Our March series on "Democracy Conversations" here in Seattle is focusing on George Lakoff's new book Thinking Points. Each week we get together to discuss two chapters -- we call it a "slow reading" group! Last night we also listened to a riveting podcast, an interview between blogging legend Dave Winer and Lakoff. For anyone seeking to understand exactly how Lakoff's philosophy of framing applies to real-life scenarios, the podcast, put together the day after the Texas-Ohio primaries, really nails it. It's one of the few podcasts I can think of where listening two or three times is worth it. Lakoff's concepts make so much sense that at first you think, "Oh yeah, I get that." But then, as you mull over his words, you find yourself understanding his subtlety and depth in new and exciting ways. Dave is a skillful interviewer, having a sixth sense about prompting Lakoff to explain more, or introduce a related topic that will give meaning to Lakoff's theories. (Dave has posted a full rundown on the podcast and response.)
Here's an example: It was interesting, reading Hillary-lover Paul Krugman's analysis this morning, where Krugman said Dems should focus on the economy instead of the war. Lakoff brilliantly notes in the podcast that Dems should be using the term "the Iraq recession." Two birds, one stone, and a memorable "sound bite" as well.
In his book, Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision, Lakoff says that we need to articulate our progressive vision in "grassroots groups all over America. Not just for the next election but indefinitely-- election or no election."
And that's what we're doing in our Democracy Conversations group here in Seattle. As part of our effort to build community and civic engagement in our neighborhood Phinney Ecovillage, we're coming together each Thursday night in the local library trying to learn from Lakoff how we can talk about the issues confronting us. Progressives need to take back the discussion about security, the economy, and patriotism and link these to a vision of America that says "we're all in this together" that the "important American values are empathy and responsibility," as Lakoff says.
Saint-Exupery, the author of Little Prince, said that "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."
We have to inspire in people a vision of a country committed to the common good.
And we need to learn to do it in our face to face conversations as we go through our day. Our assignment in our group: Talk to at least two people a day about these issues! As John Dewey said, "Democracy is born in conversation."