Friday, November 19, 2010

The Silver Bullet

If you've ever taken antibiotics of some sort, you're probably aware that instead of downing 30 pills in 30 days you there's a "Silver Bullet" pill out there; something like 6 powerful pills to get you a super dose and you're back to normal in a week. We talked about Corman's point of needing a consistent message that takes time to communicate. There isn't a magic bullet out there and we're so focused on getting everyone to hear our message that we don't think our silver bullet might be, or was once, flawed. I think of how this relates to what we're doing in Afghanistan. After this long, is our message an effective one? Do we specifically tailor our 'antidote' or do we approach people as though they should be capable of understanding our completely different way of communicating?

I liked the example from the lecture about pragmatic complexity and doing what your communication partner doesn't expect. I think we have evolved into a 'quick results' oriented society that doesn't understand how, in all likelihood, we'll fall short of our short term goals and sees being realistic as unacceptable. We've created a number of problems for ourselves and for others in the world and I think we, civilians and government officials alike, tend to think we'll luck out with some kind of silver bullet that takes care of all the past transgressions (we heard the example of Obama's Cairo speech and the lack of follow up). We approach others as though they are no different from us, that the same techniques, the same remedies will work with them as they would for us, but only a fraction of the world is similar to us in the respect. For the rest, we have to battle a stereotype that we're flaky and don't take the time to let a relationship develop. I'm not very optimistic that this will change in my lifetime. We recently heard how there are more people in all the military marching bands than there are in all of the State Department, and given how slowly bureaucracy moves I don't think we'll change our way of relating, communicating and living with people who approach diplomacy or trade differently. The disconnect between people perceiving a quick fix or solution and the slow real-time solution is startling and it will take a form of 'relational or communication literacy', like media literacy only interpersonal, which I think should be taught to everyone along side of media literacy, but that would take a review of the nation's education system...and I don't feel like standing on my soap box for that long!


  1. I don't know if you read the Little Prince, but the story of le renard is quite applicable to the readings you discuss. The fox says to the prince that they need to sit in the same spot every day for several weeks so they can acclimate to one another to become friends. Every meeting strengthens their friendship and shows their commitment to one another. In terms of international relations, the story demonstrates how we need to slowly build up relations and trust. Public diplomacy cannot "just happen" it takes time.

  2. I haven't read it in ages, but that part is very familiar--as a child I couldn't sit still at all, so I remember thinking how hard it would be to do that. You make a very good point though, I think public and cultural diplomacy are things that take time, and we're not very good at being patient at all.