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Traps and Opportunities of Dialogue


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Part of Towards Transformative Conferencing and Dialogue: Collection of papers and notes, problems and possibilities on the new frontier of high-risk gatherings concerning social development (1991). Prepared in the process of envisaging the group dynamics of the World Parliament of Relgions


1. Single framework of agreement: Believing that everyone can and should agree on a single set of principles and guidelines, whether in the form of a charters, declarations or pledges (and including this note).

2. Labelling inappropriateness: Believing that it is useful to label some perspectives as wrong or inappropriate, especially in the absence of any sense of a global functional context.

3. Assumption of simplicity: Believing that the way forward is simple and that any perceived complexity is the product of inappropriate understanding.

4. Avoidance of issues: Believing that unpleasant issues can be postponed or treated as irrelevant.

5. Tokenism: Believing that it is only a media exercise and that people are not increasingly impatient with expensive exercises in collective impotence.

6. Avoidance of interaction: Believing that symbolic processes are a substitute for effective interaction.

7. Incorporation of disagreement: Believing that the diversity of positions does not call for designing in healthy disagreement to maintain a pool of alternative perspectives.

8. Marginalization: Believing that it is appropriate to marginalize bodies and cultures representing alternative perspectives (whether by use of geographical distance, procedural or linguistic devices).

9. Collective learning: Believing that collective learning, even at the highest policy levels, is not vital to the emergence of more appropriate structures and processes.

10. Wishful thinking: Believing that it is sufficient to wish to be "on the other bank of a river" and that the technical challenge of "bridge construction" can be ignored.

11. Single-factor responses: Believing in the adequacy of the "one answer", whether problem-specific, technocratic, spiritual, ethical, or based on common sense, or on particular values.

12. Despair: Believing that no major breakthrough is possible, despite the prevalence of short-termism, tokenism, opportunism, cynicism, and out-dated modes of thinking.

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