Friday, April 17, 2009

Reversal as a Path to Understanding

In e-mail discussions with a correspondent in another country, I have hit upon a method of bridging deeply embedded biases of largely cultural origin that I thought I would share with the world. It's very simple: switch sides.

What if people were able to do this, gaining similar insights as we did, along a whole variety of issues? What if we held a debate at some hallowed hall of Harvard or Yale in which
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued for the illegitimacy of the State of Israel and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defended the right of Israel to exist?
  • Barack Obama were to spout the anti-liberal rhetoric, while Rush Limbaugh took up the defense of every position of the Obama Administration?
  • Richard Dawkins were to be an apologist for Catholicism and Joseph Ratzinger, the pope, to rant about the likely nonexistence of any deity?
  • Gloria Steinem were to defend the traditional roles of women, while Phyllis Schlafly were to defend feminist single moms having everything including a cracked job ceiling?
I really think this is a kind of solution to handle disagreements. You learn that everything the other guy is saying is not complete and absolute bunk, but also that your own position has its weaknesses. You also see how you might espouse the other view given a different personal history and culture.

Role reversal is a technique I intend to continue to use in all my interactions whenever conflict arises. I really believe in it.
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