RE: Toward a new US-World dialogue

Date: Wed 11 Dec 2002 - 02:11:33 GMT

  • Next message: Scott Chase: "RE: Why People are so Contrary"

    > Greetings, Steve,
    > Yes, the world seen pessimistically has its many advocates and
    > practitioners, and a ton of examples to demonstrate the reasonableness
    > of seeing it that way.
    > But the counter-examples are as numerous, and, to me, more indicative
    > of the true potential of things.
    > Pessimists too often will aim low and achieve little. Optimists give
    > themselves and their children a chance for much better. Optimists can
    > become dispirited, of course. But, I think, better a transient
    > dispirit than an ambient one.
    > Supposing there is only a small chance to build a better chance for
    > our species and our kids. Is it not worth attempting? Where is the
    > benefit in a preemptive foreclosure of hope?
    > The dialogue that I foresee need not require nor first seek a common
    > ground for all. I have spent many a useful hour with people with whom
    > I have little in common, or little in common that we could both openly
    > acknowledge. Sometimes these hours were poignant and gentle; other
    > hours were brutal and angry. Sometimes they were with declared
    > enemies, and yet through the pain understanding and the initial
    > flickers of respect emerge. From such small steps, undertaken by as
    > many as are hopeful, great sea-changes can emerge. Perhaps, this time,
    > they won't, and perhaps our species will fail its coming tests, and
    > see its potential frittered away. That is possible. But as long as it
    > may not be so, it seems to me worth the effort to swing the
    > probabilities a bit further our way....
    > I do understand and sympathize the feelings that can lead to
    > pessimism, and the things we do to protect ourselves from
    > hopelessness. There is always hope, sometimes hidden, sometimes
    > occluded by the black heaviness of today's headlines. So sometimes we
    > have to search for that flicker, and let it gently come to full life.
    > It is, I feel, part of our human heritage -- and genius -- that we can
    > everyone of us do so, alone and with others.
    > chilly evening in late November, a panel discussion on Iraq was convened at New York University. The participants were liberal intellectuals, and one by one they framed reasonable arguments against a war in Iraq: inspections need time to work; the Bush doctrine has a dangerous agenda; the history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East is not encouraging. The audience of 150 New Yorkers seemed persuaded. Then the last panelist spoke. He was an Iraqi dissident named Kanan Makiya, and he said, ''I'm afraid I'm going to strike a discordant note.'' He pointed out that Iraqis, who will pay the highest price in the event of an invasion, ''overwhelmingly want this war.'' He outlined a vision of postwar Iraq as a secular democracy with equal rights for all of its citizens. This vision would be new to the Arab world. ''It can be encouraged, or it can be crushed just like that. But think about what you're doing if you crush it.'' Makiya's voice rose as he came to an end. ''I rest my moral case on the following: if there's a sliver of a chance of it happening, a 5 to 10 percent chance, you have a moral obligation, I say, to do it.'' The effect was electrifying. The room, which just minutes earlier had settled into a sober and comfortable rejection of war, exploded in applause. The other panelists looked startled, and their reasonable arguments suddenly lay deflated on the table before them. Michael Walzer, who was on the panel, smiled wanly. ''It's very hard to respond,'' he said. It was hard, I thought, because Makiya had spoken the language beloved by liberal hawks. He had met their hope of avoiding a war with an even greater hope. He had given the people in the room an image of their own ideals.
    > Best regards,
    > Lawry
    > > -----Original Message-----
    > > From: []On
    > > Behalf Of Steve Drew Sent: Tuesday, December 10, 2002 7:07 PM To:
    > > Subject: RE: Toward a new US-World dialogue
    > >
    > >
    > > > Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2002 12:28:20 -0500
    > > > From: "Lawrence DeBivort" <>
    > > > Subject: RE: Toward a new US-World dialogue
    > > >
    > > > Jeremy, greetings,
    > > >
    > > > I would not characterize the discussion here on this list as
    > > anything close
    > > > to the dialogue that is needed, for several reasons:
    > > > 1. There is no participation from third-world folks
    > > >
    > > > 2. There is little true listening and questioning. This may be
    > > a weakness of
    > > > email, and it has a lot to do with the interactional dynamics.
    > > Sometimes we
    > > > are better at it than at other times!
    > > >
    > > > 3. The subject of this list is memetics; the subject of the
    > > > proposed dialogue would be the issues that divide the species, and
    > > > the
    > > exploration of
    > > > a view of the species that allows sub-components to avoid
    > > > destructive relations with other parts.
    > > >
    > > > The levels of pessimism that those who responded to the
    > > proposal expressed
    > > > saddens me. There is so much potential for participation and
    > > contribution.
    > > > I hope that this pessimism is transient. There is a big and
    > > wonderful world
    > > > out there (despite the negatives that so easily capture our
    > > > concern and energy), full of resources and potential capability,
    > > > of learning and of joining with others to build better things than
    > > > we can alone.
    > > It is to this
    > > > world that we should be engaging ourselves.
    > >
    > > There is indeed a big and wonderful world out there, and the (to my
    > > mind) problem is that the number of divisions between peoples seems
    > > (?) almost insurmountable, hence some of the negativity you have
    > > encountered. Most of mine stems from my encounters with the world
    > > and people, and the repressed desire to bang some peoples heads
    > > together :-)
    > >
    > > I might add a no. 4 What are the commonalities between people
    > > irrespective
    > > of culture, religion etc? Find what unites and the thing that
    > > divides can sometimes look damn silly. Presume you are familiar with
    > > Needs Theory etc?
    > >
    > > BTW have you read the Mote in God's Eye By Niven and Pournelle? SF
    > > that dwells on pessimism big time.
    > >
    > > Regards
    > >
    > > Steve
    > > >
    > > > Best regards,
    > > > Lawry
    > >
    > >
    > > =============================================================== This
    > > was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of
    > > Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For
    > > information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:
    > >
    > >
    > ===============================================================
    > This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    > Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    > For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
    > see:

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed 11 Dec 2002 - 02:12:57 GMT