Every citizen today seems to have a non-negotiable issue. “I will play by the liberal-democracy game on any issue except this one issue, which, to me, is more important than liberal-democracy itself.” Here, one is entitled — no, one is obligated! — to use force if persuasion fails.
But what if your fellow citizen takes precisely the opposite position as yours? This, in fact, is not hypothetical. Your non-negotiable opposes their non-negotiable.
You, however, actually know what is true and good. You can explain why your contemptible enemy is deluded and morally perverse.
Your enemy, however, also knows what is true and good and has explanations for your deluded and perverse morality.
What makes you so sure you are right about being right, when your enemy is wrong about being right? Is it your justification of your judgment? Well, that is only meta-judgment, and it is just as fallible as judgment.
For instance, you think you’ve addressed your biases? What if you are biased about your biases? You look for them some places and not others. Hell, some of your worst biases are against people who challenge your biases, but you give those prejudices pretty moral names.
Our very worst biases, our most incorrigibly vicious prejudices, live in the holy of holies, at the sacred center of our moralities.
And here is the root reason that you so sure of your rightness. It is nothing other than the fact that you are you. And this makes good sense. You were born into the center of the universe, and you have never left it. Never for one second has the universe not orbited about its heart, who is none other than you.
But you are not the only center of the universe. I, for instance, was born into the heart of the universe. My wife was, too, as were both of my daughters.
We are all centers of the universe.
Nobody has the right to ask another person to decenter themselves, no matter how brilliant our arguments and no matter how sound our theories. When we do so, we are invariably asking them to center ourselves as the true center of the universe, even if we pretend it is for other people. We want to impose our own morality, or own prejudices, our own biases, so we can better mistake them for Truth.
Instead, we can polycenter ourselves. In this act, we each go first and invite others to join us.
When we polycenter ourselves we acknowledge our fellow-centers by seeking to persuade and cultivating our own persuadability.
For us, the only non-negotiable is that everything must be negotiable.
The invitation looks and sounds like respect — gassho or dap or “shalom”or “namaste”, etc. It changes the air around you. We become who we are, organs of the distributed God.