Taxation Discourse, Partisanship, And Honestly Representing Differing Views

There’s been some confusion on what Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez suggested would help finance the Green New Deal which is a plan that would help the United States curb America’s carbon dioxide emissions. One of the people apparently confused by the suggestion is House Minority Whip Steve Scalise who is the Representative representing Louisana’’s 1st congressional district.

Please note, this is not an article saying Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is correct, this is an article exploring what she said and representing it honestly.

What is a Marginal Income Tax Rate?

A marginal income tax rate is a tax rate incurred on each additional dollar of income. This increases for individuals as their income increases and makes it so that low-income earners are taxed at a lower rate than higher income earners. This doesn’t mean each individual dollar is taxed at the highest applicable rate, it means that the first/lowest few dollars are taxed at a lower rate and as money increases so does the percentage at which it’s being taxed. If you earn 100 dollars they are all taxed the same. If you make $12,000 all the dollars up to $9,525 are taxed at the same rate and then the dollars from $9,526-$12,000 are taxed at a different, slightly higher rate.

This is separate from a flat tax rate wherein the rate of taxes deducted from income stays flat across the board. It means everyone experiences the same percentage of money taken from their collective income instead of experiencing an increase in taxation as their income increases and only experiencing that pursuant to the moment their income reaches a certain dollar amount.

What did Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez propose?

She proposed increasing the cap on the marginal income tax rate and she’s suggesting increasing the number of tax brackets there are that determine how much of the top earner’s highest incomes are taxed. Currently there are 7 brackets in the federal income tax brackets (the numbers here for for single filers), not including the minimum charge that accompanies each bracket after the first they are 10% for income up to $9,525, 12% for income from $9,526-$38,700, 22% for income from $38,701-$82,500, 24% for income from there up to $157,500, 32% for income from there until $200,000 dollars, 35% for income from 200,000-500,000 dollars, and 37% for income beyond 500,001 dollars. If the Congresswoman nearly doubled the taxes owed for people made beyond 500,001 dollars a year in income that’d be a somewhat understandable suggestion to get annoyed at but that’s not she’s suggesting.

By increasing the number of brackets Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez would be smartly pointing out that there’s a massive difference between earning $500,000 a year in income and earning $5,000,000 a year in income which our current federal income tax system doesn’t do. And it’s not just the current federal income tax system that does this, it’s also House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.

What Did The House Minority Whip Say?

Congressman Scalise tweeted this. In case you don’t feel like heading over to the tweet here’s what it said:

“Republicans: Let Americans keep more of their own hard-earned money Democrats: Take away 70% of your income and give it to leftist fantasy programs.”

And then linked to an article from hotair.com.

The article is relatively unimportant to this particular blog post because this isn’t an article proclaiming that Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal is the best path forward but an article about the proposal but if you want to read it you can and should. It goes into some detail about past perceptions of the effectiveness of taxation and provides a criticism of Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal. What is important is that a sitting congressman lied about a policy suggestion by a member of the other party. Congressman Steve Scalise’s statement isn’t at all accurate.

What the House Minority Whip said, “Democrats: Take away 70% of your income and give it to leftist fantasy programs” is comically inaccurate. In fact the only way it’d be accurate is if the United States not only suddenly shifted to a flat income tax rate system on the federal income tax but also made said flat income tax rate an astounding 70%. That is almost double what we marginally tax the income of the highest tax bracket of our current federal income tax system.

You can criticize an opposing politicians policy proposals without misrepresenting them. But we all know how easy it is to claim victory over an opponent made of straw.

Policy proposals shouldn’t be viewed from such a partisan point of view. This was a disappointingly dishonest tweet from the House Minority Whip.

Thought Train #2: Holiday Special & An Experiment

Hi friends! This is episode #2 of Thought Train. The video is not uploading so I decided instead to upload it in true podcast style and share it as a unique audio only experience.

My girlfriend Anna and I have a podcast where we talk about a range of topics. This is our second episode and it’s our holiday special. I’ll embed episode #1 in this post down below the audio for episode #2. Let us know what you think of our holiday special!

