Sunday, October 20, 2013 ~
“[R]eading novels,” writes Lynn Hunt, “created a sense of equality and empathy through passionate involvement in the narrative.”
Example(s) of Novels Of Manners:
Pointing out how popular media/culture has influenced a shift in attitudes and awareness has had a long tradition — i.e. think of the gay rights movement just in our lifetime — as when Joe Biden remarked: “I think ‘Will & Grace’ probably did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody’s ever done so far…” (listen here):
Similarly, NVC certified trainer Susan Skye speaks (about a few minutes in to part two video clip on the on the Living-Energy of Needs) of watching a cinematic moment and having it be an “epiphany” and as a source of “spiritual enlightenment” in how she was able to evoke the quality of something she valued within, despite its tangible absence without.
So while it’s nothing new to draw on popular culture for the archetypal embodiment of qualities we admire, note how Maureen Dowd did so when she referenced a fictional television heroine in a recent NY Times column: Pope Trumps President; or, likewise, as Paul Krugman did recently as well — also related to the debt ceiling showdown — as in the beginning of this ABC News video clip or when wrote on his blog post Almost Over: “It ain’t over until the tanned man sings, but it looks as if Obama’s Michael Corleone strategy has succeeded.”
However you view the ongoing “kabuki theater” in our nation’s capitol, i.e. whether or not Obama was demonstrating backbone/strength-of-character during the recent crisis by using ‘protective use of force’ as a kind of trustee towards sustaining the balance of powers in democratic governance (or not/something-else — see an alternate NVC frame here: The Saga of Writing about the Government Shutdown), one way of viewing NVC primers could be akin to the influential novelistic (quasi-instructional manuals) narratives of previous centuries.
When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity. ~ John F. Kennedy
Two Key Inquiries (of NVC): 1) What’s at stake?
2) How to proceed? (identify our co-creative intention)
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
— Harold Whitman
Two Questions Posed by Marshall Rosenberg:
Question number one: What’s alive in us? (Related questions are: What’s alive in me? What’s alive in you?)
The second question—and it’s linked to the first—is: What can we do to make life more wonderful? (Related questions are: What can you do to make life more wonderful for me? What can I do to make life more wonderful for you?)
So these two questions are the basis of Nonviolent Communication: What’s alive in us? What can we do to make life more wonderful?
Lynn Hunt argues that the genesis and widespread popularity of the novel paved the way for an inter-subjective awareness that would then evolve into the mass appeal of human rights as “our only commonly shared bulwark” against the prevalence of violence, pain and domination:
Inventing Human Rights: A History by Lynn Hunt
(reviewed by Bronwyn Leebaw)
Inventing Human Rights: A History, Lynn Hunt (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2007), 272 pp.
In the second half of the eighteenth century, epistolary novels became popular in France and England, people began listening to the opera in silence rather than walking around to converse with friends, and efforts were made to prevent theatergoers in Paris from disrupting performances by coordinating their coughing and farting. For Lynn Hunt, these changes in the daily lives of Europeans are intrinsically related to the development of universal human rights. In this rich and beautifully written work, Hunt argues that human rights rely upon our ability to empathize with strangers. The changing habits and experiences of late-eighteenth-century Europe fostered new understandings of individuality and empathy, which would support the expansion of rights.
Hunt recognizes that empathy was not invented in the eighteenth century, but claims that something happened in these decades that taught people to empathize “across more broadly defined boundaries” (p. 38). She argues that the popular novels of this era not only conveyed the importance of individual autonomy but also demonstrated interiority in a way that compelled wide audiences to identify with characters. The expansion of empathy would address a problem posed by individualism and the erosion of sacred conceptions of moral community: “What would provide the source of community in this new order that highlighted the rights of the individual?” (p. 64). Hunt contends that the rise of the novel served to widen the scope of empathetic identification, while simultaneously teaching readers to see “the capacity of people like themselves to create on their own a moral world” (p. 58).
Inventing Human Rights develops an intriguing meditation on the relationships among art, morality, and political change. The novel served as a powerful vehicle for reshaping ideas about morality, in Hunt’s view, because it did not moralize, but rather “cast a spell” over its audience, engaging readers in the complexity of inner moral struggles. To illustrate this point, Hunt focuses on three works written by men and about women: Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Julie and Samuel Richardson’sClarissa and Pamela. Hunt suggests that reading these novels enabled men to identify with female characters, yet acknowledges that the expansion of rights in the eighteenth century did not encompass women’s rights… (continues)
“Lynn Hunt, UCLA Professor of Modern European History discusses (in both her book and the YouTube video above) the genesis of human rights, a concept that only came to the forefront during the eighteenth century. When the American Declaration of Independence declared all men are created equal and the French proclaimed the Declaration of the Rights of Man during their revolution, they were bringing a new guarantee into the world. But why then? How did such a revelation come to pass?”