Re: hi (Josef Pauli on "permitted speech")/ another perspective..

P. Myers (mpwr@u.washington.edu)
Wed, 17 Jun 1998 08:41:30 -0700 (PDT)


Tom and Sandy.

My daughter and I were discussing extremes of (mutually exclusive)
theories and how folks who believe one end or the other of a behavior
(e.g. non-violence [as including angry expression] and violent defense of
one's property and rights--not the best examples!)...how these folks are
few, and how most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the road.  I think
what we discussed applies here, in several cases.

I believe, in my head, and, unprovoked, in my heart, what you both say:
that a caring response, rather than reaction, and request for more
dialogue, is the most effective way to understand one's self and another,
and to best lead to inclusion, which is what we hope for on this list.

But when I hear friends denigrated and flamed; populations already
oppressed told they will be better off if they stop making excuses for
themselves and just do what other(s) have done; and inane (sorry, my
bias!), unsubstantive rhetoric, aimed at someone I greatly respect...well,
all my middle of the road goes out the window, and I often respond in
kind; I have a choice dilemma, and choose an honest, but I guess you would
label violent because angry, reply.

This is not necessarily an out-of-control behavior, mind...sometimes
giving back in the same "voice" is also an effective way to demand that
the offensive party rethink their purposes (whether that party is me or
another) and the effectiveness of their chosen strategy.  However, I
admit, from *my end, the choice is usually cathartic.  I'm not even ready
to promise myself that I'll try a little harder to listen past the
provocation...maybe someday...right now, I trust whomever is minding my
store. 

Families have different ways of resolving conflict.  Some sit together and
reason; others have to fight it out with angry words and sometimes just by
walking out of the "room," mad as hell... that doesn't mean the family is
dysfunctional or bad...just that it has a different stepstyle, or/and that
the subject under discussion is *very important to it's members.  As long
as we don't abandon those members, or silence them, this is acceptable to
me...I've been flamed and withdrawn for a period...I come back and reown
my voice...angry or coolly reasoned (well...rarely the latter!! *8D).

It's *ok to be angry and say so.  Name calling *is another thing (and I'm
guilty within the past 24 hours...and not real sorry yet...), and the one
who does so needs to hear about it...whether the name is anal retentive
(sigh, that was the one *I threw out), or socialist (as if that were a
*bad thing) left wing liberal (couple of problems there, but nothing that
can't be fixed!).  But don't expect change real quick, because sometimes
feelings override self-control, and none of us is super-human...or should
try to be.  Yep.  Including Tom and Sandy.

Thanks for the tips on anger management, Tom and Sandy...I fully expect to
pop off again, in time.  I'll try, however, to use "I" statements (urgh!)
before throwing names at anyone.

But no promises of perfection.  *8D  Pat Myers



On Wed, 17 Jun 1998, Tom Boland wrote:

> "A robust civil society can withstand the rude and offensive; a
> compassionate society will embrace rude and incohate manifestations from
> the witless alienated.  There is nothing to be gained from setting the bar
> for permitted speech so high as to suppress expression which would
> discomfort, even offend.  More, there is much to lose:  who cannot speak
> suffer within, and society suffers therby; and some of those denied their
> voices, they eventually find their arms... that said, the citizen's role
> is not merely to suffer the lout and boor; but to draw him out into
> constructive engagement, and thusly leaven the community."
> -- Josef Pauli, "Civics"
> 
> Pauli is essentially right, I think, desp9ite some choces of words which I
> think are elitist and disdainful of the dispossessed.  Free speech is
> precious and needed in any society or group that aims for freedom and
> creative, workable solutions to semingly intractable social problems, such
> as poverty and homelessness.
> 
> Everyone occasionally engages in labeling and name-calling, expecially when
> we and poople like us continue to suffer privation and scorn.  But, with
> effort, we can make this tendency in ourselves the exception and not the
> rule.
> 
> Sionce everone on HPN list has been homeless, I suspect that we have all
> been the scapegoated outcast in some group in out lives.  My hope is that
> here,on a list that is ours alone, we can all feel safe in our diversity.
> Here, we replicate the human tendency to scapegoat individuals for the the
> social processes which (I think) keep us down.
> 
> One thing I've hated about most advocacy groups and hearings on
> homelessness is that speech - and who gets to speak - is subtly (or
> blatently) "screened" to fit the middle-class sensibilities of the more
> powerful.  I repeatedly tell advocates that they will _never_ hear what
> homeless people _really_ feel if they can not endure - even welcome - some
> tears and rage and heated dispute from us.
> 
> The last thing I want to do on this list is to limit it's membership to
> people who see things exactly as I do.  (Sure, I'd like you to agree with
> me, and act in ways I think will help us as a calss, but that's another
> part of the story.)
> 
> We are in a war of ideas, some of which I think do mortal harm to poor and
> homeless people.  But I do not choose to silence those whose ideas I fear
> do us harm..  Rather, I choose to reason with them and , if reasoning
> together seems impossible, to usually let pass without comment any false
> claims or labels about me personally.
> 
> This permission to speak freely does not limit me from arguing agianst what
> I think are bad policies and practices.  Nor does it prevent me from
> engaging, as I often have, in nonviolent direct action with like-minded
> persons.
> 
> No person, I think, is our enemy.  Rather our adversary is oppressive
> social processes, which indeed we have a responsibility to challange.  We
> can witness and work against injustice without personal attacks.  And maybe
> - just maybe - we can learn some new truths from those we think are dead
> wrong.
> 
> If people want to label people, I offer myself as a target.  (I can take
> it, although it wouldn't be what I prefer to undergo.)
> 
> Am I a "smarmy, mealy-mouthed liberal apoligist for the facist status quo"
> for thinking like this, even after 30 years of activism?  No, I've decided.
> But you can decide for yourself.
> 
> Go ahead, flame me!--Tom B
> 
> Sandy wrote (in part):
> >Anyway, what I wanted to say is that I really believe we are all trying!
> >And if people get their feelings hurt sometimes...I don't believe any of
> >us wishes this to happen. This is one place where I would hope we'd all
> >feel safe enough to post our opinions, and in order to make it safe *all*
> >of us (those who post often especially) need to try to write with care.
> >
> >One thing I have discovered is that truly heartfelt statements sometimes
> >come across as being the most critical.
> >
> >Once I remember writing an impassioned plea for something (not on this
> >list) and found myself perceived of as having written a one-sided attack.
> >What a surprise!
> >
> >If you feel attacked...best thing to do is to try to imagine the
> >person who wrote it. That person may well be a real sweetie in person.
> >
> >Anyway, please keep writing, all of you, we are doing a good job here.
> 
> 
> 
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> 
> 
> 

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"To live dangerously is to live
in the Borderland, where desire,
justice and love meet."
                    Henry Giroux