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How to Cherish Your Provocateurs

with 2 comments

Who has the power to rile you?

If you were an all-powerful despot, you might rid yourself of those who disagree. That’s the path of the Stalins, Hitlers and Kim Jong [Whatevers] of the world:

But the rest of us don’t have that power. And that is a good thing. Because it turns out we need these people around us who disagree and who see things differently. That’s because no one of us sees things entirely clearly. We need each other to piece together the big picture.

In my country, the United States, we are fond of cocooning with other like-minded members of our tribe. So we listen only to people who agree with us. We develop and watch television and listen to radio that reinforces what we think. We read only the diatribes that we might have written. In our age of cozy groupthink communities, we are quick to hit the panic button for any word that is off ideology, and quick to dissociate with those with a whiff of aberration.

Perhaps other countries have the same problem.

But what if we’ve got it all wrong? What if these different people, these provocateurs actually were providing us with a new, even more true way of looking at the world? What if these people were a kind of gift to us? And what if starting to see from their perspective was more akin to finding a $20 bill in the street?

Big groups of foreigners routinely make their way to Minneapolis and St. Paul. They are very odd, they speak in strange tongues, where strange dress. Have odd habits.

Until they don’t and aren’t.

Until they are us.

Walk back through the public rolls far enough and you’ll find your grandparents were these foreigners. Swedes, Norwegians, Italians, Finns, Hmong, Somalian. I suspect you’d even find a few people from Iowa. If the housing stock in South Minneapolis could talk, it would speak all these languages and many, many more.

The point: rather than fear the stranger, can we ask what there is to learn from this other way of looking at the world?



Written by kirkistan

March 13, 2014 at 9:48 am

2 Responses

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  1. I think you’re correct, but I’d still like to have an “off my island” button too. Mostly for people I do know and work with… I’ll try your way of looking at them like finding a $20 bill 🙂


    March 13, 2014 at 10:18 am

    • I’m with you: I’d like an “off my island” button too. But I was reflecting on some of the people who I’ve found annoying over the years and how they sometimes said really valuable stuff. And yet they remained annoying. Thanks for reading


      March 13, 2014 at 10:34 am

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