Saturday, March 31, 2012

Unprincipled Negotiation: Dirty Tricks, Emotional Hot Buttons, and Oppression

Unprincipled Negotiation: Dirty Tricks, Emotional Hot Buttons, and Oppression

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
- Yoda, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
    Last week, I talked about pop culture and principled negotiation, which is negotiation based on set goals. In my view, this is the best way. But, sometimes, there are emotions that can get in the way of goal-setting. People usually express these emotions in their negotiation styles, and its important to be aware that these are just two styles.. The two styles are friendly and competitive. Neither of them enhance goals, but they can be important in recognizing expectations, remaining principled, and also seeing past trickery.
Characteristics of friendliness include willingness to enhance each side’s power, defining the problem as mutual, and a view that encourages agreement in attitude, beliefs, etc. It is the ability to emphasize positive aspects of others’ view. The competitive orientation comes from wanting to increase one’s own power and the belief that only one party can have power. Communication is impaired; lack of helpfulness This orientation cannot agree on goals, and sees the others' position as harmful to his/her interests. Both styles are rooted in emotions, and do not particularly help achieve goals, although as mentioned last time, these styles have roots in human needs, and does not mean that they are not valid.
It is important to understand that you as well as the other party have emotional hot buttons that if pressed can cause fear, anxiety, anger, rage, etc. It is wise to know how you will react when these buttons are pushed, so that you can control them. As an example of an emotional hot button, picture Darth Vader pushing Luke, or Khan's reckless pursuit of revenge against Captain Kirk. By the way, I'm convinced that the “conflict” between Star Wars and Star Trek was a marketing gimmick designed to sell movies and toys. Just another dirty trick to distract from the messages in both, that we can and will survive the oppressive horrors of the world.
     Another thing working against principled negotiation is oppression. Oppression is the  systematic limiting of someone's voice through force. Or sometimes the Force. Oppression is maintained through legitimizing myths that support cultural dominance, such as “Men are smarter than women.” "That's just how things are." or “There is only one Power in the Galaxy.” Remember that everyone wants a voice in negotiation. Distributive justice should answer the question, “Who gets what, and why?” through human needs. Victimizers are often aloof to victims needs, and may not be aware of inequality.
These oppressive mechanisms allow people to be morally excluded and often justify human atrocities. One must eliminate the myths, and focus on goal-setting based on principled negotiation. Establish mutual respect and control. Humanization of “the other” must occur, because then you will recognize them as people with real needs and goals. Curb extremists on both sides, because they will see “the other” as monsters, and will not negotiate based on others goals and needs. Lastly, you must establish rules of conduct, fair implementation, fairness in access to law, etc. equal voice in decision managing and procedural justice. Respect and mutual trusts must be in line with goals, in other words.
As mentioned, relationships balanced with trust and distrust are likely to be healthier than relationships grounded only in trust. This applies especially to business/marketplace where unquestioning trust shows naïveté. Agree explicitly on expectations. The key is that a goal should be agreed on and carried out with mutual respect. Just because you’re using principled negotiation does not mean you are passive. Yielding is important. Do not force. Also, look to objective criteria for building of trust, verify your actions, and use objective criteria in the resolution. Verify, verify, verify!
In conclusion, I would hope that this little post would bring awareness to the artistic dimension of language. Especially, where it interferes with a positive perception of reality where we can achieve our dreams in a practical manner. As good as it is to create positive myths that help us, we also need to be aware of dirty tricks designed to stop us from from our goals. The only way to break past oppressive myths is to recognize that the other person is human,with the same needs as you, and focus on reality. This doesn't mean though, that we dump our dreams: only don't go to the Dark Side.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Principled Negotiation in Pop Culture

Principled Negotiation in Pop Culture:

