Hark, Hark, the Dogs do Bark

A tempting invitation just came through my mail slot.  Hoping “to build a more inclusive campus,” a professor of communications is offering to put volunteers through the purgatory of “a series of Difficult Dialogues on Campus Race Relations.”

“Difficult Dialogues” is the name professors of communications have given to what normal people call “Sleeping Dogs.”  Whereas normal people are of the opinion that sleeping dogs are best left to their slumbers, professors of communication take the view that it is best to stomp on their tails and see what happens.  I can only suppose that they extracted this notion from the Freudian fallacy of talking therapy, with which Difficult Dialogues share the undeniable merit of providing permanent employment for “facilitators” who are trained in “communication.”

The barking and biting is scheduled to begin next Monday evening, at what is described as an “interactive workshop.” You may recall Kingsley Amis saying, “If there’s one word that sums up everything that’s gone wrong since the war, it’s Workshop.” His objection was that the post-war “workshop” is a place were idleness makes a pretense of activity and stupidity wears a serious face.

In any case, this particular interactive workshop will follow the “conversation café format.”  I find that the “conversation café format” is an invention of two women who describe it as “a gift to the world.”  It is, they tell us, a “dynamic, honest, humble process of staying present to your own reality while drinking in the reality of everyone else at the table.”  Before it was invented by these two women, these skirmishes were called Encounter Sessions.

It appears that small groups will be seated at tables, supplied with “race-related case studies,” and then asked to “collectively brainstorm ideas to make the campus more welcoming for all.”  It troubles me that a professor of communication does not see the difference between brainstorming and a difficult dialogue, but to keep people happy, “sandwiches will be served.”

In addition to those mollifying sandwiches, participants will be put at ease by the audio-recording device on the table, since “the dialogue sessions will be audio-recorded for research purposes.”  If you are thinking that this research will be invalidated by gross selection bias, I ask you to consider the sandwiches.  Doesn’t everyone love a sandwich?

Well, yes, but not so much that they will submit to hours of barking and biting to get one.  And this is why there will be no Difficult Dialogues at this Conversation Café, but only cozy chats and the mutual reinforcement that I thought communication theory called group think.

26 thoughts on “Hark, Hark, the Dogs do Bark

    • I like the analogy with struggle sessions, but it will take more than sandwiches to lure dissidents into a “conversation café.” This sort of is a “workshop” where they fabricate clubs to hit dissidents on the head. So maybe Amis was wrong and something is made in a post-war workshop.

  1. I hope that the awakened dogs eat all their sandwiches and bite them all in the posterior. If this is a potential Purgatory, I must try harder for sanctity.

    Might I suggest a ‘conversation pub format’ as a more tolerable, and more likely productive, alternative?

    • One would think that people who study communication would know that conversation is “creative,” and that people avoid “difficult dialogues” because they create imaginary slights, grievances and certainties. If I talk about a person I dislike, I invariably discover new reasons to dislike them, and this is why I try to follow the policy of “the less said the better.” This “purgative” view of conversation is that everything I say was, until I said it, festering in my soul. I’m afraid a conversation pub would suffer from the infamous Alcoholic Amiability Inversion. In other words, relaxed early in the evening and belligerent late in the evening.

    • Or even people who believe that the campus is, at present, too welcoming. They speak in bland generalities, but it is perfectly obvious that their words have specific meanings. Nobody is proposing to make the campus more welcoming to panhandlers, bums, and schizophrenic loiterers. “All” doesn’t really mean all, just as “welcoming” doesn’t mean welcoming. It is impossible for a place to be “welcoming to all” since the admission of one class of humanity makes the place threatening or distasteful to another class of humanity.

    • Glad to spread merriment when I can. I should write a post on campus catering, which has undergone a revolution in my lifetime. Sanctioned events have a budget, and hence free food, most of which ends up set out for whoever wants it in some lounge or lunchroom. It is now much more common to see a delivery person staggering across campus with a stack of pizza boxes than it is to see a student staggering across campus with a stack of books.

  2. Pingback: Hark, Hark, the Dogs do Bark | Reaction Times

    • No doubt, but I’ve come to see the perils and limits of sardonic pleasure. I have a pretty thick shell of irony, but things like this leave me with a bad hangover of despair.

    • We Yanks know Marmite only by reputation. I’m sure you can buy it, but I’ve never tried it or heard of anyone who tried it. Peanut butter would be our closest equivalent, and although I enjoy a peanut butter sandwich, I would recognize peanut butter sandwiches at a public event as a sign of poverty or a gesture of contempt. I see that Marmite is a byproduct of brewing, and am curious what we do with the sludge we scrape off our vats. Maybe we pave our parking lots, because we sure have plenty of those.

      • Peanut butter can taste nice.
        Marmite? Not so much.
        Let it be known that Marmite is served
        and willing participants will disappear
        ‘…like shaw aff a dyke’.

  3. According to Breitbart, a Swedish behaviourist has just proposed eating people to ease climate change, so perhaps the sandwiches could have Soylent Green garnished with Swede?

      • ‘Conversation Cafe Dialogues’ scripted and filmed by Ingmar Bergman could be a step-up for daytime television.
        All sandwiches would of course be open and inclusive.

      • Do y’all call a sandwich on a single slice of bread an “open sandwich.” On this side of the pond these unmanageable comestibles are called “open” or “open faced” sandwiches. In any event, your comment throws light on the exclusionary function of that top slice of bread. It acts as a sort of “wall” that excludes the addition of new slices of meat and cheese; and when that top slice is white bread–I don’t need to tell you what that means. So progressive people should eat progressive sandwiches, and a progressive sandwich will not be closed off by a top slice. It will be open to the inclusion of new and exciting meats, cheeses, or substances that drop out of the sky.

      • Open sandwiches are very popular in Nordic countries, so Swedish behaviourists and Ingmar Bergman seem to be relevant juxtapositions in filmic and culinary thought.
        Of course, were the top slice to be black bread, I’m sure all progessives would love to eat such a sandwich which excluded all manner of ‘Manna’ [as opposed to Womanna or Transmanna?] which might drop out of the sky.
        At least, they might until the CIA/FBI pointed out that black bread is a Russian staple.

  4. Pingback: Cantandum in Ekhaton 09/08/19 | Liberae Sunt Nostrae Cogitatiores

  5. In Fusion Cuisine, some things go better together than others. Unpalatable combinations are discarded. The Progressive Open-Faced Sandwich, on the other hand, is about inclusivity and every non-traditional sandwich ingredient is heaped up for the sake of fairness. It is a mandatory sandwich because it’s good for you, no matter what is in it.

  6. @JM
    On a different note, perhaps related, google: ‘slatestarcodex book review seeing like a state’ for a superb discussion on traditional societies versus modern statistics centralised (including High Modernism).


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