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Book Discussion

Posted on: January 11th, 2018 by BWNWAdmin No Comments

I’m Right and You’re an Idiot by James Hoggan with Grania Litwin

I’m Right and You’re an Idiot is the perfect book to read before having an argument — not because it supports that mindset, but because it teaches the opposite. James Hoggan, with Grania Litwin, patiently walks through what is wrong with the way most of us approach discussions with people who disagree with us, and into more productive ways of arriving at solutions to the complex problems facing our world.

The book’s dedication says a lot: “With gratitude and admiration for those who struggle to turn combative shoving matches into healthy public discourse, and as a tribute to the public intellectuals who light their way.” Hoggan divides his material into five sections, informed by interviews with world leaders in numerous disciplines. In Part I: The Polluted Public Square, he reminds us that “smashing heads doesn’t open minds,” that we need to find common ground, and beware self-righteousness.

From there, the reader is led through the reasons that our values trump policy and facts,even though we need both to succeed. Hoggan shows how corporate power and propaganda weaken democracy. He explains why we often become overwhelmed and look for simple solutions, but then he teaches us ways to offer hope.

Part II: Speak the Truth, But Not to Punish, emphasizes the critical need to balance power and love, and to focus on generating possibilities. Including the voices of youth is a way to remain focused on what matters to all of us, and we each need to be aware of nurturing conversation, rather than making a sales pitch.

One of the most uplifting messages of this book for me was the reminder to use stories to show what we care about, to return to a slower way at arriving at possibilities through simple respect and warm-heartedness. The pressing problems facing us will not go away if we yell at them or at each other. They might, though, if we learn to point our faces in the same direction and lean into the future together.

Rebecca Wolle

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