“Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears.” — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856–1941), Whitney v. California, 274 U. S. 357 (1927)
I take no sides in the debate between those who are occupying Wall Street and those who think it is time for people to evacuate our downtowns—the anti-occupiers. But it seems to have degenerated into a debate for debate’s sake. What’s missing from this exchange is dialog—“the function of speech that frees men from the bondage of irrational fears.” Each side fears the other. The OWS groups fear the loss of their well-being at the hands of large corporations and banks. The opposition fears ongoing anarchy in the streets. And no one is communicating. There’s no one exploring the doubt, as I like to put it.
Hey, you OWS folks! Is it possible that large corporations are our economic engine, ensuring we still have a nation with a First Amendment right?
Hey, anti-OWS folks! Is it possible that the corporations and the banks have spun out of control in recent decades?
What you have here is two populations of Knower/Judgers squared off, doing battle for the sake of their positions (egos) versus seeking a solution. We see it daily in our normal lives. This is just that, but on steroids… and in front of TV cameras. It’s a weakness of the human condition. We lose track of the big picture—what is in the common best interest—in favor of winning the battle for our own emotional K/J needs.
Let’s diagram the conversation. First a group of concerned citizens exercises their constitutional right to speak their K/J minds. The people they’re speaking to generally ignore them from their own K/J position. And the rant is off and running.
Remember the idea that there’s no difference between the war over the toilet paper (which way it’s supposed to roll off) and terrorism (all Western infidels should die) based on our entrenched K/J filters? This is a clear example of that. What starts off as a constitutionally guaranteed right to protest and speak up comes up against a set of K/J rules—ignore them and they’ll go away. No meaningful conversation takes place. So the OWS K/J gets louder. And pretty soon it’s not about the corporations and the banks anymore… it’s about the poor downtrodden OWSers being taken to task by the control freak anti-OWSers. Then the OWSers get reinforcements—people more schooled in this game of escalation—and then the anti-OWSers bring out the cops and the clubs and the whole message is lost.
Actually, if you think about it, our entire American Revolution started about the same way. Lexington and Concord. Small confrontation got out of hand and the original negotiation was lost. Is that where this is headed? Would that be OK with your set of K/J rules?
I can’t help but think a good dose of Learner/Researcher poured over this protest would prevent the oncoming “burnt women,” yield lousy press, and produce actionable results. See? I really do want to save the planet one conversation at a time.