"I know there's still good in you. There's good in you, I can sense it.”
- Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of The Jedi
  Last week, I discussed voices that mix in culture, but not that conflict. Conflict begins in the mind. Typically, when two different perceptions occur about the same problem, or when someone disagrees with what someone has decided. What someone has decided is called a position. Why someone has decided a position usually has to do with interests. Interests are human needs that express our deepest desires and vulnerabilities. These include: security; economic well-being; recognition; control of life. Since these vulnerabilities and desires include our deepest fears, our egos dig in to our positions, and we may assume that our position is natural and that the others’ position symbolizes not human interests, but our deepest fears. From Ury & Fisher’s Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In: “Egos tend to become involved in substantive positions.” (Ury et al. 1981 pg. 4)

One way to avoid conflict is by Ury and Fisher’s concept of “principled negotiation”:

“1. Separate the People from the Problem
2. Focus on Interests, Not Positions
3. Invent Options for Mutual Gain
4. Insist on Objective Criteria”
(Ury et al. 1981 pg. 15)
    This concept called “principled negotiation” rests on setting objective criteria and establishing options for mutual understanding beyond what one has decided. Since culture operates from different ways of thinking, and pop culture aims at expressing human universals, there is actually no better tool for negotiating intercultural differences in a mutual way. Joseph Campbell notes: “When Ben Kenobi says, "May the Force be with you," he's speaking of the power and energy of life, not of programmed political intentions.” (Campbell: 1991 pg. 178-179) To become a hero, one must go beyond self-serving intentions, which is why the hero myths allow us to re-evaluate what we have decided through self-interest. Through their non-selfish actions, we may ask ourselves how to separate people from problems.
     Towards the second end, focusing on interests, we see that the heroes of myth can usually do this with great ease, if only because in the myth the solution is obvious, or the hero is up against some evil foe. But, even against those odds, the hero does recognize himself in the villain. As the Joker says to Batman in The Dark Knight: “You complete me.” and you can recognize the entire interrogation scene as Batman’s “mirror image”; what he represents, and at the same time, is afraid he will become in his pursuit of justice. Which he stands in danger of doing. 
      Batman gravitated the interrogation to areas of common concern (Why Joker is out to kill him.), and in the process, discovered that he was his own worst enemy, fueled by revenge. And few would say that, given the The Dark Knight’s reception, (The highest grossing sequel of all time, and the highest-grossing “comic book movie”.)  the villain didn’t at least have a point in highlighting Batman’s interests vs. his positions. 
  We don’t have the privilege of negotiating with evildoers in reality, because “evil” is a position created in the mind, whereas “principled negotiation” deals with objective criteria. While we may be entitled to an opinion that someone is evil, we must get down to the why, and there is no better model than that of mythology; which fundamentally deals with the use (and misuse) of power.
           Power is the ability to influence or control Events. Power depends on resources parties can employ to influence and attain goals. The effectiveness of a power resource used depends on “endorsement” by the other party.  Power exists in the relationship / interaction. As such, you need to be aware of your power as an active developing force, not as an end. You can tell the use/effectiveness of power through the outcome it produces. It can be expressed indirectly or directly through power resources. They supply options for mutual gain, as in “principled negotiation”. I prefer that method, because it’s goal-oriented, designed for mutual gain, and deals with objectivity. As such, it’s a good “cultural model”, since culture deals in part with how we’ve decided to interact with others, and why. And my position, is that heroes use that power for Good. (Non-selfish actions.)
    We can think of the show Game of Thrones (I haven’t read the books.) as primarily a study of power imbalance. As one party gets weaker, (the Starks) the other weaker parties gain courage. Because everyone on the show has their own agenda, the primary problem is imbalance. There is no common goal to which everyone in the same House strives, though they may be a Lannister or a Doth’raki princess. What drives the show, is how they hold together when power changes. And who loses their head because of it?
          As this demonstrates, sources of power come from people who wield influence, or groups of people who have influence. These are present in goal-oriented power structures, namely hierarchies, and determined by who has access to the top of the hierarchy. Is power shared by one source/equal? Or is there imbalance/coalitions of power. People can increase power by using skills to get up the hierarchy, or by arranging coalitions of shared power, or gathering allies to obtain their goals. Above all, invent options for mutual gain.
    If anything, I would hope that this post will allow for people to critically evaluate pop culture, and that through that we create more heroes, so to speak. Too often. I’ve seen people become so involved in positions, that they go to the Dark Side. The hero myths  are there to remind us to be critical of ideas, not people. To separate personal worth from criticism. We’re All in this together, sink or swim. Heroes encourage everyone to participate and  master relevant information. They listen to everyone’s ideas even if they disagree, and differentiate interests before they integrate a position. What are your favorite hero stories, and how do they apply principled negotiation?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Casual update 2

