When I had just started as a moderator, Tanzeel asked me to write an introduction message to the community. I have been thinking long time about what I should say then. Now I decided to write about the art of intercultural dialogues. I am reading the book “My place is no place, meetings between worldviews” (http://www.ktu.nl/berichten/boek/181 , but it’s in Dutch). The book contains an essay about intercultural dialogues.
This is what we are doing all the time in International Relations: we are having intercultural dialogues.
In the book the writer (Heinz Kimmerle) mentions 4 necessary conditions to have a real intercultural dialogue:
- The debating partners should treat each other completely on a basis of equality.
- There are both similarities and differences in their points of view (because if there are no differences it is not intercultural but monocultural and if there are totally no similarities, no overlap, it will be very hard to understand each other).
- The debating partners are open-minded, they are open for the idea that their own views might be wrong or should be changed.
- The debating partners think that they others have something interesting to say to them, that they can learn from each other, that the others say things to them which they could never have thought of all by themselves.
Kimmerle argues that the aim of an intercultural dialogue is not necessarily to reach an agreement between the different partners. Different cultures can be compared with each other, people from different cultures can talk with each other and understand each other. But at the same time the differences between cultures can be “radical” in the literal sense of the word (radix means roots in Latin, so it means fundamental). The aim of an intercultural dialogue is not that differences disappear completely. The aim is that the participants widen their horizon by listening to other points of view. The dialogues can lead to other positions than the original positions from each of the debating partners. A real intercultural dialogue is based on patience, attention, empathy, respect and open-mindedness towards the other, that leads to a constructive dialogue. You try to put your own views, judgements and prejudices aside for a while and to really listen to what the other says. Then you explain precisely how you look at the world yourself, and that you start to exchange views about that, backed up with resources and good arguments.
Maybe we could try a bit more, all together, to have real intercultural dialogues here instead of “mud slinging and bashing parties”? ;-)