Guaranteed To Make Things Worse
Yesterday, KQED replayed another "Intelligence Squared U.S." program with the motion: "Islam is Dominated by Radicals". As I was listening to it, I kept feeling like this was a terrible framing and wondering what was the objective of having such a debate. Then today, I've been reviewing some of my notes about the effects of Cognitive Dissonance and realized why that debate was so counterproductive for anyone wanting to really make changes in the current world situation. The problem is this motion paints over 1.5 billion people with a broad brush and condemns their culture and religion as radical.
And what is supposed to be the reaction of those 1.5 billion people from this motion? A gratefulness that their betters in the Western world are pointing out their failures? An abject apology from Muslims that they see the error of their ways and will do better? Moderate Muslims will reject their "leaders" and cleave to a Western perspective? Anyone who believes that is clueless in the way human beings make decisions and how they resolve their sense of their own self-worth. The majority of Muslims will view this motion as an insult and become more reluctant to hearing anything from the Western world. And it doesn't have to be that way. As Karen Armstrong pointed out, simple respect for a fellow human being will go a long ways to making our relations with Muslims go better. Labelling them as bad is guaranteed to force them into taking offense against those who are so righteous and dogmatic about them and their religion.
NPR plays right into the hands of the demagogues when they put on debates framed like this one. But this is what the right always does - they want enemies that they can use to define themselves. Otherwise they would also have to look at themselves and their own actions to see how they measure up to the best of humanity (ie: Jesus).
To really solve global problems, the people who we empathize with and want to share a future with has to be as broad as the human race. Purposely using a debate to condemn 1.5 billion people is guaranteed to make it harder to solve our mutual problems.