Bare Bones Biology 254 – But my Friends Won’t Like Me

The most common question people ask me as an activist is: “what should we do?” So, of course, I’ve been thinking about that question for about 15 years, and I have an answer, and I tell them. So what happens? Nothing. If they don’t like my answer they just ask again next time. Perhaps that means they’re asking the wrong question. Maybe it was not a question in the first place, just a way to manipulate someone who is genuinely seeking answers. But I answered the question anyhow. The answer is:

Ask good questions and answer the questions other people ask you. What would happen then? A discussion. Until we can find a way to begin a factual discussion of the dilemma we humans are now facing on earth – until we can discuss the reality – there will be no viable answers.

It’s not me preventing the discussion, and we all are doing a lot of jawing, but mostly I hear bad excuses for not discussing the factual reality. One of which is asking me how to solve all the problems and then not listening to the answer. I do not hear good questions, or very rarely, and almost never do I hear anyone answering good questions. What happens is – well you know what happens. It’s all over facebook and every conversation.

We have a vast number of ways to avoid the useful discussion. Why? Probably because we are afraid that our friends and colleagues won’t like us. Not really a good excuse to avoid doing the one thing that is most likely to bring about good solutions. To evaluate information rather than evaluating people to get what we want personally.

And the way to do that is just forget about our preferences about how questions should be asked – within the bounds of human decency — and ignore the little angst that seems in our culture to come in response to every question – and consider the question itself.
If we can’t do that, then we either: 1) are allowing ourselves to be manipulated by questions ; or 2) are afraid of questions.

140920-ClimateMarc-ASC_1731RLRLSsThe next question is — why are we afraid of questions? That fear in our culture is a knee-jerk reaction that is very deep, and I think it is what prevents us from solving our problems with discussion, even though we all know if we don’t at least try the discussion method of solving our problems, then the next step is abuse, hatred, war and discrimination on the basis of whatever is handy, all those dark deeds we blame on someone else.

My personal opinion is that our fear of questions may be the “down side” of “nonviolence” upbringing. We are taught that violence, hatred, war and the like are wrong, but telling people they are wrong does not make our feelings go away. Claiming the glass is half full does not make it any less empty. Refusing to talk about what is and what isn’t doesn’t change what is and what isn’t. The people don’t get less violent, they just hide it better by becoming more manipulative, and then we have to try to figure out what they mean by everything they say (which I personally cannot do). And there you are — one upped and one down. So we become afraid of questions.

Or in abusive families children may be shouted at: “Why did you do that?” which is not a question, but we nevertheless become afraid of questions. I also think this is why the deniers and the controllers are so successful that we will probably crash ourselves into oblivion. All because we are afraid to ask and answer good questions.

In fact, really good questions are almost always clumsy because we don’t quite know what we are trying to understand, and we really want to figure it out. In a professional situation clumsy questions can cause harm (have caused me harm), which I suppose is another reason we are afraid of questions. In this culture, asking good questions will almost always be misunderstood.

So then the question is: Which is more important? Always being right? Or always being understood? Or always understanding everything perfectly? Or finding good solutions to important problems?

This is Bare Bones Biology, a production of and KEOS radio, 89.1 in Bryan, TX.

A copy of the podcast can be downloaded here:


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