. This might be called the "binary" approach.
The challenge to the relevance of this approach might be illustrated by:
- male-female: clearly there is very extensive resemblance
and, in physical terms,whether a person is male or female is normally
unquestionable (if only for legal and administrative purposes). This
argument is however problematic in the case of the many physical complexities
of transexuality where
the degrees of maleness or femaleness are an important issue. It is problematic
genetically in that there is a high degree of similarity (especially
in comparison with other species). More importantly, irrespective of
physical arguments, behaviourally and psychologically a person may be
better described as having significant proportion of the opposite characteristics
to those of any physical gender. The proportion is known to shift over
the life cycle.
- species: genetically it is now usefully recognized
to what extent humans share important proportions of DNA with primates
and with many other species
- profiling: security services consider it meaningful to use profiling techniques to isolate those suspected of criminal and terrorist activity, however much the same traits may be shared by others without those tendencies
In terms of its formative effects on those who survive, there is a case
for comparing more readily comprehensible forms of abuse with those whose
horror remains a major challenge to comprehension. Examples include:
- the psycho-physical impact of rape on an individual women in comparison
with the psycho-physical impact of massacre on a people
- the total destruction of villages (as in Lebanon) with the total destruction
of cities (by fire-bombing)
A more fruitful approach is therefore to move beyond the binary approach
and to recognize statistical degrees of equivalence or isomorphism -- pattern
fitting. The issue is the percentage similarity in the cases identified
above and at what point the degree of similarity is fruitful rather than
Equipped with such a framework it then becomes possible to explore the
degree of validity (or lack thereof) to the highly controversial and emotive
comparisons increasingly made between:
- the use of torture by the Catholic Inquisition in order to save souls
and that advocated by George Bush to save Christian democratic values
- the behaviour of American neocons and that of the Nazi leadership,
especially in the light of calls for Nuremburg style war crime trials
and efforts by George Bush to introduce retroactive legislation to grant
his regime immunity from indictment under the war crimes act
- South African apartheid and "reservations" for indigenous
populations in some western countries -- or the treatment of Palestinians
in the Middle East
- the isolation of minority groups in many countries, notably in the Middle East, into what resemble ghettos
It is more instructive to recognize the degree of similarity between a preferred pattern of behaviour and one considered reprehensible, rather than to dismiss such comparison because the statistical fit is not 100%.
Exemplary test cases: symbols vs trivia?
Who: As valuable test cases, the challenge for the following
is to provide insight into the nature of the critical discourse in which
they are prepared to engage without feeling it necessary to describe themselves
as "above criticism":
- an individual (who happens to be Jewish, but may even be a criminal)
- a rabbi (of whom Meir Kahane was an extreme example)
- a group (primarily Jewish)
- a group promoting Judaism
- a group promoting Zionism (of which an extreme example was the Irgun Tsvai Leumi)
- Israeli citizens
- State of Israel (notably in its policies towards Palestinians and in
its engagement against the Hizbollah)
- Jewish diaspora
The challenge for others is the degree to which they subscribe to blanket arguments of "anti-semitism" made on the occasion of critical dialogue.
What: Possible foci of criticism:
- symbols: especially sensitive for any culture, such
as that of the Jews, is the criticism of behaviours and artefacts that
are of fundamental symbolic significance to the identity of that culture.
As an example, the Muslim response to the cartoon depiction of Mohammed
aroused worldwide protest -- perceived by many to be quite unreasonable.
To what extent can a culture prescribe the limits of unwanted criticism,
if others choose to make it? At the simplest level, this is analogous
to the well-known challenge of bullying and teasing in institutional
environments -- to which little effective response is made, even when
it gives rise to suicide
- aesthetics: the designs favoured by a culture, perhaps embodying features important to their culture, may be subject to criticism by comparison with those favoured by other cultures. To what degree is aesthetic criticism of Jewish artefacts to be construed as anti-semitic?
