Lack of dialogue hurts us all

Published 9:12 pm Tuesday, November 29, 2016

By Joseph L. Bass

One of the most harmful American conditions today is the lack of dialogue.

The term “dialogue” originated in ancient Greece. It refers to two people exchanging differing views and discussing important issues without the involvement of a third person. It was, and still can be, an important approach for seeking truths through an intellectual exchange between two people.

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Because of the lack of public dialogues, we have many nagging social issues that have existed for decades, and some of them are getting worse. The American people should demand public dialogues so that we can develop meaningful solutions to these challenges.

Today isolated groups refuse to come together for meaningful, public dialogues. This results in the political and intellectual polarization we experience. Polarized groups communicate only among themselves, reinforcing limited concepts that cannot stand up to careful examination.

Often each side’s position holds some truths, but each side’s position also holds serious falsehoods. Without public dialogues, there are no opportunities for the falsehoods to be discarded and no opportunities for the truths to be melded together into effective approaches to successfully address nagging social challenges.

Refusing to participate in dialogues is a form of intellectual fraud inflected upon the American people. The closest we come to having dialogues always involves a moderator, a third person that asks loaded questions supporting one or the other side. The result is two people not being able to have a meaningful dialogue because of the biased interference from the third person.

Another related problem is that even when people participate in a rare dialogue, those involved retreat to their “group think” colleagues, continuing to reject the truths that were revealed. They can do this without being called out by the press or the American people, and no value is achieved from what could have been a meaningful exercise.

As a columnist and public speaker, my role involves pointing out truths that others seek to ignore. But all of this is a limited one-sided exercise. For years, I have attempted to engage people of differing views to engage in public dialogues that could be conducted in community halls, churches and the like, but it has been a rarity for someone to accept.

If we are serious about successfully overcoming the long-term nagging social challenges we experience, the American people are going to have to demand dialogues, paying attention to them and the truths revealed.

Otherwise, our social problems are going to continue to get worse.

Joseph L. Bass is the executive director of ABetterSociety.Info Inc., a nonprofit organization in Hobson. Email him at