Foundational Essay #1: A Brief Intro To Humanism

Though the definition of humanism can differ slightly from person to person and group to group generally humanism is understood as a philosophy or life stance that advocates for human beings to accept our moral responsibility to live ethical and morally responsible lives. It is also distinct for not requiring people to believe in deities. It is a moral tradition that is inclusive and can be adopted by anyone who understands the importance of not only human life but also our ability as human beings to live compassionately, ethically, and without the need for dogma or religious belief. Humanism attaches importance to human issues, not the issues that people and societies associate with religious matters or matters that come from theology. Many humanists have political and moral positions that are progressive by the standards of the society of the United States, such as believing that healthcare is a human right and that both access to and quality of healthcare are not things that should be influenced by someone’s economic status or their employment status.

Anyone can be a humanist! That’s one of the great things about humanism. Though humanists are often conceptualized by the American public as non-theists, especially atheists and agnostics (though theistic agonstics exist), humanists can definitely be theists. Humanism is an inclusive position and even people who haven’t explicitly claimed to be humanists can and do say things that sure sound a whole lot like humanism. Which explains the popularity of the #SoundsLikeHumanism hashtag.

Personally as someone who studies peace and conflict studies I feel as though being a humanist and openly identifying myself publicly as a humanist enables me to be a member of a community that cares deeply about social issues, understands on some level their pliability and knows that there are healthy, rational, and replicable responses to social crises and to both manmade and natural disasters, emergencies, and social interactions. I am a humanist because I believe in the important claims of humanism: that humans are capable of great good independent of religious beliefs, that human needs should supersede religious traditions and beliefs, and that the problems and challenges that humanity faces can be solved without the supernatural and that our approaches to these problems should come from a place of understanding and focus on human needs rather than tradition and religion.

I believe there is much work that needs to be done that can be done humanistically. One of the things I want more people to realize is that humanism is inclusive and can include and should include theists. I want to work to reach out to theistic humanists and help them build stronger communities of humanists who want to engage in justice, in building healthy communities, and in creating a better society in their own spaces, that is safe and able to handle both theistic and non-theistic humanists. I want to work to build a brand of dynamic, inclusive, and thoughtful humanistic commentary and community-building. I believe this can be done and this is why I am working to write essays that argue for thoughtful and inclusive humanism that is more than happy to teach people who might be or could become humanists, and works towards including and being conscious of theistic humanists who are out and about doing the work I want to do.

In future essays on humanism I’ll work to include steps to help people explain and provide examples of humanism, and I’ll work on steps to help people find humanistic spaces in their communities. I want to become a resource for budding humanists and for people who want to organize and build spaces and communities.

Progressives Should Lead The Political Fight For Sex Worker Rights

This is an introductory post about this topic but sex work and policies regulating sex work are actually one of the most important political issues in the world to me. I’ve made videos about this, tweets about it, and written about it in the past. In 2019 it’s going to be a key focus of mine so if you follow me anywhere expect to learn a lot about this, or at least if you already know more than I do hear about it a lot more than you did previously.

This is going to start off with a bold declaration: during 2019 legislation surrounding sex work is going to become a key political issue. In 2018 for a variety of reasons and in a wild variety of different contexts sex work and sex workers became the subject of massive amount of attention, Julia Salazar running on a platform that explicitly included support for sex workers, to legislation like Fosta/Sesta and the horrifying impact it’s had on sex workers. This led to a number of organizations in support of sex workers and to many different community activists and organizers in sex work organizing voters in what appears to be numbers that have never been seen before relative to this community, and forming a small but vocal voting bloc that will only grow in 2019.

In 2019, with the House of Representatives becoming a whole lot more Democratic there are new chances for Democrats to recognize the complexity of sex work and to set aside any simplistic moral positioning they have on this issue. In 2019 one of the first objectives of Democrats in general and Progressives especially should be to connect with those who’ve historically been kept from talking to people in power, and one of the first groups that should be approached are sex workers. That said, due to the Senate being the way it is, the best places for positive reforms that take into account the needs of sex workers and the insights of sex workers will be the local and state level legislative chambers. It is there where the fight for positive reforms regarding sex work will take place.

It’s time Progressives stand up to mainstream stigma and fight for a community that sure as heck could use legislative and political support: sex workers. This absolutely includes people who plan on running for office, and it’s perfectly possible for someone to openly support the need to grant sex workers the same sort of rights as other workers as Julia Salazar in New York proved by winning in a primary in September and thus winning a seat on the New York state Senate since she didn’t face a Republican opponent. It’s easy to say that her campaign was unique, and it was, but that doesn’t mean that no one else can run on a platform that explicitly includes support for sex workers, because that’s not true. If candidates openly seek out the counsel of sex workers and do not make a big deal of their support for sex workers, while unapologetically advocating for the community they can and will win races.