So, hey, everybody! It's Shatner's 81st! Happy Birthday Captain Kirk!

 Today, I woke up renewed some comic books from the library Mostly a boatload of X-men and Batman this time. I find Batman has many interesting things to say about the disability community if you're looking for that in it. More on that later. Now, I want to talk X-men.
    When I was a kid, everyone wanted to be an X-man. X-men were sympathetic because they could symbolize just about any minority that could be oppressed by robots. Professor X is a hero of mine. The plots were pretty simple, the mutant powers were cool, and it had plenty of action, although they were usually just bustin' up robots since Tod MacFarlane hadn't pushed the Marvel envelope yet, and Frank Miller was I think doing Daredevil. Anyway, in those days it was mainly X-men vs. robots, or the archvillain Magneto. Wolverine got his adamantium skeleton ripped out. But, that was metal. So, why in the heck do they have them nowadays fighting vampires and werewolves? It always seems like in America when we run out of villains like Russians and Germans, we turn to devil figures and monsters for enemies. This whole series now focuses on an event called M-Day, where most mutants were wiped out. I can't say I enjoyed the whole series, but that particular part had good action scenes...even if it was a bit supernaturally heavy. Must Twilight infect everything? Anyway, they seem to be chasing fads when not up against world-threatening foes. I miss the "good ol' days" of the X-men vs. Magneto....because I envisioned everything they were doing as heroic. These days, they're like melodramatic cops, not superheroes.
     Okay, that's a little harsh. But, in my mind a hero is always out for the Good. Additionally, I got some ethnography done at my job counselor's place, Functional Training Services. It felt good to enter into such a diverse group and learn their division of labor, and about the people. Nothing pleases me more than investigating why people do what they do. I'm set to do some ethnography where I live soon, so be on the lookout for that report....In a few weeks.... it will be my first non-collegiate investigation of disability culture, which is deeply invigorating!

Well, that's it for now! Stay tuned!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fighting Monsters Without Becoming One Part 3: The Power in Dual Voices

