- Encounters with the "Other": A History and Possibilities by Barry Oshry (PDF)

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Part Number:31
Systems Thinking for Societies

Encounters with the "Other" ends with a 'catalogue of catastrophes' starting with the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya of Myanmar, back through the Holdomor and the Holocaust to the Armenian genocide.

This is a reminder, if any were needed, that contemporary societies have not lost their taste for identifying and labelling the 'others' in their midst and slaughtering them. Indeed populist governments positively rely on the cohesion that can be found in bringing a group of people together in the face of an external threat.

In Encounters with the "Other" Barry Oshry uses the lenses of 'loose and tight', liberal and conservative', 'pure and conflicted', 'tolerance and purity' to highlight the range of reflexive responses we can have to 'others in our midst' especially when we are under the stress of poverty, lack of housing or shortage of jobs.

He then shows how these responses can be characterised as seeing through Power or Love (seeing in terms of our differences from the other or in terms of what we have in common with the other).

Finally he suggests how the intolerant 'Power cycle' can be interrupted and tempered by the more inclusive 'Love cycle' to prevent further catastrophes.  Can we believe it? Are we willing to test it?

Read the book in an hour. Transform your understanding of societies for ever.

About the book

Barry Oshry has a lifetime’s experience of working with social and organizational systems. 

Here he explains how we can understand – and avoid – the “catastrophes” that continue to occur when one culture meets another – when demagogues sell us messages of superiority or purity in the face of cultural difference.

Algeria ~ Armenia ~ Bosnia ~ Cambodia ~ Congo ~ Darfur ~ East Timor ~ The Holdomor ~ The Holocaust ~  Myanmar ~  Palestine ~ Rwanda... 

He explains how the two conventional solutions to encountering the “other” – Purity and Tolerance – both exact a terrible cost on the oppressed while diminishing the humanity of the oppressors.

And he offers us a third possibility, one that requires a fundamental transformation in how we see and experience one another. This transformation requires us to understand that the interaction patterns we fall into shape the way we see and experience one another. Change the pattern of interaction and our experiences of one another will change...

The possibility of “Power and Love”, working together and tempering one another,  will emerge.