Sunday, January 27, 2013

Remapping Debate


George Lakoff, the linguist has made popular the idea of the importance of framing issues to steer discussions and therefore society's considerations in a way conducive to your intention. He claims that conservatives were winning many skirmishes in recent years because they understood this earlier than liberals. He shows how words hold power in our psyche - a favorite example is "entitlements", a word we hear all the time referring to Social Security, Medicare, etc. It's used to conjure up an image of someone living off the dole, as if they didn't contribute to the funds they are now drawing on. We don't use entitlements  in referring to the highways we drive on, or to the safety checks on the airplanes we fly on, even though we clearly benefit from them and our tax dollars support them just as they do Medicare and Social Security. Hmmmm.

Lakoff is right. Words do matter and how we use them does frame to some extent the conversation that follows. But the folks at Remapping Debate: Asking Why and Why Not,  are asking perhaps an equally important question - why aren't alternative ideas considered in the media and why aren't all ideas given the "why" or "why not" test? I stumbled on the existence of this site from the economist Molly Scott Cato's blog.

A recent article  at Remapping Debate on the discussion regarding the so-called 'fiscal cliff' brouhaha entitled "What Can You Buy With $3.5 Trillion?" gives a picture of just how this works. They use Congressional Budget Office studies to highlight what was not debated in the media and pundits' coverage of the debate - i.e., what would happen if we rolled back all of the Bush tax cuts to the Clinton years? The numbers are likely surprising, yet where was such a possibility given serious consideration.

Sure you find some of the more progressive economic policy thinkers (e.g. Robert Reich, William Greider, etc.)  suggesting alternatives, but major media outlets and the halls of Congress are void of serious consideration of alternative ideas. We need more than just remapping the debate, but it's a good place to start.

I have also enjoyed a perusal of a number of web sites emerging out of a rapid growth of citizen participation in policy deliberations. These are mentioned early from a  current read,  "Democracy in Motion: Evaluating the Practice and Impact of Deliberative Citizen Engagement" by Oxford University Press" I picked up recently. Great sites include the Deliberative Democracy Consortium ,

Everyday Democracy , and one site I have mentioned before to Mindfulness readers, the

NCDD Logo National Council on Dialogue and Deliberation. It is inspiring to see so many people in communities around the planet who are not waiting for others to create stronger democracies. They are doing it in places big and small, near and far. Visit these sites to get a hint at the mushrooming interest in developing a more engaged and enlightened citizenry - the necessary basis for a thriving democracy. Ooops, here's one more Participedia


Perhaps the 21st Century will signal a real birth of a deeper local/global democracy. These vibrant sites suggest a real possibility. Are you ready to participate in building stronger local democracy. Take a peek and get inspired. Democracy is not a spectator sport.