3/5 Vital Conversation: The Challenge of Divergent Worldviews

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Welcome Conversation Starter Marco Morelli, a poet, activist, and spiritual practitioner.  A philosophy student in college, he left the academic path in his early 20s to do volunteer work and writing in Central America.  Marco's first book of poetry was a series of translations of Nicaraguan poetry called *Ruben's Orphans: Anthology of Contemporary Nicaraguan Poetry*. It featured the work of the generation of young poets writing after the end of the Sandinista Revolution in the 1990s.

Returning to the states, he discovered Ken Wilber's integral philosophy and became a close student, working with Wilber's Integral Institute from 2003-2007 where he co-authored, with Ken Wilber, Terry Patten, and Adam Leonard, the book *Integral Life Practice: A 21st Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening*

Marco is currently working with Terry Patten on a book entitled *The Integral Revolution: The Future of Consciousness, Culture, and Society in the Planetary Age*.   The Integral Revolution aims to bring together the worlds of integral philosophy, evolutionary spirituality, and progressive activism to further the movement for global justice, sustainability, and peace.

Marco lives in Longmont, Colorado with his wife and 2 1/2 year-old daughter.

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Monday's Vital Conversation is sparked by this Occupy Cafe blog post from Stephen M. Demetriou "On Blacklisted Conversations."  While the specific context of Stephen's inquiry is the "Truther" theory that 9-11 was a "false flag operation," it touched on a broader set of concerns that bear exploration.

Whether it is the events of 9-11, the "true nature" of our monetary system, climate change or the degree to which we hold or eschew various religious and spiritual beliefs, there are a number of volatile issues that potentially divide us from one another both within the Occupy movement and in the wider world.  For the most part, we avoid debating these questions because our experience is that such conversations take up lots of time and energy, rarely resolve anything and often become contentious and divisive.  Instead, we either cluster with those that agree with us or try to set the issue aside by "agreeing to disagree."

However even when we don't have these conversations openly, the divergences often show up in subtle ways that create friction, such as a disparaging tone that we might use when referring to people who hold beliefs we deem irrational or naive, or an air of certainty in the way we express what we hold to be the truth that is experienced by those who disagree with us as arrogance or dismissal. These unspoken assumptions can also inform strategic thinking, since the plans we each advocate have everything to do with the way we believe "the system" works.  

Naomi Klein talks about how this shows up in the climate debate in a recent interview with Solutions:

The Yale cultural cognition project has looked at cultural worldview and climate change, and what’s clear is that ideology is the main factor in whether we believe in climate change. If you have an egalitarian and communitarian worldview, and you tend toward a belief system of pooling resources and helping the less advantaged, then you believe in climate change. And the stronger your belief system tends toward a hierarchical or individual worldview, the greater the chances are that you deny climate change and the stronger your denial will be. The reason is clear: it’s because people protect their worldviews. We all do this. We develop intellectual antibodies. Climate change confirms what people on the left already believe. But the Left must take this confirmation responsibly. It means that if you are on the left of the spectrum, you need to guard against exaggeration and your own tendency to unquestioningly accept the data because it confirms your worldview.

So, given how potent these world views are and how difficult--perhaps even impossible-- it is to get people to change them, what are the implications for those who would help to build a mass movement  to bring about systemic transformation?  Here are a number of questions to consider as we begin this conversation here on the Occupy Cafe forum:

  • What is your experience with the ways that our divergent beliefs affect our ability to communicate and work together when we choose to articulate them?  Even when we don't?
  • What core beliefs or worldviews underlie, consciously or unconsciously, the issues, strategies and tactics about which you are most passionate?  What core beliefs and worldviews do you find to be incompatible with yours?
  • "To what extent can we "agree to disagree?"  On the other hand, what core beliefs about the way the world works do you believe we need to align on in order to strategize and collaborate effectively?
  • What kinds of strategies and collaboration might allow us to sidestep, transcend or integrate the differences in our worldviews?

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For more on what Naomi Kein is talking about in the blockquote above, I would recommend that folks listen to this talk by Chris Mooney: http://ww.archive.org/details/ESMooney .