The Power in Dual Voices
Last week, I wrote about the power of diversity in the form of artistic experiences. However, Robert F. Murphy indicates that in his experience with a disability (as with mine.), these experiences form dualities, and even change the symbolic meaning of actions once taken for granted in the able-bodied lifeworld. A pat on the shoulder becomes opaque in meaning: “The dentist was putting me in my place and treating me as one would a child, but the students were affirming a bond. They were reaching over a wall and asserting that they were on my side.”9 (Murphy 1987 p. 127)
This ambiguity in symbolic worlds continually force Murphy through his dogged determination to re-evaluate relationships and signs, even with relationships once so close as his wife. Says Murphy: “There has crept into my voice at times an edge of querulousness that was never there before, and it bothers Yolanda almost as much as it does me.” (Murphy 1987 p. 215) Many times, she reads into his requests for assistance as a demand, and in anticipation of the negative response, he begets one. This brings to bear one of Nietzsche’s observations, that intellect or even voice, to use Evans terminology, often becomes a weapon inadvertently in the absence of other dissimulating tools. “The intellect, as a means for the preserving of the individual, develops its main powers in dissimulation; for this is the means by which weaker, less robust individuals survive, since in the struggle for existence they are denied the horns and sharp teeth of beasts of prey.” 10 (Nietzsche 1873/Gilman et al. 1989 p. 247) One has do make do with the tools one is provided; unfortunately tools like knives can double as weapons. The same is true of misinterpreted calls for help.
These voices battling for primacy in the multivoiced body of disability all have one thing in common. Whether the voice of “dys-appearance”, “the homeland”, or Robert F. Murphy’s “edge of querulousness”, they all take strength to form at any given moment in one body without tearing it asunder. It is from this observation that I have gained my own insight into the superhuman. Though it relates closely to Nietzsche’s übermensch, it is not necessarily Nietzschean. At least, no more Nietzschean than the theory of gravity is Italian for being discovered by an Italian. It is that natural dogged determination and creative force which takes over where other abilities are lacking. Drew Leder articulates this force as phenomenological, Michalko gives it force and direction, and Murphy reveals it as a Bakhtinian hybrid and multivoiced body, though he does not use these terms. Evans says of hybridization: “This notion is important for us because it provides a precise portrayal of how voices can be “inside” one another, how each voice is a dynamic hybrid.” (Evans 2009 p. 63)
All of these conceptions hybridized together highlight a social problematic that ultimately ends in paradox. Disability both increases strength and limits it; it includes a community of disability in the mainstream, and distinguishes itself from the mainstream by identifying itself by the source of its greatest strength, and its greatest physical limit. The voices of disability culture, a continual hybrid of quiet observation, querulous reservation, and superhuman determination is always in play within society. Voices both less vocal and more silent than my own. Some voices in the multivoiced body of disability are literally and figuratively mute, and unexplored.
I myself can only explore the proverbial Sphinx desert of mobility impairments, and face the myths of old Greek bodily “perfection”. The Greeks had their own king who with the help of his walking stick, answered the riddle of the man-eating Sphinx, and saved the town of Thebes. Yet, his name was Oedipus, and today he is the very symbol of cultural taboo and repression; even expressed in his body image, he was what the ancient Greek repressed. But, it is because of his voice and body that his good deed is not overshadowed by what was repressed in the memory of Western civilization; the preference of body image over lived experience. In the words of Nietzsche, the multivoiced body of disability forces us all to ask: “Who of us is Oedipus here? Who the Sphinx? It is a rendezvous, it seems, of questions and question marks.” Again, the abyss stares at everyone, both hauntingly and invitingly.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.” This should tell all of us within the multivoiced body of disability that we all have monsters to slay, values to set in their place. Even those who do not have disabilities will look into those who do, and see themselves. This I know from having my own mirror, an able-bodied twin who looks back at me and sees me as a spirit of courage, as I see him, and we sense that we are perhaps somewhat unknowable. Together, we have emerged as a living testament to the multivoiced body I have discussed: silent, across homelands, and whirling inside of a functional dys-appearance.
So, following the advice of Nietzsche, one must ask what is more difficult: to slay dragons, or to offer a hand to the ghosts that would frighten us? I cannot speak for all people with disabilities, for I am only one aggregate of voices. Let those voices resonate with people of all abilities and disabilities, that they may once again become Sphinxes and riddle-solvers to my questions together. Within a body of chaos and paradox, there is life, and superhuman potential. As Nietzsche’s Zarathustra spoke in his Prologue: “I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.” (Nietzsche 1885/Kaufmann 1974 p. 129)

  1. Evans, Murphy. (2009) The Multivoiced Body: Society and Communication in the Age of Diversity. New York: Columbia University Press.

  2. Gilman, Sander L. et al. (1989) Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language: With the Full Text of His Lectures on Rhetoric Published for the First Time. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 246-256. On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense. Nietzsche, Friedrich. (1879)

  3. Leder, Drew. (1990) The Absent Body. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  4. Michalko, Rod. (2002) The Difference That Disability Makes. Chicago: Temple University Press.