- criminal behaviour: this issue has been much debated
with regard to black criminality (in the USA) and maghreb criminality
(in Europe). Typically identifiable ethnic communities engage in an unfortunate
process of reframing criminality into a defensive community issue without
elaborating a focused mode of dialogue about the behaviour. This exacerbates
problems of complicity and of inappropriate stigmatization of the community.
- socio-political issues: this focus is well-highlighted
by criticism of the government of Ehud Olmert subsequent to the attack
on Hizbollah in 2006. There has been extensive criticism by Israelis
after the failure of the attack, presumably not to be defined as "anti-semitic".
However most of the criticism by outsiders during the attack was labelled "anti-semitic".
Self-hating vs Self-loving Jews: The epithet "self-hating Jew" is applied, notably by Jews, against those that are in any way critical of Judaism and by extension, Israel and Zionism. One website (Self-Hating and/or Israel-Threatening List) claims to list 7000+ such Jews. One such is for example Rabbi Michael Lerner (Israel's Jewish Critics Aren't 'Self-Hating'), Los Angeles Times, 28 April, 2002).
The dimensions of dialogue in this area are a veritable minefield which
merits sophisticated use of mapping techniques to clarify the modalities
characteristic of each area. The argument from above is however that it
would be fruitful for those subscribing to extremes stereotypes to clarify
the guidelines for critical dialogue -- if only that no critical dialogue
How should Jews make points against government Israeli policy without being stigmatized
as self-hating Jews or being cowed into silence and complicity?
Mapping the terrain of hypersensitive dialogue
In a world acknowledged to be complex, it is to be regretted that so little
effort is made to map out the nature of the terrain over which dialogue
touching on sensitive issues takes place:
- What are the different kinds
- How do they relate to each other?
- How can one move from one to the other, especially if some parts are
separated by untraversible abysses?
- Are some more skilled in traversing certain kinds of terrain than others?
Complexity of dialogue terrain: It would be convenient if such terrain
were to be understood as reasonably
"flat". It is probable that it is more convoluted than most geographical
terrain. And it is even more probable that its complexity can only hoped
to be mapped multidimensionally -- in a form at best (if not only) comprehensible
through interactive multi-media devices.
Provocatively it might be argued that the psycho-social dynamics to which
humans have not found a sustainable solution -- as with
the Middle East situation -- are likely to be more complex than
problems to which solutions have been found. This is consistent with Ross
Ashby's Law of Requisite
Variety. It is therefore a useful provocation
to note the description of one such complex solution and to recognize the
dimensionality and language that may well be needed for
resolution of the Middle East situation:
For L.G. Aldrovandi and F.A. Schaposnik (Quantum
Mechanics in Non(Anti)Commutative Superspace, High
Energy Physics - Theory, 4, 2006): We consider
non(anti)commutative (NAC) deformations of d=1 N=2 superspace. We find
that, in the chiral base, the deformation preserves only a half of
the original supercharge algebra, as it usually happens in NAC field
theories. We obtain in terms of a real supermultiplet a closed expression
for a deformed Quantum Mechanics Lagrangian in which the original superpotential
is smeared, similarly to what happens for the two dimensional deformed
sigma model. Quite unexpectedly, we find that a second conserved charge
satisfying the supersymmetry algebra can be constructed, so that finally
the deformed theory has as many conserved supercharges as the undeformed
one. The quantum behavior of these supercharges is analyzed.
Given the amount of "defence research" effort devoted by mathematicians
to the precision-guided weaponry of destructive
"dialogue", it is surprising that more effort is not allocated
to identifying the viable pathways between different areas of a complex
sustainable dialogue through which community can be built (And
When the Bombing Stops? Territorial conflict as a challenge to mathematicians, 2000).
The research skills are readily available (cf Dragan Milovanovic,
Criminology: mapping the terrain. Justice Quarterly,
There is a case, for example, for recognizing how the relationships between
some of the unacceptably disastrous areas of "dialogue" are
well-mapped by the various "catastrophes" of
catastrophe theory (cf Cognitive
Feel for Cognitive Catastrophes: question conformality, 2006).
