An Invitation to the Reader: Feel Yourself at Home

(“From Beyond the South:” I, 1)

This is more than a place where I will publish my opinions written in English. The main reason behind publicizing those opinions is to create opportunities for changing them; improving them. I need my readers to challenge me; to help me realize where I may not be clear, where I may be wrong, and where I may be right. So, each text should be understood as a new invitation for the reader to engage in a conversation with me.

Now, a conversation happens through the usage of a “Common Speech” which is not equivalent to a “Common Language.” For instance, in the United States, a country in where I have lived and about which I have learned to care, those engaged in public debate speak English, but there seems to be no understanding between one another. The parties do not share a “Common Speech,” but communicate through two distinct political dialects: “Rightspeak;” and “Leftspeak.”

Politics, in such an asphyxiating environment, is unable to build socially-acceptable compromises. Force becomes the only way to settle political questions. Politics is reduced to a mere dispute for power and imposition of one’s will over those of others. A broader sense of community is lost; substituted by a sentiment of “us versus them.” Thus, the quest for a “Common Speech” is probably the most relevant political issue in America today.

However, if conversations need a “Common Speech,” the question on how to establish one comes into the spotlight. It seems paradoxical, since the answer would be that “Common Speech” is the result of conversations. I face the same paradox in a personal level, since I need to establish a “Common Speech” with my readers. In order to solve it, it is necessary to understand that “Conversation” is more than a mere exchange of words.

“Conversation” comes from Latin (“co-” + “versare”) and means “to change together.” Talking with someone is supposed to be a mutually transformative exercise. When we are open for such a possibility, conversations have the power to alter those participating in it. Hence, before the “Common Speech,” it comes the disposition to understand the other with whom we talk, and a desire to “change together.”

Misunderstandings and disagreements are part of the process. The path toward a “Common Speech” is full of them. They should not discourage conversation, but motivate it. This is true in both personal and political levels. It works for every single relationship between human beings, and stresses the everlasting necessity for mutual respect. A “Common Speech” is also constantly in flux.

I will be writing “From Beyond the South,” expecting that a different perspective can throw some lights on issues concerning my friends from the United States and from the rest of the English-speaking world. On the other hand, I also expect that they will show me what I cannot see from far away. If we are successful in engaging in such a dialogue, this space will enable us all to learn with one another and to change together through the development of a “Common Speech.” It will be like a microcosmos of a healthy political community.

In such a spirit, I reiterate the invitation made at the beginning. Please, feel free to disagree with and to question whatever I say. Please, feel free to correct grammar mistakes and typos. Use this space as your own, because, in many senses, it actually is. We are all in this enterprise of learning the truth and changing together.

Paulo Sanchotene

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