Shut Up and Listen: the Power of Human Discourse

This blog comes more from my academic background than my magickal background.  It is also a highly personal story about something that happened to me recently on Facebook.  

About a week ago I shared a post that called into question some of the attitudes about things happening in our society today, the violence that is occurring and the systematic erasure of American History.  I made no comment, merely shared the post.  The comments that came were either pro or con to the original post, but civility was maintained.  I watched as people engaged in a sincere public discourse about their responses to the statements made in the post.  Then I got a response that was a personal attack on me.  No, I won’t quote it or identify that person.  It was an attack, pure and simple.  I vowed long ago that I would never engage in those sorts of fights on Facebook, so I didn’t respond.  I did however let the comment remain – fair is fair and I had wanted an open discourse from the beginning.

Apparently my refusal to engage infuriated the person who made the attack on me and her replies got even more virulent.  I continued to ignore it.  Then something amazing happened.  Friends who know me personally and have for years leapt to my defense.  They were not defending the original post.  In fact I knew some of them disagreed with most of it. What they were defending was my ability to engage in an open discourse between various opinions.  That further infuriated the irate person.  She got more and more angry in her responses to me and all those other people.  I continued to ignore it other than thank my defenders.  Then she crossed some lines.  She began to make snide and barely hidden attacks on my friends AND called into question my cultural heritage.  I replied briefly to that attack and then I deleted the entire conversation and blocked her from activity on my page.

So why am I telling this story?  I have watched with dismay over the past several months as our society has become increasingly more polarized.  No one is listening to anyone anymore.  The minute someone makes even the most gentle counter argument the fight starts.  Solutions are never reached through this type of behavior.  Solutions are reached through the practice of Human Discourse, people exchanging their viewpoints and truly listening to all viewpoints.  It is never a case of agreeing or changing your mind.  It is simply LISTENING to what the other side has to say.  One of the things all that academic training has taught me is that if you listen, you will learn something you might not have considered before and it might not change your opinion, but it might widen your perspective a bit.

All that brings up in my mind is a book I read long ago, Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape (1967).  Morris is not discussing any particular race, just the HUMAN race.  He examines human behavior from several perspectives, including what happens when people are in over populated and crowded conditions.  Our current society is much like what he described in 1967. Because of the pandemic many people are crowded into urban areas.  They have been locked up for months often on mere subsistence rations.  The activities that normally serve to remove pressure have been removed.  Tensions began to escalate.  Then the heat of Summer arrived and explosions occurred.  An already polarized society with tensions through the roof has become violent, much as Morris said would happen.  It turns out that my attacker, and that’s what she was, lives in an extremely high-density urban situation.  Morris was a prophet.

No one is listening to anyone.  Human Discourse has ceased in many ways.  That Facebook story is a perfect example of just that.  You voiced an opinion that wasn’t in perfect harmony with mine, therefore you are WRONG and need to either come completely over to my way of thinking, or be excised.  I did read each of her comments, looking for the thing I needed to learn.  I did learn something, or at least verified something I have long known.  Her initial statement was an insulting attack on me and it went downhill from there. Then she attacked my friends and cultural heritage.  Ultimately what she did was attempt to back me into a corner and force me to engage in her fight.  I can only assume that she wanted to convince me that she was right and I was wrong.  Unless I changed my opinion, and remember the post wasn’t even original to me so she had no idea where I truly stand on those issues, and agreed with her then I was her enemy.  What she failed to understand, and Morris points out so well in The Naked Ape, is that if you back someone into a corner and issue ultimatums to them, they will never choose you.  ALL people will choose their own tribe or clan under those circumstances.

Because when the other is not listening and the fight starts, there is a Magick in that Tribe, that Clan and it will have your back.

2 thoughts on “Shut Up and Listen: the Power of Human Discourse”

  1. I was there. Chick was psychotic. Rational people discussing both sides of the argument and she comes in screaming, ranting, and name calling.

  2. A wonderful exploration and explanation of the dynamics of cultural and political polarization that have become so prevalent in our time. I suspect many people who have accepted and acted upon the prevailing tendency toward demonizing, attacking, and generally making-wrong those who are not completely in agreement with their opinions and perspectives are responding to the energies of our time at not necessarily conscious levels. The collective demonization of Japanese-American citizens after Pearl Harbor and during World War II is a case in point. This “tribal” tendency to find, create, and attack “scapegoats” is an ancient response that may be hard-wired into many, but it is not in the final analysis a helpful, moral, or appropriate response for the western world in the 21st century. In the late 1960s during widespread protests re: the war in Vietnam, we had an entire generation and supporters of that generation collectively challenge the “rightness” of political leaders’ decisions and commitment to violence against non-caucasian people in country that was not directly threatening to our national interests or security. We need to be able to set boundaries re: this kind of reflexive (I am tempted to say mindless) adversarial aggression and scape-goating.

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