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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Enlightening Different Values

Just came back from my Dialogue group. While I've been gone, the group decided to do an "experiment" to censure what they defined as "long, personal stories." This isn't a large group, and the time constraint is an hour 45 min. Tonight attending were three women and six guys. They read some blurb at the beginning of the Dialogue stating what they wanted everyone to agree to. This experiment started three dialogues ago, with an undefined ending point.

The blurb says, among other things: "...We ask that people refrain from prolonged monologues, stories or reciting personal memoirs. Anyone can feel free to remind another of this, when necessary. ..."

I was willing to do this as an experiment, making my examples shorter, less personal, etc. in the spirit of the word "prolonged." I think it is the ultimate interruption to allow anyone to call someone else down while they are saying anything in order to stop them, rather after they have spoken. It's even more unfair that these new rules continue to stand in spite that "personal," "prolonged" etc. are being defined according to the whim of the multiple enforcers.

How can anyone dare to define for another what is "personal" and what is not? As far as I'm concerned, everything someone says is personal because everyone has a point of view, no matter how they dress it up and make it appear otherwise.

Evidently, these guys who made this rule want me to edit ANY story or example. They just want everyone to say their conclusions, without any examples. Anyone who asks for clarification or examples is "egging on" the transgressor.

I refuse to agree to edit all examples and stories from Dialogue. Sometimes I need the example of a story to know what I'm saying, and I can't find my point without articulating the illustration of it. I tell stories to work out what I want to say. Also, I also need other people's examples in a story form to know what they are saying. It's someone's raw experience that interests me, not their conclusions. If I have their account, I can have the experience vicariously myself and come to my own conclusions. Not being able to ask how someone got to their conclusion without "egging their transgressions on" is a tremendous loss for me.

The other part of the experiment, (which wasn't outlined in the statement they read at the beginning,) is that if we stray off the topic, someone reminds us to come back to it. Any explanation of how the tangent relates to the topic that I offered was rejected as mere justification. I don't know about this; if the conversation can't go anywhere but the topic, where can it go that is new?

We had been talking tonight about what happens when one social group gets invaded by another social group who has a different standard of how to show respect, etc. How do you enlighten each group with differing values without alienating them?

I told about in a past dialogue years before, two new people had shown up and got into an argument while the rest of us watched. Suddenly, with no plan uttered, the entire group began to talk to the person immediately next to them. This effectively brought the two newcomers back into allowing the rest of us to talk together when someone called the chaos to order. Someone asked me if this had been prearranged and I said, no, it happened spontaneously.

Then I was accused of the no-no of telling a story from the past by someone who prefers to interrupt me quite often. Before I could get to my point, which was why are we talking about social changes we can't easily influence, when we could talk about what is happening here with this experiment.

So, how long is too long of a story? Does the word "prolonged" only apply to monologues and not to the word 'stories' that follows it? Why should I accept the censurer's standard that stories are not allowed or my story is too long? And since this was a story that was not personal or prolonged, then why is it not allowed? When does the personal become the universal? Why should I accept someone else's complaint that my story is too personal for them?

By making a little blurb, these people have said they want me to exclude myself if I don't agree with these rules. They want me to recognize their right to enforce these rules. I don't and I won't. Perhaps I should write up my own little blurb on a piece of paper that I read immediately after their little blurb? I think the absolute quality of any rule enforced during Dialogue is unfair. In fact, I care quite a bit that this rule exists in such an absolute form. A rule like this is not David Bohm style Dialogue, no matter what it's justification was to have been put in place. I'm going to continue to come to Dialogue to say that.

I was very miffed. At one point, I told the group to fuck their new rules, and stomped out and left for awhile.

Later I came back. I got to say that since we're in control of what happens here, let's talk about that instead of some vast social commentary about human nature. How do we settle a dispute when two different groups of people want to spend dialogue time in a different way? This group starts with saying they'd like less long and personal story-telling, and it escalates in a big hurry to no stories of any type, at any time. Their reaction seemed a little like the end of a marriage, where the most tiny display of a certain sickening character flaw is cause for divorce.

We talked about this some. The verdict is still out, there didn't seem to be any concensus. One of the members screamed, "No should anything!"

Next time this blurb they have made is read - I'm going to ask, "What if I don't agree with who declares the standards of what is prolonged? So what is the socially acceptable way for me to disagree with that person's standards? To include everyone, these standards of what constitutes "prolonged" to be set wider than no stories allowed, with an expressed time limit of, say, stories under a minute or two are OK but stories over five minutes aren't, for instance. The clock stops being counted when someone else talks. If someone else asks for clarification of meaning, then the time is then applied to the time of the questioner and not the person who is clarifying.

I think we just need more people in Dialogue so a few can't determine rules because there will be enough people who always disagree. I love the chaos, but I guess many people find it irritating and want to do something to "fix" it. I'm sure we can come up with other strategies that work better to invite the participation of others and invite pauses from the people who talk easily, other than the restriction of a certain style of communicating.

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