Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Perhaps the most alarming feature of contemporary social, cultural and religious debate – in a world marked by the reduction of politics towards competing certainties – is that it continually confounds our attempts to construct, or believe in, the possibility of workable consensus. Maybe the problem, however is that we are conceiving of consensus as the displacement of conflict rather than its refiguration. Danah Zohar, in The Quantum Society (1994) offers as alternative account:

Inside me, inside each of us, there is an infinite range of potential selves waiting to be evoked through relationship to others. The other is my opportunity, my necessity for growth. The otherness of the other, his or her difference, is a possibility sleeping within myself. I need the Muslim to be a Muslim the Christian to be a Christian, the Jew to be a Jew (1) . I need to be me, to hold to my values, and I need you to hold to yours… [A]greeing to disagree is something very fundamental indeed. That is the agreement upon which we can build our pluralistic consensus.” (1) And equally needs humanists to be humanists, and so on.

Or, to put it another way, it is the basis upon which we can construct a usefully difficult politics based on honest contention rather than war or terror. But it still requires a prior agreement that human beings are valuable above and beyond any ideology which demands them to be a disposable asset – something which can be affirmed through a wide range of traditions, and which therefore has to be argued persuasively and loudly by those who otherwise disagree.

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