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Two Donkeys

Updated: Jun 18, 2019

My friend, the Frome philosopher (Phrome filosopher if you will) asked me what this UNITY thing is. I’ve only met him three or four times, all by chance, but from the nature of our conversations I count him as a friend. I talked about what I’d seen of the UNITY blog and tried to explain what I would like unity to be.


I would like UNITY to be a movement towards more constructive cooperative behaviour among humans … let’s put unity back into hUmaNITY. It is essential that we:

  • Recognise differences among ourselves

  • Accept those differences … relish and celebrate them, even

  • Find area where our ambitions are in harmony … and …

  • Work together towards those ambitions

Resolving differences by opposition rather than cooperation is rooted deeply in our culture, including philosophy. Most political propaganda (including the humorous posts on social media) are aimed at belittling opponents. We have the Geneva convention for military conflicts, outlawing improper weapons and behaviour … do we not need a similar convention for the battles for hearts and minds, rejecting, or at the very least curtailing, improper propaganda ?

I am reminded of this quotation from Daniel Dennett:

There's nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view that I hold dear.”

So let us use such conventions, to improve our own arguments, before we use them to criticise the arguments of others.


I have often pondered dilemmas such as which newspaper to read (or buy) ? Do you read a newspaper whose political stance is similar to your own ? Or one whose stance is substantially different from your own ? It strikes me, and others, that many posts on social media such as Facebook preach to the converted. Yet, I know that an attempt change the mind of someone opposed to my views is likely to result in nothing more than ill-feeling, on both sides.


Maybe the answer is to engage with those whose views are similar, but also substantially different from your own, and explore the differences. And two different points of view need not necessarily be in opposition … they may be two different ways of looking at the same thing. And the number of different ways of looking at something may be more than two.

A conversation with someone whose views are broadly sympathetic with yours has a chance of changing somebody’s mind (theirs or yours) … or at least exposing a different insight into a situation. This, in turn, may be passed on to someone else in like fashion … eventually changing the whole of humanity … hurrah !


HOMEWORK SECTION


Great article! So much to talk about here, and it really highlights the idea of UNITY as an appreciation of our unique and wonderful differences.

I would like UNITY to be a movement towards more constructive cooperative behaviour among humans

CONSTRUCTIVE. Now there's a much underestimated and undervalued word. We can co-operate in lots of ways, but not all of them are constructive. Think about how easy it is to share a trolling or 'co-operate' in divisive group behaviour.

  • The key to this is intention. If we can keep unity as our primary intention, then it becomes easier to spot all the ways we get caught up in division. Sometimes we only realise what's happened afterwards, but that's okay. it's a start. The more we notice, the more we notice. And suddenly there's a chance to do something different.

  • It's also REALLY IMPORTANT to remember that unity isn't about taking a stand AGAINST anything. Which is where this next point comes in:

Two different points of view need not necessarily be in opposition

Listening is a tricky thing. Most of the time, we're not actually listening, we're just waiting for our chance to talk. And when it's something we don't agree with, well all sorts of righteous fireworks go off. We interrupt, we correct, we force our opinion like UNITY is all about people agreeing with us.

  • There's a great game you can play with this - pick a topic you have an opinion on and then argue for the other side. It's gonna feel a bit weird because it feels like betraying your values, so start with a small topic like free parking or reality TV. See what happens, see what happens when you pick a topic that gets your blood boiling.

  • Next time you're listening, try giving it 100% of your attention. Ask questions, be INTERESTED in what they have to say. It's a few minutes of your day to try something different, give it a shot.

The image of two donkeys pulling against each other has never felt so relevant. They both want the same thing, and they both starve. Resolving our differences by opposition rather than co-operation is rooted in our psyche. It's gonna feel counter-intuitive, it's gonna feel like giving ground, but it isn't. It's about finding common goals. It's about generating greater understanding of what it is to be human. Which is WAY more important than ramming our opinion down someone's throat. Since when did that change anything?


And remember, this is really tough stuff. It goes against everything we been conditioned to do. You are a WARRIOR. Take a moment to appreciate that.

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