Divin Dushimimana ‘26 (DCI Fellow)
We’re in a world with many polarizing ideas. At some point it feels like it’s one idea against all other ideas and their owners do everything in their capacity to transmit their ideas. Without going too far from where our present location, let’s start with the US and the country’s political systems. We mostly have Republicans vs Democrats. These political ideologies differ in many ways, starting with their perspective on taxes to minimum wage to healthcare policy to the military and to many other things in the country. Statistics show that the number of Americans in each party with a negative view of the other party has doubled since 19941https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2014/06/12/political-polarization-in-the-american-public/. It’s as if members of one political party wants to convert people in the other party to their beliefs.
By zooming out, we can see that the western political and economic ideology of democracy and capitalism has been fighting head-to-head with the political and economic ideologies of socialism and communism for a long time. Having been present in a conversation between an American and a Chinese that encapsulated this conflict, it’s hard for me to envision a situation where an explorer-mindset as a deliberative disposition can be applicable in a normal conversation. In this conversation about capitalism and communism that I witnessed, it was about one person proving why one of the systems is better than the other. Now that I think about it, neither were looking for a common ground in the debate, and I feel like this is how many conversations are in this world.
When looking back to my primary school memories, I reminisce about debates we used to have like fire vs water, food vs water, or even who is better between mother and father. As I remember, none of us in these conversations were ready to apply the explorer-mindset to understand where other people’s opinions originate. As we grow up, this character trait – a stubborn commitment to our currently held beliefs, right or wrong – gets ingrained in us and we become resistant to accepting and learning from other people’s perspectives. When I look back, I think polarization is a concept that we were taught since we were young and we grow up to apply it in our daily lives.
That’s why the explorer mindset is a concept I had never seen applied by anyone before reading and learning about the Deliberative Citizenship Initiative. My conversations were so debate-focused before joining DCI. Ever since I learned about this concept, I’ve been trying to put it into practice because I realized it’s a way to practice intellectual humility by understanding that there could be multiple truths to a certain topic. Conversations should shift from being focused on persuading another person of your perspective or opinion to finding common ground and actually learning why people think the way they think. This is because people’s backgrounds and experiences do really influence their opinions on certain topics.
However, with little exposure to this concept, it’s unlikely that people are going to put it into practice or that the number of people willing to practice intellectual humility will increase. Instead, we see the number of people without intellectual humility increase day by the day and this is a concerning trend. Unless DCI and other similar initiatives become accessible to more students, people, and institutions around the world, the explorer-mindset is unlikely to spread widely, despite our desperate need for it amidst today’s hyper-polarization. For this reason, I hope that more of us will join the DCI and participate in its activities, so we can all explore different perspectives together, in our search of solutions to our common problems.