I have a conflicting commitment and will not be able to participate on this call. I'm sorry that I will miss it. It seems like a great topic and a great set of questions to ponder. I will live with them for a day a perhaps post some responses to them here on Occupy Cafe.

Beliefs are part of any worldview. They fill up our personal experiences (direct knowledge) to become the integral individual worldviews. They exist in “mental realm”, on the other hand they are the reference standard we use to decide real actions.

My most recent experience is your (and David Eggleton’s) comments on Occupy 2.0: Transforming systems from the inside out. You seem to ignore consciousness (mental realm) as part of the reality. To sidestep the differences of individual worldviews we should do the opposite: integrate it into the reality.

Words are mental clichés – but semantics is the only code we have to communicate. How it happened that our clichés are dead? We will never communicate unless we reset our clichés trying to understand how we have been using the power of our minds to construct global dehumanized social system.

Having faith in our ability to work together we should include our beliefs and worldviews into the whole of planetary system – and agree this is the first issue to work on.

The best answer to last question is the conclusion by Rebecca Solnit @ tomdispatch and commondreams (Feb. 21, it has been linked by you):

What happens now depends on vigorous participation, including yours, in thinking aloud together about who we are, what we want, and how we get there, and then acting upon it.

Only then. IMHO “the thought” (consciousness) is somehow responsible for the present state of the whole, so we should include it into the realm of reality. Systemic meaning of thinking aloud together (first step of doable action) is purposeful, oriented asynchronous conversation.

Your links represent the same old song: declaration of faith in our ability to heal and description of symptoms - diagnosis of the disease.

My field of exploration is the psychology of evasion. It is fascinating how the mass of people endlessly repeats one and another, avoiding any mention of collective decision - WHAT could we do together, globally to cure the disease. It seems to be a taboo.

I think the mass by far exceeds critical - but unless we spark something to conquer this impotence or even resistance, the state equivalent to supersaturated solution can last forever. In view of extremely narrow window of time opened for any action - isn't the situation strange and dramatic?

I'd like to hear more about this idea. I'm open to the proposal that "the mass by far exceeds critical," but that doesn't appear to me to be a self-evident truth. What is the elephant in the room? What is the taboo that prevents us from proposing and considering effective action, and to what does that taboo blind us?

Agreeing with Marco in view of common story doesn't solve the problem of common vision we need (top level of upper left quadrant). May I suggest you read http://integral-life-mailers.s3.amazonaws.com/Content/IntegralPost_... (if you didn't)?

KMO, you say:

I'm open to the proposal that "the mass by far exceeds critical," but that doesn't appear to me to be a self-evident truth.

Did I say it is?

It is to be checked up. There is no common room/space to do it, so there is no creature (elephant or other) there. Everyone has private screen displaying the elephant/truth and interprets the picture in the light of his/hers personal worldview/beliefs-set, applying logic of individual mindset.

I am humble enough to know my truth is only my truth. My idea is a check up. What would future generations (if any) say if it were the truth and we didn't check? 

P.S.

How would you define the concept of "self-evident truth"? It would be very interesting experiment to analyze the meaning of self in it.

I'm not attached to the phrase "self-evident truth." I'd rather replace it than defend it if you have qualms with it. It is not obvious to me that we have reached the necessary critical mass for a dramatic cultural shift just yet. I'm not stating that the contrary is true. I'm just saying I don't see it. If you have anything to share that might sway me to your way of thinking, I'm open. I simply don't have a very clear understanding of what it is that you're trying to communicate.

It is not qualms I have. I think the way we use the words is meaningful.

I hope I have a seed of idea to share, what I write expresses my frustration because nobody seems to be interested. Are you?

Anyhow I am sorry, I cannot continue today.

Interesting the way this conversation has gone on the forum.  Seems like--suprise!-- the three participants are each reflecting different worldviews.

