United We Fall challenges conventional wisdom by claiming that what the world needs is more disagreement, not less. It argues as well that “disagreement” needs to be understood in a new way: as the careful consideration of what others have to say, as listening with generosity while demanding the same from others, and as sticking to principle rather than treating all views as equal.
Engaged disagreement is very different from consensus-building, negotiation, therapy, manipulation, and consciousness-raising. And it doesn’t celebrate centrism, moderation, or bipartisanship. Instead it respects extremism. After all, most views that are now seen as “moderate” were once thought to be “extreme,” and in fact were extreme, compared to what was seen is in the middle at some earlier point in time.
There’s no denying that the engaged disagreement we need calls upon us to learn new skills: e.g. listening, and making our case respectfully, and without yelling. But only by taking on that challenge can we hope to counter the power of the large-scale organizational systems we increasingly depend on. Only by that means can we effectively counter the root causes of organized violence and terrorism: demonization and misunderstanding.