As an unapologetic progressive and a proud Democrat who understands at least some of the complexities related to sex work I know that our current approach as a country is terrifyingly dangerous to sex workers and I recognize that many in the media are hesitant to state this explicitly. So it falls to those of us who care enough about this issue to do the research and to challenge fact-less beliefs and approaches to sex work that routinely endanger the lives of sex workers.

So what can Progressives do about this?

1: We can unapologetically state that we support sex workers. We can actually prove this by looking to connect with organizations that support sex workers such as the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, the International Sex Worker Foundation for Art, Culture, and Education, and more.

2: We can learn from individuals like state-senator elect Julia Salazar, Lola Balcon, Kate D’Adamo, and others in a variety of positions who go out of their way to support the movement to ensure that sex workers have the same regulatory protections as other workers and that sex work is no longer treated as if it’s at worst criminal and at best a sign of a moral defect.

3: We can recognize that though some bills like Fosta/Sesta come from a place of good intentions they have had a dangerous impact on the lives of sex workers, and make it harder for sex workers to screen clients in advance which endangers them. We can also call for a repeal of Fosta/Sesta and seek instead to work to introduce bills that protect sex workers such as decriminalization bills and bills that create opportunities for sex workers to teach policymakers about their own lives (such as by calling for days of lobbying or creating commissions that work directly with policymakers as to inform them about the complexities of sex work), instead of continuing our past, very dangerous tradition of only listening to anti-sex worker groups who at best don’t care about the complex realities of sex work and at worst actively want to “save” sex workers because they believe all sex workers are victims in need of saving and not independent people who are capable of enjoying their job when it’s done as safely as possible.

Support sex workers. Be unapologetic in your support for sex workers, and work with them to support their existing platforms as well as create new ones that reach new audiences and can help dismantle reductive and almost always incorrect conceptions about sex work and the individuals who make up the sex work industry. Treat them as individuals and respect their experiences and perspectives.

I’ve got a lot to say about this, and I will in time. I just wanted to introduce readers to this topic and give readers an opportunity to learn a bit about my perspective here and give ya’ll a chance to follow groups and individuals you might not have heard of before especially if this isn’t a key issue for you.

Regarding The Decision By The President To Oust General Mattis As Secretary Of Defense

On December 23rd at 8:46 AM EST the President of the United States tweeted out a surprising decision regarding the recent resignation of Secretary of Defense General Mattis. President Trump announces that despite the stated decision by General Mattis to stay on as the Secretary of Defense until February 28th so as to avoid the need for any acting Secretary of Defense and enable a swift transition from one Defense Secretary to another, the President is effectively firing the General and not allowing him to officially aid in the transition by making his departure take effect before his true replacement could be nominated and confirmed in the Senate. This is a truly dangerous decision by the President that reportedly comes following the coverage given to the resignation letter and reportedly following the President expressing anger at the letter itself which outlined differences between General Mattis and the President.

The person who will be the acting Secretary of Defense is Patrick Shanahan, who has served as the Deputy Secretary of Defense and whose focus has been building relationships between the military and defense contractors, a focus which the President himself reportedly shares. Patrick Shanahan despite his work in defense contracting as the senior vice president of Supply Chain & Operations for Boeing, has not served in the military and was criticized by John McCain during his Senate confirmation hearing and has reportedly been said to not be a “strategic thinker” or have any policy or strategy background.

The decision by the President to elevate someone like Mr. Shanahan to the extremely influential position of Secretary of Defense, even temporarily, is significant and deserves to be taken seriously. It also deserves condemnation, not only because of the startling general context in which it’s taking place but also because of its specific details including the means through which it was announced, Twitter. Twitter should not be where American citizens have to hear and learn of such news, especially when news comes from elected officials like the President.

The purpose of General Mattis wanting to continue working as the Secretary of Defense until the end of February was to enable as smooth a transition as possible. The decision to in effect fire General Mattis is a cruel decision that comes right at the onset of a partial government shutdown which is the government version of a small town getting hit by a tornado at the same time as a tsunami comes crashing into it. The work done by General Mattis, not only as a Defense Secretary but also as a mature voice that could calm allies and commanded respect from adversarial foreign leaders. Mr. Shanahan does neither of those things and will need serious training and resume building to be able to do even 1/100th of the job General Mattis could do.

