[UMC] Are questions passé?

a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.  

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A serial narration

It’s not that we are totally trapped under the thumb of Nin’s Jungian insight in the above graphic. However, *political technologies* regularly provide many of us a space to parade Nin’s insight and put its veracity on full display.

We’ve talked about *political technologies* (i.e., technological tools of extremists) on several occasions in the blog series; but what are they, really? Reader interactions with my current ‘a holistic take‘ – ‘the 95% solution‘ project have provided illustrations of how sorting/polarizing aspects of *political technologies* work. Let’s see. 

 

 

Is asking questions gauche and out of fashion?

Authentic communication regarding humanness requires generosity and graciousness. So, how do we keep ourselves from projecting our perceptions onto the musings of others? I would suggest that in prior days we expressed generosity and grace by asking questions first before offering our own take. We used to begin with clarifying questions to be sure that what we were addressing was not merely our own projections. 

Critics (unwittingly) proving my point

A week ago Saturday, I posted this graphic from last week’s missive to a United Methodist [UM] clergy group (on social media, here). The post was to anticipate/tease the missive, “[UMC] Stymied by structurepublishing the following day. 

 

 

To introduce the graphic, I wrote this enumeration above it:

“As a 95%er: 

  • I enthusiastically support traditional values regarding marriage and human sexual identity.
  • I enthusiastically support inclusive values regarding marriage and human sexual identity.
  • I enthusiastically reject any attempts to impose either set of values on anyone.
  • I enthusiastically support Micah 6.8. [humility]
  • I enthusiastically support 2 Corinthians 5.19-20.” [reconciliation]

Interestingly, those who replied to the post generally identified with either the first or the second point and objected to the presence of the other; that is, some wrote about what they opposed (i.e., negative partisanship), others complained that, “surely one must pick a side” (e.g., I am “a man with two heads”). Almost like magic, it’s as if the third point was invisible to them all. That’s a problem from my perspective, because the third point IS the ‘holistictake‘-point of the 95% solution.

The systematic sorting and polarization process over the past 30 years has marginalized non-partisan positions (there is no longer a “center” in the minds of most partisans) and *political technologies* exploit the dynamic. Further, many assert there’s a moral obligation to pick a “side.” Enter “virtue signaling” — we used to call it “dog-whistling.” Let’s see. 

 

Whistling bookends

As the author of the hypothesis I’m positing, I know with high confidence when interlocutors are misunderstanding or mischaracterizing my point. 

Last week, we unpacked how a UM leader had summarized my “And, if pain is a premise?missive. Whether with conscious intent or not, in our present digital-ink, *political technologies* context, the summary was essentially a brightly colored partisan banner with markers (dog whistles, e.g., “White fragility” and “‘Traditionalist’ ‘victimization'”) that signal to “Traditionalists” that it is “enemy material” to subtly justify/encourage its dismissal out of hand. 

On the flip side, another response to the post I described above gave a similar signal to “Inclusivists.” Whether with conscious intent or not, this was accomplished by projecting a “false equivalency” claim onto the post. The meme they used addresses only the commenter’s own misunderstanding. These *political technologies* abbreviate the conformity-policing process; and the digital high-fives (“Likes” and so forth) signal: “message understood; I won’t need to bother thinking about this.” Asking a clarifying question could have prevented the mischaracterization. I did reply to correct the error; but, oops! too late! 16 likes and hearts. Snip:

 

 

One sad truth this project has confirmed; each “side” has its own ways of quickly dismissing anything they perceive to be a “both sides” narrative. 

 

 

Partisan blindness

The fact that strong partisans have difficulty seeing the 95% solution is quite predictable. *Political technologies* have us conditioned (mostly unconsciously) to police our tribal boundaries for dogmatic conformity. Any sort of unity message is suspect/threatening and typically draws fire from “both sides.” Frequently, this is accomplished through projecting a strawman mischaracterization onto different and/or challenging material and then attacking their own misunderstanding. Sadly, others often find this quite influential. 

Our systems are aligned [some are monetized] to keep us polarized. We might/could benefit from an accessible narrative that pictures us as unified.

 

tl;dr

The 95% solution sees that partisans feel threatened by any sort of unity message and will treat it as highly suspect. If you see your neighbor as being a demon, then you want your neighbor to walk the plank rather than giving them a fair hearing. 
 
We [UMC/USA] need a narrative that sees us as unified. “God bless us everyone.” —TT

Action step:

One simple the 95% solution action step… a *political technologies* countermeasure:
 
…promote the use of clarifying questions to get our mindless projection back in check. Work to make sure that, first of all, we understand the actual claims we’re addressing. 
 
        Next week: [UMC] fixing an earlier error. [this post ~825 words (3-min. read)] 

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Your thoughts? 

4 thoughts on “[UMC] Are questions passé?

  1. There is a spectrum of engagement when discussing difficult topics. I had small discussion groups among personal friends and family that fell apart because we couldn’t agree on what I thought as very basic discussion rules. Some outright rejected the need for data or logic. They said their emotions about what they “knew” was right or wrong was enough. Another one basically said, I know what I know and am happy in this place – I am not going down any of these paths to different places.

    When I would try to introduce new ideas or topics that were outside their wheelhouse they mostly met it with suspicion and questioned why I wanted to think about that topic. To them it went back to this base comfort level of what made them feel OK or not. That is the mindset that political technologies play to so effectively.

    Are questions passé? For many the answer is yes. They have spent a lifetime making peace with a certain way of thinking and they see no benefit in making themselves uncomfortable by questioning base assumptions now.

    Liked by 1 person

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