Insights from "anti-feminism": Given the more widespread familiarity with
discourse concerning abuse in the form of sexual harassment and rape, the
map of this terrain could offer methodological pointers to experiences
associated with "anti-semitism" (including
"non-anti-semitism" and "anti-anti-semitism"). The
relationship has notably been explored by Eishiro Ito (Anti-Semitism/Anti-feminism
of Policy Studies, 2006). But,
as noted by Peter Zohrab (Sex,
Lies and Feminism,
A central problem within feminist discourse has been our inability to
either arrive at a consensus of opinion about what feminism is or accept
definition(s) that could serve as points of unification. Without agreed
upon definition(s), we lack a sound foundation on which to construct theory
or engage in overall meaningful praxis
This raises the possibility that "anti-feminism", like "anti-semitism"
may not be a single definable concept but rather a dynamic of concepts
whose coherence may be multi-dimensional -- rather than as might be expected
in any theory tending to focus on
possibilities of simplistic remedial "road maps" over conventional terrain. Tools such as concept
mapping may be fruitfully employed (cf Rebecca Campbell and Deborah
A. Salem, Concept
mapping as a feminist research method: examining the community response
to rape. In: Ellen B. Kimmel and Mary Crawford,
in Feminist Psychological Research, 2000; Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin Agency
and Choice in the Face of Trauma: a narrative therapy map Journal
of Systemic Therapies, 2005; Cheryl Tatano Beck Pentadic
Cartography: Mapping Birth Trauma Narratives Qualitative
Health Research, 2006)
Distinct from approaches such as that of Inger Skjelsbaek (Sexual
Violence and War: mapping out a complex relationship. European
Journal of International Relations, 7, 2001), there is the possibility
that the so-called "vicious cycles of violence", whether physical
might be mappable onto complex mathematical objects. These could
offer more integrative approaches to sustainable relationships between
seemingly opposed positions -- rather than depending (yet again) on negotiating
techniques of Getting
to Yes (1981) or Getting
Past No (1993) in the hope of simplistic "win-win" reconciliation.
Such a dynamic context could offer more legitimacy to the various understandings
of "anti-semitism" ("anti-feminism", etc) and the various
critical perspectives on it that now sustain a complex dysfunctional system.
Challenge of language: The widespread debate on "anti-semitism"
tends to obscure what amounts to semantic monopolisation of the descriptor "semitic" --
in terms of its
geographic, demogaphic, ethnological, religious and ethnic significance,
inclusive of the Arab world.
A complicating factor
with challenging prefixes such as "anti-", "non-" and "un-" is
that it is too readily assumed that they are unambiguously translated into
other languages and that the distinctions between their connotations is
preserved. This is not the case as previously explored in relation to "non-governmental" which
can carry connotations of "anti-governmental" in some languages
Distortions from Negative Descriptors: non-governmental vs. anti-governmental,
Dialogue about the implications of criticism, reflected in preoccupation
with "anti-semitism", typically fails to introduce the cultural
and connotative implications characteristic of differences between languages.
What may be termed "anti-semitism" in one language may have far
more -- or far less -- pejorative connotations in another language or culture.
As noted above, the prefix may not be unambiguously translatable and may
carry quite different meanings. An interesting example is the distinctive
use of terms in Australian English -- like "bastard" -- that
could possibly be considered to be offensive in an inoffensive or even
affectionate way [more].
Such a term could be a mortal insult in other cultures.
Conflation: In clarifying more fruitful approaches to
dialogue, it is appropriate to recognize that many of the seemingly isolated
issues noted above tend to be conflated in ways that contribute to confusion.
In such a context, the challenge for all is to ensure that a label such
as "anti-semitism" is
not used as a conceptual shield to block out any critical feedback whatsoever
-- possibly as a means by some to avoid dealing appropriately with issues
of concern (such as the use of cluster bombs in southern Lebanon, for example).
