Lend an Ear

What I should have emphasized through the course of my previous blog posts is that picking and choosing who or what to advocate for is an insincere form of advocacy. If we advocate for one individual or group in the face of a cruel and repressive world system, then we must advocate for all individuals and groups. But as they say, it is better late than never.

In any case, picking and choosing who or what to advocate for and being selective about one’s advocacy is exactly what takes place in the mainstream, even though there are alternative viewpoints and voices to be heard from around the world. There is a meta-narrative or viewpoint which conforms to an idea of American “exceptionalism” that is put forth in the mainstream. But we never hear the alternatives, reactions, and rebuttals to such a meta-narrative or viewpoint from within the mainstream.

Thus, despite being in an information age where information is available from virtually all over the world, some people have become even more entrenched in their bubbles and ‘echo chambers’ than they were before the emergence of the information age which has brought a wide range of viewpoints and voices to the fore. But shielding oneself from alternative voices and viewpoints by putting ourselves in a bubble or ‘echo chamber’ is perhaps an untenable position in the long run.

People from all over the world – including myself – will go above and beyond to make their voices and viewpoints heard in an age of global connectivity and voluminous information, and perhaps these voices and viewpoints which are alternatives and reactions to mainstream voices and viewpoints will seep through the bubbles and the ‘echo chambers’ that people have created for themselves. Also, the mainstream accuses certain groups from the right wing of the political spectrum of creating bubbles and echo chambers. But the mainstream is guilty of exactly the same thing.

In my view, everyone has a right to be heard. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has something to say, regardless of whether they are White, Jewish, Arab, Iranian, Indian, Chinese, Russian, or anything else. The point is to be receptive to what everyone has to say, rather than being selective about what to hear as well as picking and choosing what to be receptive towards. But picking and choosing what to be receptive towards, and being selective about what to hear is exactly what the American mainstream does.

Even though I am an American, I want to hear what the Russian leader, Iranian leader, North Korean leader, and Chinese leader have to say about American behavior and America’s interactions with the rest of the world. As Americans, we view ourselves as exceptional people and the “chosen ones.” But to others, Americans may seem like isolated and anti-social creatures who do not know how to practice international mores and norms.

Thus, part of being a holistic human being is to put oneself in another person’s shoes and to understand what the other person feels. In turn, putting oneself in another person’s shoes and understanding what another person feels is interconnected with knowing what the other person has to say. Empathy and putting yourself in the place and in the shoes of others by listening to what another person has to say was one of the first lessons I learned from Robert Pastor, who served as a deputy to Zbigniew Brzezinski in the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) and was one of my professors at American University’s School of International Service (SIS).

But over the course of the last two decades, the mainstream in America have become less receptive to others by virtue of cancelling and barring alternative sources of news from cable and satellite providers in the United States, among other things. Thus, the onus is on the American mainstream to initiate openness and reform so that others can follow suit.

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