WitGlass Unfiltered #37: Storytelling as the Basis for Civilized Discourse

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#37: Storytelling as the Basis for Civilized Discourse

In previous episodes about civilized discourse, I have already described the importance of truth-telling, but of course there is more to it than that. Mankind was built to tell stories. In order to properly understand the importance of civilized discourse and how to engage in it properly, we must understand the importance of not only storytelling, but also storyhearing. Too often, we spend our time wanting to tell our own story, without hearing the other party’s story. In this episode I discuss that, as well as the inherent flaws in the design of Twitter that make both storytelling and storyhearing extremely difficult (if not nearly impossible), and therefore why Twitter is (by design) an enemy of civilized discourse.

Topics Discussed

  • Today’s Coffee Talk
  • 5:00 - Civilized Discourse and Storytelling

    • 6:00 - Previous Episode on Civilized Discourse: #30: “Civilized Discourse, Dignity, and Confronting Lies”
    • 7:00 - Literature and Discourse
    • 8:00 - The entire universe is one giant cosmic story
    • 9:00 - Mankind created to tell stories
    • 10:00 - Various kinds of storytelling
    • 12:00 - We are all storytellers, even if we’re not all novelists
    • 13:00
      • Storytelling requires listening
      • Aristotle’s Art of Rhetoric, aims of the speaker
    • 14:00 - A Man for All Seasons, with Paul Scofield

      • IMDb Entry
      • Wikipedia Entry
      • Buy it on Amazon:

      • Here is the quote from that powerful moment when the character of Thomas More finally confronts his accusers after already being condemned (courtesy of IMDb)

        Sir Thomas More: [More has been condemned to death, and now for the first time breaks his years-long adamant silence on Henry VIII’s divorce of Queen Catherine to marry Ann Boleyn] Since the Court has determined to condemn me, God knoweth how, I will now discharge my mind concerning the indictment and the King’s title. The indictment is grounded in an act of Parliament which is directly repugnant to the law of God, and his Holy Church, the Supreme Government of which no temporal person may by any law presume to take upon him. This was granted by the mouth of our Savior, Christ himself, to Saint Peter and the Bishops of Rome whilst He lived and was personally present here on earth. It is, therefore, insufficient in law to charge any Christian to obey it. And more to this, the immunity of the Church is promised both in Magna Carta and in the king's own coronation oath
        [Cromwell calls More “malicious”]
        Sir Thomas More: ... Not so. I am the king’s true subject, and I pray for him and all the realm. I do none harm. I say none harm. I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, then in good faith, I long not to live. Nevertheless, it is not for the Supremacy that you have sought my blood, but because I would not bend to the marriage!

  • 22:00

    • Listen first to the stories of others
    • Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  • 23:00 - Twitter’s Inherent Incivility Design
    • Not built for storytelling
    • Designed for punchlines only, without the story behind the punchline
    • 27:00 - I propose a “tweet-thread—tree” to allow visualizing and following all threads connected to an original tweet

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