This is a tragic mistake that emboldens enemies of the United States because it truly plays into the hyper-emotional governing style of the President and removes one of the few people in the White-House who was truly qualified for their job and was capable of executing it in rational and cautious ways.

Relational Health As It Relates To Peace & Conflict Studies

An individual’s relational health is generally understood as their ability to make meaningful social connections and their ability to adapt to new circumstances and to new people entering their social space. A community’s relational health can refer to a range of things but is generally understood as how well a community can relationally/socially react to newcomers, neighbors, unexpected events, and other circumstances that require social interactions on a somewhat wide scale. This is in a sense an attempt to gain an understanding of how well people and communities socialize and how communicators and communication therapists can aid people and communities in improving their ability to communicate with other people and newcomers or neighbors in a more healthy way that creates and sustains social relationships.

What Does This Have To Do With Peace & Conflict Studies?

When people and communities enter into states of conflict or inch in that direction the ways that people communicate change. Relationships, even individual and intimate ones, can be negatively impacted when communities, families, or individuals enter a state of conflict. Having higher/better/stronger relational health helps to mitigate the negative impacts of conflict states on individual relationships which can make it easier for people to fully enter a transitive state wherein peace is on the table and is understood to be accessible/possible.

Peace communicators understand the importance of relational health even if we don’t always have or use the specific vocabulary I am using in this post. On some level we’re aware of the importance of ensuring that the people and communities we aid have the mental and social means and frameworks to react well and positively to peacebuilding processes and to rebuild or speed up the recovery of relationships that were negatively affected by the conflict state the community will transition out of once the transition begins.

By working to improve a community or an individual’s relational health we are also working to improve their ability to engage with people they disagree with in a more positive way and also giving them the means, knowledge, and attitudes that can help prevent a disagreement from becoming a serious conflict or a conflict from devolving further into actual violence or other negative states.

What Can People Do To Increase/Strengthen/Improve Their Own Relational Health?

There are a variety of things that can be done to make someone or a community improve their relational health. These things include researching other perspectives, volunteering with unfamiliar people/other communities, going to different places and interacting positively with the people and institutions you come across, interacting online with people from different spaces and with different perspectives, and intentionally & genuinely seeking to learn from people with different views than yours as well as different backgrounds.

As a peace communicator I want to help people gain an understanding and awareness of their own relational health and by doing that give them another tool with which they can understand their own reactions to negative situations which could become conflicts or worse if they react impulsively and not introspectively and carefully. It is my intention to show people ideas and concepts from various fields of study that can help them better grasp their own communication strengths, weaknesses, and ways to build upon those strengths and improve their own shortcomings.

Maybe We Should Stop Legitimizing Political Parties That Get Drug Money

So the government of the United States is saying what Hondurans have known for years. The brother of the president of Honduras is a drug trafficker. I know this is a hot-take, but maybe if the United States wants to combat drug trafficking in Honduras and Central America, the U.S. should condemn politicians who got drug money and even go after a political party that drug traffickers propped up for years and that is known to be infiltrated by drug money and by drug traffickers all the way to the families of the people who are picked to run for president.

Honduras’s ultra-conservative Nationalist Party has ruled the country for 8 years. There have been two presidents since then. Both presidents, Porfirio Lobo Sosa, and Juan Orlando Hernandez have close familial ties to drug traffickers. Former president Lobo’s son was arrested and is serving a 24 year sentence in the United States after being captured drug trafficking in Haiti and was conspiring to import cocaine into the United States. Current President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s brother was detained in Miami earlier this month on the same charges.

If we’re serious about fighting drug cartels in Central America we should stop legitimizing politicians they fund and support, and especially politicians who may or may not owe them money.

We shouldn’t legitimize their supposed electoral victories before anyone else and while international groups are calling for a second round election, and we shouldn’t meet with their leaders. We should be firm and demand reforms, call for justice and accountability, and stop helping them militarize their country by cutting off military aid to the country, which has been used as a way to train soldiers who oppress people, and to do so we could sign the Berta Caceres Act into law.

What Is A Minority/Marginalized Epistemology?

