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March 27, 2007

Keep an open mind to minimize conflict

“We are more alike than different. I don’t think we celebrate that enough,” James Ross said Tuesday. “Our differences are not really a problem if we appreciate the differences. The differences become a problem when we try to impose our whatever.”

Ross, a Griertown native and longtime consultant and speaker, has written a small book he titled “Ones Twos and Threes: Celebrating our sameness, appreciating our differences.” The book lays out a theory of knowing and living that he shared with the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Forum.

And while Ross argued for minimizing conflict through appreciating differences, much of his talk Tuesday was about how intractable human differences are. Ross argued that many such differences are ordained from birth and do not change.

“What makes us different,” Ross said, “is what we do with these two things: time and energy.... So your value system is what you do with your time and energy....

“If we look at value systems, people will tend to place themselves in the group that we call society in one of three groups. Now notice the words ‘tend to place.’

“In any group large enough to be called a society, people will tend to place themselves within this pyramid based on their value systems. There is no hierarchy. There is no top or bottom. Nobody’s better than another.... I put the lines [in the pyramid] just to show some value differences.

“I call the people at the base of the pyramid Ones, people in the middle of the pyramid Twos and the people at the top of the pyramid Threes....

“All the folks in here are equal, but there are some differences.... All the folks have ideas, intellect and they have emotion. It’s the value that they place on these three things that will decide where they go....

“Folks who I call Threes, the No. 1 things with them are ideas. Emotion is second and intellect is third.

“Folks who I call Twos, intellect is first with them, ideas second and emotion third.
“The ones I call Ones, emotion is first with them. I’m not sure about these other two, but just for sake of argument I’m going to put ideas, then intellect.

“Let’s take some examples.... religion: People I call Ones believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. God said it and that’s all I need to know. Twos said that God gave you a mind and expects you to use it. Threes don’t believe in organized religion. They tend to have a highly personal relationship with God if they even get into that at all.

“[Ones] handle snakes and say Amen and shout and have bands and tambourines and make a joyful noise unto the Lord and stay in church all day long.... [Twos] believe that one hour is the best you can do; anything longer and you just waste God’s time.

“Are these folks right and these folks wrong? No, they’re just different, that’s all. The conflict comes in when we try to impose one of these on someone else....

“Let’s take automobiles. [Ones] drive Cadillacs, Escalades, big Lincolns, Fords, [Twos] Lexus, Mercedes, Honda. [Threes] pretty much anything the others aren’t driving, and it needs to be old.

“Let’s take chewing gum: [Ones] Juicy Fruit, Big Red. These folks [Twos] would be Spearmint, Trident and Dentyne. [Threes] don’t chew gum.

“Headaches: [Ones] would take a Goody, Stanback or BC. [Twos] would do Tylenol or Bufferin. [Threes] would drink some herbal tea.... They all get rid of the headache. It’s just different, you see?

“Let’s take education: [Ones] think education is something you DO. [Twos] say education is something that you think. And [Threes] this education is ideas. The problem is when we impose, that everybody ought to do this. In our education system we have pretty much left Ones by the wayside. There’s no real vocational education in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System, and for the most part there is no vocational education in the United States education system anymore....

“We laugh at each other, not recognizing we do the same things -- just differently.”
“There is no such thing as race. But you tell me where a person’s a One and I’ll tell you what kind of chewing gum they will tend to chew. I’ll tell you what kind of magazine they will tend to buy, what kind of car they will tend to drive, how they FEEL about certain things....

“One of the most powerful things that Ones have is something called patience. They just wait until you get through doing all that funny stuff and they win in the end....

“All new ideas start with Threes. They introduce it to society, then Twos take it and compartmentalize it and analyze it and dissect it and put it in libraries and write books about it. Then it goes down here to the Ones and it stays there until a new idea comes out. New ideas don’t start with Ones....

“What we have to do to celebrate our sameness is we have to open our minds..... We say a thing is either right or wrong. It’s either good or bad.... Notice we’re picking two opposites and holding on to them as though that’s all that existed.

“George Clinton, the great philosopher from Kannapolis, North Carolina said, ‘It ain’t what you know; it’s how you feel. Don’t worry about being right; just be real.’... The minute I take a position that I’m right, then everybody else has to be wrong.... That causes all kinds of clashes. There is no right or wrong in this [pyramid]. There are some differences.