  5. Murphy, Robert Francis. (1987) The Body Silent: The Different World of the Disabled: The Different World of the Disabled. W. W. Norton & Company Inc: New York.

  6. Kaufmann, Walter. (1974) The Portable Nietzsche. Chicago: Chicago University Press. p. 124-129. Thus Spoke Zarathustra: Part One: The Prologue. Nietzsche, Friedrich (1885)

  7. Nietzsche, Friedrich. (1886) Trans. Kaufmann, Walter. (1963) Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

  8. Nietzsche, Friedrich. (1886/1888) Trans. Kaufmann, Walter. Hollingdale, R.J. (1989) On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

  9. Nietzsche, Friedrich. (1872/1888) Trans. Kaufmann, Walter. (1967) The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music and The Case of Wagner. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

  10. Safranski , Rudiger (2000). Trans. Frisch, Shelley. (2002) Nietzsche: A Philosophical Autobiography. New York, London: W.W. Norton & Company Inc.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fighting Monsters Without Becoming One Part 2: The Power Within Disability

Fighting Monsters Without Becoming One Part 2: The Power Within Disability
Previously, I talked about disability culture as a “multi-voiced body”; which means there many ways people's experiences speak to them artistically about life with a disability. I mentioned Friedrich Nietzsche's model of the body as something to be passionately lived with and overcome. (The superhuman element.) Towards this superhuman element, Rod Michalko, blind professor of disability studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, approvingly quotes Nietzsche: “I try to keep in mind Friedrich Nietzsche's observation (1967, 493) that "what does not destroy us makes us stronger." (Michalko 2002 p. 7) He explains that disabilities should be connected with a social identity apart from the traditional notion of suffering. “[...] disabled people, especially those involved in the disability movement, abhor the idea of having suffering attached to them. The attachment, it is argued, is offensive because it diminishes and devalues the life of a disabled person by suggesting that such a life must be suffered because of disability, thus implying that disability is a life not worth living and one that must be suffered.” (Michalko 2002 p. 50) Michalko thus offers an explanation of why a presumptive notion of suffering attached to disability is offensive, but does not give credit to the positive power of the übermensch that transfigures physical obstacles, as well as suffering, into individual superhuman efforts. Instead, he treats disability as a socio-political construction through his concept of homeland. He recalls that as a young boy he was teased and castrated from the realm of the masculine by being called names. Because of his genetic eye condition, his homeland gradually changed and he was regulated to its margins as he went blind. As one can see from his definition of disability, his condition is still viewed as a limiting concept: “[...] the disadvantage of restriction of activity caused by a contemporary social organization which takes no or little account of people who have physical impairments and thus excludes them from the mainstream of social activity.” (Michalko 2002 p.50) Perhaps unintentionally, homeland excludes the powers of the disabled individual to overcome obstacles and change “contemporary social organization”. Michalko sees disability as a negative label (not chosen), and one that can change with a movement. He inadvertently excludes models of disability outside the social movement, particularly critiquing the biomedical model of disability: “Medical doctors likewise take over the problem of disability. If they cannot fix it, the disabled person may not be welcome on the streets.” (Michalko 2002 p.13)
One of the first charges issued by Fred Evans in his multivoiced body model is to exclude the excluders. Under this charge, Michalko seems to oscillate between the freedom of subjects, and their imprisonment by a stronger societal language; a byproduct of the Foucaultian philosophy he employs throughout the book. Ironic as it may seem to answer Foucault with Nietzsche, I will assume that a community without agency cannot last: “The wrath of the disappointed creditor, the community, throws him back again into the savage and outlaw state against which he has hitherto been protected: thrusts him away — and now every kind of hostility may be vented upon him.”6 (Nietzsche 1887/1888/Kaufmann and Hollingdale 1989 p. 71)
Evans notes that Foucault’s notion of humanism is the restriction of power. I too, held this view for a long time, though I did not associate it with Foucault. However, Evans’ notion of voice has destroyed this dichotomy for me. For as Evans notes, it denies people the freedoms they seek in traditional human rights, by downplaying humanism as just another tool of domination. I am the son of an anesthesiologist and a former resident nurse, and I have benefited from their knowledge and care. Doctors have many benefits to offer aside from political aims.
I now see that the biomedical model of disability is a different voice in the multivoiced body of disability, but it is by no means opposed to the notion of strong disability culture I am proposing. One can always benefit from the removal of dys-appearance proposed by Leder, which only occurs when mastery of the body is questioned. One can still reap the benefits the biomedical conception of the body while remaining master of one’s body. To quote Nietzsche, whose übermensch model I am purposing to add to this multivoiced body: “You should achieve power over your pros and cons and learn how to put them forth and hang them back in accordance with your higher aim. You should learn to recognize the perspectivism inherent in every appraisal.”7 (Nietzsche 1878/Safranski 2000/Frisch 2002 p.185) Put simply: know what you want and need from the biomedical model, but do not let it exclude important voices.
But, Michalko has highlighted a positive “higher aim” of disability: as a social power, even if he inadvertently dodges the agency of the individual; Leder did not expressedly give such transformative power to disability, only an individual phenomenological model of disability itself. It is Robert F. Murphy who vividly describes this superhuman transformation of meaning in The Body Silent: The Different World of the Disabled (1987) - all its tragedy and ecstasy. Robert F. Murphy describes not only the world of disability in rich detail, but also his journey into becoming a person with a disability and how it changed his interactions with others, both able-bodied and with disabilities. He notes the changing of signs not only in his own life as a person with a disability, but also as he interacts with those who are able-bodied.
Murphy’s account of his own symbolic world while living with a disability highlights the feeling of two-ness described by Evans in the words of W.E.B DuBois: “One ever feels his two-ness,-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”(Evans 2009 p. 64) It is common that a person feels such dualities.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

