Harmony & Conflict, Experience & Knowledge

We're continuing our discussion of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. Previously in this series we discussed Apathy & Compliance, Dignity & Participation.

"…Madison Avenue public relations, middle-class moral hygiene, which has made of conflict or controversy something negative and undesirable. This has all been part of an Advertising Culture that emphasizes getting along with people and avoiding friction. If you look at our television commercials you get the picture that American society is largely devoted to ensuring that no odors come from our mouths or armpits. Consensus is a keynote—one must not offend one's fellow human; and so today we find that people in the mass media are fired for expressing their opinions or being "controversial"; in the churches they are fired for the same reason but the words used there are "lacking in prudence"; and on university campuses, faculty members are fired for the same reason, but the words used there are "personality difficulties."

"Conflict is the essential core of a free and open society. If one were to project the democratic way of life in the form of a musical score, its major theme would be the harmony of dissonance." -Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals p.63

What does 'harmony' mean?
What are the most common contexts in which you hear the word 'harmony' used?
What do you feel when you hear the word harmony? What's your first association with this word?
Chinese culture is historically about harmony. Can we talk more about this?
Why is harmony valued? What about harmony makes it an intrinsic good?

What does 'conflict' mean?
What are the most common situations where you hear the word 'conflict' used?
What do you feel when you hear the word 'conflict'. What's your first association with the word?
How is conflict viewed in Tawanese/Chinese culture? Is it intrinsically bad? Is it seen to have any value at all?

What is the history of discourse in Taiwan/China? How, historically, are ideas disseminated, who is the guardian of knowledge? How were certain ideas proven to be true; what was the social mechanism for the acceptance of knowledge?


"The first thing you have to know is yourself. A human who knows himself can step outside himself and watch her own reactions like an observer." -Adam Smith, quoted in Rules for Radicals p.p81

"Most people do not accumulate a body of experience. Most people go through life undergoing a series of happenings, which pass through their systems undigested. Happenings become experiences when they are digested, when they are reflected on, related to general patterns, and synthesized.
There is meaning to that cliche, "We learn from experience." Our job was to shovel those happenings back into the student's system so they could digest them into experience. During a seminar I would say, "Life is the expectation of the unexpected—the things you worry about rarely happen. Something new, the unexpected, will usually come in from outside the ball park. You're all nodding as if you understand but you really don't. What I've said are just words to you. I want you to go to your private cubbyholes and think for the next four hours. Try to remember all the things you worried about during the last years and whether they ever happened or what did happen—and then we'll talk about it."
At the next session the student reactions were excited, "Hey, you're right. Only one out of the eight big worries I've had ever happened—and even that one was different from the way I worried about it. I understand what you mean." And they did." -Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals p. 69

Let's do the thought experiment Alinsky describes in the paragraph. What were some of the things you worried about in previous years? And which of these worries have come to pass?

What does this have to do with experience?

Saul Alinsky says, "Happenings become experiences when they are digested, when they are reflected on, related to general patterns, and synthesized." Do you agree?

How does one digest experiences? What are the most common methods that you know of?

What is complaining? What is gossip? These can be means by which groups process an experience.

Is there a difference between experience and knowledge? On a personal level? On a group level?
What is the relationship between experience and knowledge?
How does experience contribute to knowledge?

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