Tuesday, November 4, 2014


In my last post I gave an example of the ongoing dispute between Israel and Palestine. In his book, The Better Angels..., Pinker cites an ingenious study, where various scenarios were offered to both sides of the dispute. Offering purely monetary rewards for peace were summarily dismissed (likely triggering disgust).

"We report a series of experiments carried out with Palestinian and Israeli participants showing that violent opposition to compromise over issues considered sacred is (i) increased by offering material incentives to compromise but (ii) decreased when the adversary makes symbolic compromises over their own sacred values. These results demonstrate some of the unique properties of reasoning and decision-making over sacred values." Sacred bounds on rational resolution of violent political conflict by Jeremy Ginges, Scott Atran, Douglas Medin, and Khalil Shikaki (2007) [emphasis mine]

Now comes the hard part. I have an ongoing dispute with a long-standing colleague, after having volunteered as a moderator of his discussion board for twelve years. The dispute revolves around the cause and resolution of gratuitous violence as displayed by ISIS and its oddball adherents. Is the entire religion of Islam to blame? If so, can the world community force Islam to reform?

First of all, I don't think the entire religion is to blame. My colleague does. He rages over the despicable acts of violence, I rage over the implications of blaming billions of people for the actions of a few. The hard part as an open advocate for peace, I am obliged to live by my principles. An unsettled dispute like this sits wrong. Is there anything I can do to restore relationship with my colleague?

Going from No to Yes in the Middle East by William Ury

After all the insults, barbs, and accusations, the cutting off of a working relationship of  dozen years, what could I offer first across the negotiating table? If such an olive branch were offered, what would I need in return?

I would need an admission that the original accusation is too strong and neither Simon or I know enough about Islam and how it is taught to say that it is fundamentally flawed (diseased). [Most interesting. I could not even entertain a concession until I resolved my need. I guess that makes me human - J]

What do I offer first? I agree that the community of Islam itself is to be shamed in to dealing with it's demons within, and provide the first and strongest response against extremists like ISIS. The world community can support the Islamic communities in any way they ask, such as air, advisory support. This may require a critical admission that Islam itself is not united in thought and deed, and some elements deserve to be expelled.

I finish this three-blog rant with an offering of my dignity, something I dearly treasure and loathe to sacrifice. For a whole-hearted life, I offer my vulnerability. Long-standing friendships are worth fighting for, much more than the fight.