The promise of dialogue

Dialogue, a word that bears so many promises! Whenever a critical world situation arises, there is also a call for dialogue. The current US-North Korea mongering are to be diplomatically resolved. However, dialogue seems too often abandoned in favour of more self-serving strategies. As when it becomes known that Norwegian C02 emissions have increased every year in spite of international declarations. Or that the level of Co2 in the Earth´s atmosphere has risen to its highest in 800.000 years, as WMO recently reported. Politicians then firmly assert that «we are en route».

What is a dialogue? The obvisous answer is the opposite of a monologue. In 1632 Galileo Galilei published his amusing Dialogue on the Two World Systems. In it Simplicio is insisting that the Earth is unmoving while Sagredo and Salviato tries to convonce him of the Heliocentric World view. Could there be more opposite positions? Yet as ancient philosopher Plato held, a true dialogue should try to transcend even the most conflicting view. This is because the aim of a dialogue is knowledge, not confirmation. Naturally, this aim presupposes curiosity and a certain openess to other arguments than one´s own.

So how interested are, say, governmental bodies when it comes to dialogue? It may seem that they often are. Dialogue is especially in vogue when it comes to the multicultural society and integration issues. This was prominently seen in the Cultural Ministry´s decision in October 2017 to cut the state funding to the Islamic Council. The funding is intended for organizations that help foster dialogue, they quire, and in Minister Helleland´s view the Council had failed at this. Prior to this Helleland had called the Council´s chairman to a meeting for clarification. Afterwards she told the media that she was disappointed they said «they would simply continue as before». However, this appraisal indicates a total rejection of the organization´s practice. One may thus question the degree of dialogue here. Can the ones who advocate dialogue and offer funding for it, also disregard it when suitable? As many have pointed out it is bizarre that the far right organization Human Rights Service (HRS) continues to receive the same funding that the Islamic Council lost- a staggering 1, 8 million kroner. One cannot seriously contend that HRS accomplishes dialogue between majority and minority. What kind of dialogue is tracable in their long playing xenophobic refrain?

There was also a pertinent absence of dialogue when Minster of Finance Siv Jensen in November abruptly ensured the removal of the Statistics Bureau Director (SSB) Chistine Meyer. Through the media it became apparent that Mrs. Jensen´s «lack of trust» in the SSB Director was related to Meyer being in favour of immigration. The fact that Meyer had discouraged a so-called «Immigrant accountancy» central. However, when pressured afterwards in by the Parlament´s Control Comitee about her involvement Mrs. Jensen dryly clarfied that a Bureau Director is «not dependent» on her trust. Mrs Meyer for her part felt pressured to leave her position.

In this case we thereby had the ironic situation of a Minister publicly distrusting a Bureau Chief for the latter´s political opinions. However, it may rather seem that the Bureau Chief was sacked due to the Minister´s own political beliefs which are seen by many as anti-immigration. In support of her version, Mrs. Jensen later said to NRK that she found «the board of SSB has maintained the dialogue on governance in a good way». Nevertheless, we suspect an overriding lack of dialogue here.

By the way, dialogue is also necessary to solve the World´s Climate Crisis. The 23rd UN Climate conference in Bonn ended on November 18. It was aimed at implementing the 2015 Paris agreement. Yet the Trumpian US has already announced backing out of the Paris agreement. During the summit, the US delegation was mainly hiding from the scene. They only held one meeting, in which the adress in favour of Coal production was disrupted by chanting anti-Trump protesters. On the other hand, China was leading the show. Yet they were pressuring for quota excemptions for third world countries, thus taking the ambitions a step backwards. Quite opposing standards from the two largest polluters in the world. Regrettably, no dialogue took place suitable for transcending these differing interests. In the meantime, perhaps awaiting the next generation, we may simply lean back and read some more of Plato.

- Sheila Parrera