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Allowing Conscientious Objection

Published on 15/06/09
by randy

It seems so much of relational life is trying to work the balance of giving and receiving power/authority.  We can see the lack of effectiveness in solving problems from force.  Whether in government, church, or family, most pain comes from one party trying to convince another party that it is ‘right’.  We meet one another with a mental set of ‘knowing’  what’s best.  Tremendous energy and effort is spent in persuasive attempts to convince the other to agree with their opponent’s position.  Yet, as we see in nature’s law, the harder we push the more resistance we create.  Create a force and up comes an equal or opposite force to push back.  This approach is antiquated, hasn’t worked for years, and we now risk our future in our stubborn refusal to evolve to higher levels of collaboration and cooperation.


We know it works when two opposing parties can empty their bias to hear one another’s point of view.  The science of active listening and dialog has come a long way in the past few years, yet we continue with most of our business, government, church and family relations moving from persuasive monolog or game playing to one party’s advantage and another’s disadvantage.  The weak and the unconscious simply bow to the more powerful authority without question.  The strong and the conscious mind will always courageously hold open the door to dialog in respect to the requirements of collaboration.  There’s faith and trust in putting all party’s concerns in the middle to see how a better answer is given when opinion, bias, and belief is surrendered in sincere desire to determine what’s best for all with harm to none.


Tremendous pain and damage can result when we resolve to engage the persuasive process.  When we can’t or won’t step from our notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ we’re caught in the soup of conflict.  Noam Chomsky has written that violence and discord underlies all attempts to persuade, to change another.  The peace practice requires we empty our minds to hear one another outside judgment, that we respond without rehearsal from the heart’s response, and we recognize in some way we are each other.  Former Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, Robert McNamara, came to this wisdom many, many years after his term of service.  In his movie The Fog of War he lays out his ten most important lessons in resolving conflict.  His first and most important insight was to empathize with the enemy.  He basically admits the entire conflict that cost 58,000 American lives was based on false premise that could have been discovered early by actively engaging the dialog process.  Clearly, this happened again with Iraq.  Unfortunately, in both instances tremendous persuasive power was put to a weak congress, an uninformed public and a conflict driven media.


The time has come.  We can no longer try to solve 21st century problems with 20th century communication models.  It simply doesn’t work to devote that vast majority of our wealth to militaristic efforts to control others.  It’s now time to sit in circle, adult to adult, to go deeper into the question of, “What do you really, really want?”  Rather than centering upon argument, negotiation and difference, can we shift to a focus on common sense for the common good, for the very survival of the planet and future generations?

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