VSA Day of Arts for All

Well, two days ago was the real thing! I'm going to go over some of my favorites. So many people of all different ages, abilities, and backgrounds were present. But here are my Top 3, even though I wasn't the one giving awards. I discovered most of my favorites consisted of mixed media, but that must just come from my Comm & Media Studies background. I like seeing how diverse objects come together to form an artistic creation. Anyway, here they are!

Louis Feruito Medina, OH. "Green Day". Pencil. Author of the Super Hero Pet Series. 7th Grade. Check out his art at For such a young guy, he's got enormous talent. Louis won 2nd place in the Youth Artist category for this cool pencil replica of a Green Day band photograph.

Theresa Strodtman Cincinnati, OH "American Flag". Tissue paper. I loved the colors in this one and how the tissue was shaped to form an American flag. Theresa has a kidney disease and uses her passion in art to get her through the toughest of days, which is inspiring.

James O’Dor. Norwalk. OH. "Run-Away". Glass horse. This art was so beautiful and nuanced that I couldn't tell it was glass and ceramics at first. The bronze colors really added a layer, pardon the pun, of realism. James believes that art is the best way to express his creative spirit. I agree!

You know, it was really an honor to be invited, and my thanks to everyone involved.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

My Art

With the Day of Arts for All approaching, I thought I'd showcase some of my art. I'm very inspired by cartoons, abstract shapes, (free of the body) and Germany, or at least my ideas about it. Here's some doodling I did on Microsoft Paint, without further ado:

1. Comical Gangsters
2. Man-Bird
3. Ode To Joy (Interpretation of Beethoven's music.)
4. The Philosopher (Inspired by Nietzsche.)

Anyway, I'm brushing up on some of the art that will be @ The Day of Arts for All. I'll be interviewing some artists. So, I'll be ready!