The concern with groups who define themselves as "chosen" is
to ensure that they do not arbitrarily set the rules that preclude critical
dialogue. They can however usefully contribute to the articulation of the
guidelines for such feedback to avoid it being labelled unfruitfully as "anti-"
The conflation arises in part because the isomorphic relation between
forms of chosenness is complicated by an experiential dimension -- perhaps
best described by Kathleen Forsythe (Isophor: poiesis
1987) with the term isophor -- isomorphisms experienced in the use of language.
Isophors are distinct from metaphors in that they are experienced directly.
With the isophor there is no separation between thought and action, between
feeling and experience. The experience itself is evoked through the relation.
She suggests that the "experience" of one thing in terms of another, the
isophor, is the means by which one domain is mapped onto another and that
consciousness of this meta-action, when we observed, lies at the
heart of cognition. Without such consciousness, issues of identity and
discrimination are confused.
With respect to conflation in relation to group identity, as argued by Kimberlé Crenshaw Williams (Mapping
the Margins: intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against
women of color,
The problem with identity politics is not that it fails to transcend
difference, as some critics charge, but rather the opposite -- that it
frequently conflates or ignores intra group differences. In the context
of violence against women, this elision of difference is problematic,
fundamentally because the violence that many women experience is often
shaped by other dimensions of their identities, such as race and class.
Moreover, ignoring differences within groups frequently contributes to
tension among groups, another problem of identity politics that frustrates
efforts to politicize violence against women.
In terms of critical dialogue, should lengthy papal denial of the Earth's
movement around the Sun be compared with current denial of the Holocaust
and of the Armenian massacre -- since all have been the subject of legal
proceedings? What then of false accusations or denials regarding weapons
of mass destruction, treatment of detainees or climate change -- which
have not yet been the subject of such proceedings?
Recognizing more complex patterns: Every group of "chosen" people
engenders its "Palestinians" and "Hizbollah" constrained
in consequence to disruptive protest by unconventional and unexpected means
-- necessarily to be framed as unreasonable and unacceptable. The case
of the Israelis, and by extension the Jews, is therefore not unique. The
dysfunctional pattern is widespread and will continue to undermine the
emergence of more fruitful patterns -- until reframed by richer modes of
understanding (cf Spontaneous
Initiation of Armageddon -- a heartfelt response to systemic negligence,
Rather than consider the critical dialogue between worldviews as a simple
binary interaction in which one party should necessarily "win",
there is a case for exploring more complex patterns of interaction -- even
beyond "win-win" expectations. Whether or not this is realistic
in practice, it could be considered more instructive than the use of cluster
bombs and rockets by supposedly intelligent people. It could be hypothesized
that the pattern of interaction is at least one degree more complex than
the participants are as yet capable of naming and communicating -- other
than in terms of "cycles of violence". It may indeed be mappable
as a complex mathematical object incorporating temporal dimensions, distinctive
perspectives, different capacities in response to complexity, different
sensitivities, and different agendas.
Embodying the challenge of chosenness: The approach taken
above highlights the extent to which Israel effectively embodies the challenges
engendered by the patterns of all forms of "chosenness" --
of which the particular conditions associated with the continuing focus on "anti-semitism" are
but a single case. In this sense Israel is effectively a "scapegoat" for
collective human failure to acknowledge the generic dysfunctionality associated
It might even be said that the founding myths of Israel
are in many ways analogous to those of any other sense of chosenness, whether
religious, academic, political or otherwise. Each such group has its "promised
land" and aspires to build its new "Jerusalem" -- as in the
case of the aspiration of physicists with respect to a "Theory of Everything".