This post was inspired by a fascinating tweet I saw the other day and immediately retweeted. If you like the tweet, go follow Audrey Nissly on Twitter.

| ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄ ̄|
Supporting minorities
in academia also
requires supporting
minority epistemologies
|___________|
(\__/) ||
(•ㅅ•) ||
/   づ
— Audrey Nissly

I immediately retweeted this because it’s important. I wanted to take some time to explain my thoughts on minority/marginalized epistemologies because I think they are relevant and are oftentimes excluded from the dominant/mainstream body of knowledge.

What does it mean for something to be a minority or marginalized epistemology?

Bodies of knowledge and ways of thinking are affected by social structures, social weight, and popular beliefs and ideologies. To pretend otherwise, to insist that knowledge and ways of thinking are immune to the contexts of the societies they are present in or are being discussed by is bad because it’s not reflective of reality. We need to understand and accept that independent of whether or not a way of thinking or a form of reasoning is reflective of reality it is affected by how society perceives it and that even in academia there is a significant influence that popular beliefs have on how ways of thinking and even some knowledge itself is perceived.

If we recognize that it’s possible for a body of knowledge to be excluded from mainstream awareness we recognize that there are minority or marginalized epistemologies/epistemology.

Why does this matter?

This matters because different ways of thinking, and knowledge that runs contrary to the mainstream understanding of something, are important. As an atheist I am aware that my epistemological understanding of the universe and of theology are not mainstream even in many academic circles. I recognize that and take it into consideration whenever I write about things like theology and the universe from my own understanding. I am also a minority whenever I write about the histories of Latin America and of Latino/a/x folks in general. I am a realist and as such I know when my views and the bodies of knowledge that I draw from are part of a marginalized framework, and marginalized bodies of knowledge. And this marginalization doesn’t have to stem from a lack of popularity it can stem from plain inaccessibility, such as a bilingual person making use of resources that don’t exist in English.

Pretending that marginalized bodies of knowledge, marginalized mental frameworks, and uncommon knowledge are merely uncommon because they are untrue or unproven is not good and it’s not reflective of reality. I’ve seen both skeptics and non-skeptics do this such as by labeling things “woo” and it does people, ideas, and frameworks a disservice.

What is popular, what is accessible, and what is mainstream are not always the best approaches to things and they are rarely comprehensive. We need to be aware of how accessibility affects what is deemed knowledge and how what is deemed knowledge is what’s accessible to mainstream audiences, what is excluded on the basis of what is acceptable to existing social institutions, and how to reconcile the fact that not all knowledge is treated fairly.

Optics In Various Contexts: An Introduction.

Optics in a political or social context is generally understood as the ways in which events or actions are or will be perceived by the public or otherwise by parties that will be made aware of them. Professionals whose work heavily involve optics are communicators, marketers, and public relations specialists as well as political pundits, political activists, and various other careers to differing extents. Optics is critically important in communication, justice, and peace development but it’s also understated which is kind of sad.

Why Do Optics Matter?

Optics matter for different reasons in different contexts. In politics understanding optics helps politicians and political activists gain a sort of foresight into how the public will react to a certain course of action or to events that are occurring and will be made public. This is excellent for tailoring messaging and creating strategies that resonate with targeted audiences.

In the context of justice understanding optics helps attorneys and prosecutors on one side or another create a more compelling narrative which can be a critical step in persuading a jury, judge, or clients to make a decision that benefits them. This is something that is so understood there are numerous articles talking about lawyers understanding narratives and optics as well as classes that some lawyers take that help them create compelling narratives. There are even books that indirectly touch upon this by and expand upon it by reminding lawyers that there is more than one courtroom and that not all courtrooms are chambers of a judge or barrister.

In peace development optics is of critical importance. A peace maker, peace builder, or peace keeper has to understand or be capable of learning to understand optics to gain an effective understanding of a developing conflict or a different but equally important understanding of a conflict that is being transformed but is still fragile and could revert to an earlier more violent stage. By understanding how parties in a conflict perceive the conflict in question a peace maker can help parties involved in mediation and arbitration come to a shared understanding of a conflict if that hasn’t already happened and there will be times in a peace maker’s life and career when that is the case. A peace builder who understands optics can more effectively create the conditions necessary for a conflict to cool off to the point where peace making/conflict transformation is possible. A peace keeper who understands optics can see when a situation and/or a disagreement has the potential to explode into a conflict and can react appropriately to prevent that from happening or at least mitigate the impact of the conflict to a manageable level.

