Listen Up

Ever since my flatmate returned from an anarcho-hippie border-crossing conference in Tijuana, we’ve been mocking C-SPAN as our paths cross in the living room. As a result I’ve been quashing the urge to blog politics. Yelling at television is fuzzy liberal bonding and a good show of wit, but that kind of serious writing is a trap. Read Ann Coulter, express outrage. Hear Bush’s decision to prevent forest fires by chopping down all the forests, apply basic ecological principles, explode. And so on ad infinitum.

I get into a mode where I’m trying to convince everyone that I’m right, and that’s not where I want to be. When I’m in that mode, I can’t listen. I can follow along and rebut in the right places, but I can’t admit that my beliefs might change as a direct result of the discussion. Listening requires that admission.

It’s thorny. I don’t mean to disparage the value of speech as an agent of change —or rather, I don’t mean to disparage the value of discussion as an agent of change, where discussion involves both speaking and listening—but I think there’s a lot of formulaic political discourse that masquerades as true discussion. Given that I would like to promote and participate in true political discussion, how can I speak in ways that encourage me to listen to others, as well as encouraging others to listen to me?

I’m beginning, a little, to answer that question, but my prose is getting impossibly heavy so I’ll leave it alone for now.

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