The Dialogue Manifesto
Pinaki Ganguly

If you have come this far to know what it is, then there is a purpose! If the ‘ordinary’ chokes you, then you are what we are. Being one of us in this universe, together we are here to create what none has done before. With a shared sense of purpose and accommodating diverse positions, we do hereby engage to ‘think together’ and explore together in shared enquiry, and that is when we are together in dialogue.

The world around us is getting polarised at an unprecedented pace because people are increasingly feeling insecure. There is identity crisis, competition, and a black hole that is trying to suck in all that is coming in its vicinity. This vulnerability among the common people, even the most educated ones, is the perfect fodder to be exploited by different interest groups in the name of religion, caste, political ideology and so on. We have thus become idols of salt – we melt at the feet who waters us.

If one looks deep into why we are in such a state, we will understand that the root cause of some, if not all, lies in the way our education system works. Education, unlike now, was never a state-run activity; it was all participatory and community based. The current education system is only 300 years old, born as a child of the industrial revolution from the 1800s. The factories needed workers to run the engines of growth, and hence a system of curriculum-based education was designed for the peasants to be made fit for the factories. So, workers had to learn the same subjects and spend the same amount of time every year and go through annual tests (primarily memory tests), all to find out who is more suitable for being the new-age slave. Workers are the soldiers in the army of their industrial masters.

Over the last 300 years there has been a systematic effort to numb individual creativity by our education system, all funded by big business groups around the world. The way it was achieved was by means of two things – printed words and monologue. Words once written or printed give a sense of finiteness; the person reading them has to train the mind to follow the words or information printed. So finiteness and following are the two outcomes of print. Once printed words lose the power of conversation, it becomes a one-way monologue, and learning from print is trusting one source of truth. The moment a teacher is teaching from a book, he or she becomes the decoder or interpreter of the information printed in the book. The teacher essentially loses the quality of a ‘Guru’ at that point, since the meaning of the word Guru is not limited to being an expert, but one who presents old ideas or knowledge in a new form or context. Before the advent of the colonial system in India there was a Gurukul system for thousands of years. Ancient Greece had the famous gymnasium where we find all the great minds engaged in dialogue. The Indian philosophical treaties like the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita, are essentially dialogues.

School-based or teacher-based education is a one-to-many relationship; it is top-down, with meanings left to the interpretation of the person teaching. Essentially it is non-participatory. Rather it focuses on memorization, which does not add to the intellect. Socrates was witness to the change when writing was getting introduced to the world at a mass scale. His opinion was – writing, will lead to a loss of memory, it is easy to give an impression of being clever by copying others speech. Writing therefore encourages people a be superficial and does not support learning to reason in dialogue with others which is true source of intelligence.

Using written or printed words to communicate ideas is monologic, whereby there is a tendency to fix meanings, outcomes and interpretations into one goalpost. Being monologic assumes that there is one correct version of truth, and that is reality, and only one correct way of thinking. That correct version of reality is represented in the books that are selected as the core curriculum, and schools transmit these representations into the minds of the students. The idea that there is one correct version of truth invariably results in conflict and soon becomes ‘I am the only right, and my world view is only true’.

 

Essential nature of dialogue

All great civilizations of the ancient world recognized the importance of dialogue as bridges between mind and matter. The word ‘dialogue’ owes its origin to the Greek word ‘dialogos’. It is made of two words – ‘dia’ meaning ‘through, between the two’, and ‘logos’ meaning ‘word’. In essence, ‘logos’ stands for ‘logo’ or ‘symbol’. Sound vibrations are the most primary symbols created in nature.

 

Dialogue is a stream of meaning where we become an integral part. In dialogue, one does not try to defend their original assumptions and point of view; one is open to adjustments and changes based on the common understanding of a meaning of the topic in dialogue. Questions should be open-ended, and the answers not final. In this creative tension the group gains a whole new meaning, often different from each starting point. Unlike debates, in dialogue there are no winners or losers. One can agree, disagree or stay neutral in a dialogue, and his positions and reactions will change in the course of true dialogue. In a dialogue everyone respects the other person and his or her ideas, and no dialogue can proceed in an atmosphere of hate and distrust. Dialogue is more of active listening (or reading) than responding.

 

The purpose of dialogue is not to convince someone but to share information and facts from different sources, which helps to understand the background better. The meaning emerges independently as the group starts interacting. The individual mind is in coherence with the collective mind, like leaves on the same branch, each drawing sunlight from that infinite consciousness.

 

Through this manifesto we hereby commit to the following seven cardinal principles

  1. We give to ourselves the right to reject anything that claims to be the only truth, itself the only reality.
  2. We will give ourselves a world where the laws of nature are followed, differing ideas and ideologies co-exist (properly filtered through the fine mesh of dialogic reasoning), and dogmatic monologues are rejected.
  3. We will create an environment for each other as we would like to have for ourselves – an environment free of fear, with free expression of the mind and identifying and rejecting funded propaganda.
  4. We shall put our ideas and dogmas to open dialogue and prepare to change our viewpoints if thus arises in the course of dialogue, and thereby increase the level of our consciousness.
  5. We shall participate in shared enquiry, learning from each other and not trying to disprove others’ views. We shall endeavour to build a harmonious society by thinking and solving issues together and engaging in dialogue.
  6. We shall fundamentally change how the current system of learning and knowledge works by moving from a monologic to a dialogic interaction and strive to give space to the creative mind in us that has been systematically under attack.
  7. And finally, we will espouse the idea even if it will appear at first to be impractical or unachievable – that something is good for me only if it is good for everyone.

Dialogically Yours,

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