Leader of local chapter of Unlike Minds, Warren George, is unable to start a group due to an inability to find both diversity and a willingness to listen.
Unlike Minds is a program founded in 2004 by Pat and Irma Canan. Once Corvallis residents, the Canans left and George carried on starting groups. Essentially, to have a group you must have eight people who are as different as they can be. The goal of the group is to discuss how each member came to hold certain viewpoints, focusing solely on gaining understanding of one another.
George, who started as a participant in the program’s early days, says, “It’s extremely important that everybody feel like they might be a minority and they have to be nice and play nice and make friends.”
These people would meet once a month in each other’s homes for eight months, and every month one new person gets to pick a topic to discuss. George said he typically starts groups every two years, and generally just after elections. However, despite trying to get a group started in 2018, there have been no Unlike Minds meeting. He only got four volunteers – just half of the number needed for the group to function properly.
In an email, George said, “Symptomatic of our times, the number of people who are willing to participate in good faith discussions has declined in the last two years on both ‘sides.’ I only start groups when I can find a reasonably full cross section of ideologies (which is hard in Corvallis.)”
George believes the more a group is split into binaries of right and left, Democrat and Republican, the less likely that group is to be willing to hear what others have to say. “Now, I don’t think we have nearly as many liberals or conservatives as we have anti-liberals and the anti-conservative.”
This trend of aggression towards those with different beliefs is something that George believes is adding to a lack of true diversity.
“You need people who are at least a little bit closet moderate,” George said. “They haven’t allowed themselves to become what I call radicalized, as once you’re radicalized you stop listening.”
To have a group function well, it eventually must come to a point where the members realize that they are not there to convince anyone of anything.
The idea of Unlike Minds it that “…just because two of us disagree doesn’t mean one of us is right,” George said.
In a world full of radical ideas and two political sides that get more divided each year, George puts his faith in the younger generation, noting the declining amount of Democrat and Republican registered voters and the growing number of Independent votes each year.