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Questions in Seeking UnCommon Ground

And protecting the Middle Way from Binary Thinking (Part #1)

Beyond sympathy for the immediate victims and bereaved, this note presents over 1417 challenging questions, notably from a variety of electronic and other media sources. The intention is to facilitate collective learning on the occasion of the abhorrent and horrendous attacks on 11th September 2001 -- and their aftermath. As new questions are added new categories may be used. No attempt has yet been made to rate the questions for insightfulness or relative merit. Because of its size, the document has now been split into a number of parts.


The attack and its response are being presented by both 'sides' in terms of an 'us and them' logic requiring everybody to take sides or run the risk of being defined unambiguously as supporting the opposite side -- and threatened with the consequences. This simplistic binary logic is not worthy of 21st century civilization. There is at least a case for recognizing twelve 'sides':

-- (a) 'terrorists',
-- (b) 'fix-it avengers',
-- (c) 'non-violent sympathizers with the terrorist cause',
-- (d) 'non-militant sympathizers with the fix-it cause of the avengers',
-- (e) 'exploiters of business opportunities created by the crisis',
-- (f) 'exploiters of political, ideological, religious and racist opportunities created by the crisis',
-- (g) 'peace activists' engaged in opposition to any conflict,
-- (h) 'peace passivists' dissociating themselves from any confrontation,
Framers, interpreters and apologists:
-- (i) 'intelligence analysts', 'presenters', 'commentators', 'news managers', 'spin doctors' of official positions,
-- (j) 'commentators', 'conspiracy theorists' and 'strategists' of alternative positions,
-- (k) 'informed but indifferent',
-- (l) 'innocent and unaware'.

In defining their mission, the 'fix-it avengers' endeavour to cluster all other groups with (a) -- if they are unwilling to be associated directly with (b). The 'terrorists' and the 'fix-it avengers' have their own military dynamic with each other -- although each is split, as always, into those at personal risk and those instigating from the rear. Neither (c) nor (d) have any desire to be drawn into this dynamic, which they see as unhelpful to any resolution of the larger problem -- but the dialogue between them is also highly problematic and unfruitful. The 'terrorist' cause benefits from this confusion and inhibits the emergence of any more fruitful dialogue or approaches to the problems that all face in different ways. Missing from this twelve-fold breakdown are other more fruitful systemic perspectives to sustain more meaningful dialogue between the twelve, towards more complex and sustainable solutions. These contextual, non-linear perspectives of higher dimensionality -- (m), (n), (o), etc, perhaps interrelated on a polyhedron -- would of course appear totally lacking in credibility from the perspectives of any of the twelve and are readily, if not deliberately, confused with those of any opposition. Attempts to articulate what forms action could take from any such broader perspective are totally inhibited by exaggerated polarization. That is the tragic essence of the crisis.

The questions in the various parts of this document (see above) are an effort to identify the 'uncommon ground' -- the unexplored 'sacred' space for dialogue towards (m), (n), etc., however these modes may reflect the best of world civilization. The questions may be considered a contribution to the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations (20be considered a contribution to the United Nations Year of Dialogue among Civilizations (2001).

See also:

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