  • From Doreen, I hear clearly an optimism and faith in the underlying goodness of humanity and the unfolding of an evolutionary Shift
  • With Pawel, I hear frustration and impatience.  As I understand it, this is based on a view of humanity where we are paralyzed by our inability to communicate what is really at the core of our struggles.  As a result, we are failing to develop a collective vision that can support effective action, even though we have this ability at our fingertips--hence the frustration.
  • KMO has said less about his own perspective, but I intuit some skepticism about the degree to which we might be ready/capable of action on the scale that is needed.

Forgive me if these are inaccurate or oversimplified.  Yet it does appear that something here is making it hard for a generative connection to take place.  

What can we learn from this so far about the ways that we keep ourselves stuck and fragmented?  In the "Blacklisted Conversations" discussion that sparked the one we are having here, it became apparent that the language we use to describe the opinions of others often sets us against one another before we even begin the deeper conversation.  So being careful about the way we characterize one another's views might be a good starting point.  This was a conclusion that also emerged quite clearly from our Cafe Call on Monday.

Going deeper, I think that defining specific generative intentions can help ground us in a conversational context that is more satisfying.  Perhaps, in the language of NVC, it would help if we each identified the needs we are seeking to address?

 For my part, I'm looking for us to become clearer on the nature of this challenge--especially the ways it is showing up as an unspoken/unrecognized roadblock.  I have a sense that once we make the divergences more explicit, we can decide which conversations about those divergences are worth having.  In some cases, we might seek to transcend them, and in others, we might have to take them on directly and choose to align ourselves with others who accept the same common ground.

For my part I need logic in our communication. Therefore I do not search divergences to comment; quite contrary I try to find convergence area of our worldviews.

The logic tells me two things:

  1. Individual worldviews as a wholes must be different/divergent by definition and there is no hope we can change it.
  2. They must have something in common, because of our common identity.

Going further the logic tells me:

  • If we focus on the common part we can organize vision oriented communication.
  • The faith/hope that it can happen “automatically” (awakening, emergence, predetermined evolution etc.), without common effort is the unspoken/unrecognized roadblock (still worse – as far as I know it has been spoken by James Lovelock formulating Gaia hypothesis, over 40 years ago - and as we must now admit with no particular effect).
  • My logic, as any individual logic is the logic of given mind structure.  To set common logic we must first decide to be community, oriented upon understanding systemic logic, transcending the logic of single mind.

In short: beliefs must differ, logic can be common reference standard – logic on all levels of the Universe (logic of universal process)  is external to individual worldviews.

P.S. I appreciate your long comment on this issue. I recognize convergent parts of our logics in your post about clichés two weeks ago.

You have offered a very good description of our ambitions with the Connect 2012 Initiative.  We seek to illuminate common ground and, from that starting point--the "positive core" of what currently exists-- to then develop shared visions upon which to act.

I think it's key that you say that, "to set common logic we must first decide to be community, oriented upon understanding systemic logic, transcending the logic of single mind."  This comes back, perhaps, to the importance of respectful discourse around the things that divide us, so that the social fabric of community can be woven and a level of shared concern for the well-being of the whole can emerge.  This is perhaps one reason why argumentative approaches feel so useless to me.

This is perhaps one reason why argumentative approaches feel so useless to me.

From the point of view of individual logic your feeling is absolutely justified. The conceptual content of direct inter human communication is responsible for 7% of its effect (quite recent scientific research confirms your feeling, accuracy of the figure 7 can be disputed, but certainly it is by far lesser part).

On the other hand argumentative approaches are the direct outcome of consciousness rising in individuals and over 50000 years have been the mechanism shaping our civilization.

There are two levels of common ground. One is the level of life (state of the whole at the moment when our ancestors started to communicate verbally). Another is the civilization – present state of coevolution of preconscious tribal social structure, abstract thinking and semantic communication.

On the level of life we are all interconnected (all life based upon unified genetic code).

On the level of consciousness we have been subjects of individuation (consciousness rising in individuals). The common story of civilization growth is therefore individually interpreted, interacting with emotions/feelings rooted in unconscious part of our awareness to form a worldview..

Can you comment on this before I try to continue? Do you advocate uncivilization? Can we ignore our consciousness? How is it associated with the preconscious whole?

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