Transformation of discriminatory argument: In this light, the controversial
literature associated with Holocaust denial, notably that disseminated
by the revisionist Institute
for Historical Review, can be fruitfully explored in terms of its generic
implications for any particular worldview -- including that of "historical
revisionism" itself. As an example, the well-argued but controversial
study of Paul Grubach (A
Critique of the Charge of Anti-Semitism: the moral and political legitimacy
of criticizing Jewry. The Journal for Historical
Review, 1988) is explicitly addressed only to those who (mistakenly)
harbour the following beliefs:
- Criticism of the Jewish people, Jewish culture and behavior, etc., is synonymous with immoral racism;
- At best this criticism is only to be tolerated due to [US] First Amendment protection of free speech, or, at worst, to be censured and censored.
Although not his intention at all, Grubach's study can far more fruitfully
be read as addressed (more generally) to any who consider criticism of
their own preferred worldview as inappropriate ("evil", "unreasonable",
etc), in ways explored above. The same may be said of his conclusions,
given here with appropriate substitutions to ensure that the wording is
relevant to any preferred worldview:
- X is an established social and political power in the [world]. In concurrence with the democratic principles of our society, it is morally and politically correct to offer criticism of X and its politico-cultural power.
- The potency of the charge of anti-X -- its ability to silence critics of X -- derives not from the force of reason, but rather, from the force of an irrational, deeply ingrained, cultural convention specifically, the unthinking association of a sense of [evil] with criticism of the X.
- The charge of anti-X is a... sword and shield of X...
[As a sword] it is an ad hominem attack on any critic of X.
By focusing on the critic's character, it induces people to reject his
assertions on X behavior out of hand, without fair
examination.... [As a shield] the charge serves as a psychological defense
mechanism whereby X people can insulate themselves from
criticism which is too painful to confront consciously. In a political
and sociological sense, the charge of anti-X is a
powerful weapon of the X cultural and political establishment,
used in an undemocratic manner to silence its opponents and to enable
that establishment to operate with impunity. Thus, the accusation of
anti-X is an essential tool of X power
- In our society almost every form of social and political power has its share of critics... If all forms of social and political influence have their tolerated, even respected critics, then let the critic of X influence speak openly. By the canons of our free society, even X should ultimately benefit from an open discussion of the power of X in politics, economics, and culture in [the world]
Dysfunctionality of singular worldviews: This reframing of "anti-X" may
be usefully taken further through use of the argument of Rabbi Joseph Telushkin
Literacy: the most important things to know about the Jewish religion,
its people, and its history, 1991) with respect to whether Judaism
does in fact believe that chosenness endows Jews with special rights in
the way racist ideologies endow those born into the "right race"?
He cites the key verse in the Bible on the subject of chosenness
as indicative of the precise opposite: "You alone have I singled
out of all the families of the earth. That is why I call you to account
for all your iniquities" (Amos
In the light of the arguments above, regarding the dysfunctionality common
to worldviews that see their perspective as uniquely "singled out" and
reserved for the chosen, there is a case for recognizing the "iniquities" consequent
upon adopting such a mindset -- as evident in the perpetuation of "cycles
Possibilities: Other approaches to comprehending critical dialogue between
worldviews could be usefully inspired, in response to other preferences,
- games that simulate such exchanges, sensitivities and misunderstandings in order to offer a sense of the "space" in which the "cycles of violence" emerge
- use of virtual personalities (based on artificial intelligence) to
experiment with the dimensions of critical dialogue
- use of sets of fables from different cultures to provide a sense of the different patterns and conditions of critical and asymmetric dialogue (cf Proportionate Response in the Eye of the Beholder Educational fables for faith-based global governance, 2006)
Such techniques may help to reframe critical dialogue so that more can
be expressed through indirection and context rather than in binary confrontational
modes and their sustaining mindsets (cf Samuel P Huntington, The
Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, 1993)
-- an archetypal Ragnarök, or Götterdämmerung, calling to
|It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature,
without forming an opinion about them. On the other hand, it is perfectly
possible to sit all day, every day, on top of another creature and
not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever.
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