There are of course clear intersections of each of these separate contexts and in life many of us will act as parties in these contexts separately and more than a few of us will blur these contexts in our careers and have to come up with unique and innovate understandings of optics and our duties as participants in a justice-achieving process, a political process, and a conflict management or transformation context.

For Future Reference:

This is intended to be an introductory post. From time to time the plan is to write about optics in additional contexts and to explore the optics of real life situations as well as how these real-life situations were reacted to by relevant parties such as folks responsible for them and folks in power who are responding to them such as political figures who issue statements following a series of events that rock a community. Lots of things intersect with optics and exploring that reality as well as how optics are used by those in power is neat and interesting to me as a peace professional and conflict worker.

An Introduction To What Being A Mediator Doesn't Mean:

Mediation in conflict contexts is difficult. It involves bringing together opposing parties and creating conditions that enable them to have meaningful dialogue. It involves managing two or more representatives of groups that for whatever reason(s) are currently opposed to each other. It involves walking a delicate tightrope where a single mistake by anyone including the mediator can not only lead to a cessation of dialogue but sometimes actually add fuel to the fire of conflict for one or more parties/sides of the conflict in question. That’s why it’s critical that people understand what mediation and being a mediator doesn’t mean before they try to mediate real conflicts of any scale whether it’s a familial conflict, a conflict between communities, or any other setting wherein a conflict is taking place.

Being a mediator doesn’t mean being a pushover:

If you’re a mediator you’re involved in a conversation between two opposing people or groups and oftentimes it’s because you’re fierce. Fierceness takes on a range of forms but no one who actually wants a successful mediation will be happy if the mediator in the conversation lets those involved in the conversation do whatever they want especially because there are people and groups who might take advantage of a mediation setting to ignite a more fierce conflict if they are not taken to task by both the other party or parties and the mediator(s). It takes a certain kind of fierceness to successfully create the sort of conditions needed for opposing parties especially emotionally invested and driven opposing parties to listen to each other. You have to know when, where, and how to stand your ground and demand that the parties treat each other and the mediation with a certain level of respect that is needed to push closer to peace or closer to less intense conflict.

Being a mediator doesn’t mean you’re uninvolved:

Being involved in a peace process requires and includes involvement in a conflict. If you’re a mediator you are involved in the conflict. This doesn’t mean you’re taking a side or forcing your own opinion on the parties in conflict, but if you’re a mediator you can’t pretend to be uninvolved.

Destigmatizing Conflict

If I, as a conflict worker, call myself a conflict worker without any real context to what I do or what I want to do I run the risk of playing into a certain negative conception of conflict. I run the risk of playing into the idea that conflict is a problem wherein solutions are needed and oftentimes this isn’t the case. It’s worth taking time to explore negative conceptions of conflict and begin a long conversation that will help people destigmatize conflict.

Negative perceptions of conflict:

Conflict is generally understood to be more severe than a simple disagreement, and can be understood as a disagreement that leads to a deterioration of a relationship or relationships. This is also a fairly common understanding of conflict. To many English speakers even the word itself carries negative undertones and leads people to think of strained relationships, violence, and ambient hostility among other things. This is an understandable conception of conflict and if people hear of conflicts this is a reasonable understanding of conflict that they can operate from but it’s not the only perception of conflict worth understanding.

Positive perceptions of conflict:

If someone wants a positive perception of conflict they can think of conflict for what it brings to the surface: conversation and action. When people are in conflict they are having valuable conversations both with each other and with others. Another thing conflict brings to the surface is change. When people are in conflict they are generally in agreement that some problem exists even if they disagree about what the problem is. This problem requires some form of intervention or other action to be addressed. Where they differ such as what the problem is or what the best response to that problem could be is where conversations between them can occur.

Why should conflict be destigmatized?

Conflicts are generally perceived for what is lost when different parties are in conflict and the emotions that conflict evoke. That perception and that base cause people to naturally pathologize conflict. This is unfair.

In a variety of contexts including business there is an understanding that conflicts can have positive consequences provided conflicts are not avoided and are properly responded too. Business leaders and psychologists have noted that there are a range of positive aspects of conflicts that people who avoid conflicts miss out on. or have less access too Conflicts are also natural parts of being social animals and come with living with others. What matters more than avoiding conflicts or pretending that conflicts are inherently dangerous is developing a healthy and responsive framework which enables positive and safe responses to conflict.

By destigmatizing conflict we can have a healthier society where we understand that conflicts are not negative but rather provide us with opportunities to learn, opportunities to persuade people to our point of view, and opportunities to better society. But this of course requires action and conversation, dynamic action and sustained conversation. We have to be brave enough to disagree with each other and empathetic enough to try and understand other points of view. This is difficult but at least in my opinion worth doing.

A Vital Task Communicators And Mediators Have In Common

We’ve all seen a common tactic people employ when they’re angry at a specific group. At some point one of the groups involved in an intragroup conflict will make a false statement. This happens all the time in intragroup fights and disagreements. And what’s next is an event most people have seen: someone in the other group will accuse the group who made the false statement of lying. It’s a natural reaction and happens all the time. It’s also very often not accurate.

A lie is not a descriptor that applies to all untrue statements. An untrue statement can be made without it being a lie. A lie requires intention, specifically intention to deceive. If I go up to you and make a statement that is untrue that by itself doesn’t mean I’m lying to you. I could have made a statement that is not reflective of reality but sincerely believed it to be true, and that’s not a lie. In order to prove a lie it is necessary for someone to not only prove a statement to be untrue but also that someone demonstrate there was an intention to deceive. This is a high burden of proof and that matters. Not all, and possibly not even most untrue statements that people make are lies.

Mediators and communicators have a shared task:

If you’re involved in a conflict between two or more people and you’re taking it upon yourself to be a positive participant and conflict transformer you’re an informal mediator. As such when rhetoric escalates you have a certain level of responsibility and a specific responsibility: to keep the dialogue open and civil. Part of that means knowing when to call out conflict actors for acting in bad faith and oftentimes accusations that people are lying are folks acting in bad faith.

This is a task many communicators also have. This is a simple but continuous task that challenges pretty much everyone who has it. It’s a consistent task that will need to be repeated over and over in conflict settings and discourse as well as in messaging and in even friendly dialogue between competitors and folks who share resources, objectives, and relationships of various types.

How have you approached this task? What have you done to call out rash and frustrated accusations of lies that lack evidence? How would you approach this if you were a mediator or communicator who was tasked with keeping dialogue and conversations civil?

Compassion Isn't An Idle Thing

It’s critically important that people be humanistic and compassionate all the time. There are times when it’s easy to be humanistic and compassionate, and there are times when it’s less easy. I and many other compassionate people whether or not they are humanists themselves understand the importance of consistent and vocalized compassion.

This can manifest in different ways. Sometimes it’s when tragedies happen thousands of miles away. Sometimes it’s when something bad happens to someone we don’t like. Those are the times when our compassion and our humanism can go the extra mile, and in a lot of cases it’s the times when it’s hardest for us to be compassionate and humanistic.

It’s easy to not care about tragedies that don’t affect us. It’s easy to not care about tragedies that hurt people we don’t like. That being said, it’s of critical importance that if we’re determined to leave the world a better place we ourselves are active and consistent in practicing humanistic compassion even when we aren’t affected by a tragedy or a tragedy befalls someone we hate. Compassion is hard and for a lot of people having compassion requires work.

A public example of what happens when people aren’t compassionate are the sorts of reactions the Migrant Caravan gets from a lot of people who prefer law and order over hope and mercy. These are the sorts of people who claim to feel sorry for migrants but say without any understanding that people in the caravan should “go home” and “come back legally”. In addition to not having compassion these people also often lack an understanding of what is actually happening. Because as many have noted the caravan is operating properly. Here a lack of compassion causes apathy and ignorance.

Having compassion is not an idle thing. Having compassion is an active task that brings with it lots of work and research. People who have serious compassion do not sit around idly wishing for things to get better, instead they conduct research and work to learn how to make things better and how to help people. For me compassion is humanistic because compassion motivates action. When I say that I’m being compassionate I’m not just “understanding” or “sympathizing” with someone, instead I’m using the emotions that come with the compassion I experience to push myself to gain a better understanding of others experiences so I can figure out how to be a positive ally or a positive force in whatever struggles others are experiencing.

It’s easy to feel like compassion is idle and doesn’t bring with it any other actions but my understanding of compassion is action oriented. What is your understanding of compassion? Does compassion drive you to action? Does it carry with it weight and a desire to make things better?