“One way to open our minds is not get caught on what I call ‘stuck on duality’ -- right or wrong, good or bad, tall or short. Let’s don’t get stuck on those things....

“The mature mind is one that is comfortable with paradox.... A paradox is ‘it’s better to give than receive.’ ‘Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.’ There is no answer to those paradoxes. A mature mind doesn’t have to have answers. How can white milk make yellow butter? Some things don’t need an answer. If you like butter, eat it; if you don’t, have something else....

“If you want to get through [life], the more flexible we are the easier it is for us. This is how we celebrate our differences, by being flexible.”

“The only folk I know of who make sure they consistently understand this value system are advertisers. You will never see a Goody headache powder advertisement where a guy has a briefcase. He’s always standing next to a bulldozer or a pickup truck or is doing some kind of work.... You’ll never see a Lexus commercial with someone digging a hole. Advertisers, they sell to us on the basis of our values.”

Ross said he was schooled at Second Ward High School, Carver Junior College, J.C. Smith University and UNC Charlotte.

 

Short Takes

“If you think a thought, it takes energy. That’s why some of us aren’t involved in that.”

--

“Creed is what you say. Need is what you do. The wider the gap, the more problems you have.”

--

“One of the things I learned in 30-some odd years as a consultant is bring your own stuff. You’d be surprised how many colleges and universities I’ve gone to to speak and they didn’t even have chalk in the classroom. So I have what I call a consultant kit, and I have in there toilet paper and chalk.”

--

“This guy went in to buy toilet paper and they had some ‘generic’ toilet paper. He said what does generic mean. They said oh, generic means it has no name, it’s just toilet paper. He said, oh, that’s cheap, I’ll buy some, 10 rolls for a dollar. So he comes back next week and said, I got a name for this generic toilet paper. It ought to be called John Wayne toilet paper. I said why? He said, because it’s rough and tough and don’t take crap off nobody. But I’m digressing.”

--

“If I spell a word differently than the way you spell it, it doesn’t mean that you’re wrong. It just means I might be creative in a different way.”

--

“Abortion or planned parenthood was started by Twos. The whole ideas is that a woman ought to have a safe place where she can go and have an abortion if she chooses to. That was the whole notion. It was never conceived as a birth control method.... They never in their wildest nightmare thought the abortion rate would go up to the rate it has. Now to show you how twisted things get: Ones tend to be anti-abortion, but they also tend to use abortion as a form of birth control. Which meant that the number of abortions went off the map. Now, [Twos] have a real dilemma: We are for a woman’s right to do this, but we had no idea it would be these numbers. [Ones] are against it but they run the numbers up.

“Notice how long we’ve been fighting over that thing and can’t get anyplace with it. It’s because we have a conflict of values. How we are going to get out of this I have no idea -- until we begin to appreciate each other’s values.”

--

“There is no such thing as a growing middle class. One of the biggest lies we tell in America is that there is a growing Hispanic middle class, there’s a growing African-American middle class. [Twos] are what I call middle class because they are in the middle. Now, how did they get in the middle? They were born that way. You cannot move into the middle class. There is no movement in this pyramid. Now, you can pretend. We do that all the time. What do we call folks who pretend? We call them social climbers. We say they’re living above their means....

“Now, you can get a lot more money, but middle class folk are born. Now how do I know that? Because there’s not a person in this room who didn’t at some point in your life think, how in the world did you get mixed up in this group you call your family? Think about that for a minute.... If you are a One, born into a Two family, they say you are slow. But if you are a Two born into a One family they say you’re uppity. And if you’re a One born into a Three family they usually put you upstairs in a little room someplace and don’t let no breakout when company comes. And if you are a Three born into a One family they don’t know what to do with you. They say you’re strange.... That means you were born with these values. You don’t learn these values. You are born with a certain value system.”

--

“My value system says there is no such thing as race, that this is a recent invention. At best it’s a mental construct.

“Think about Marco Polo and all the other adventurers and explorers back hundreds of years ago. When they would go to a new culture, they never mentioned the word race. Marco Polo would come back and talk about people based sometimes on their religion or their geographic location... but he never mentioned race. Why? Because there was no such thing. Race is a fairly recent invention for really nefarious reasons....

“Race wasn’t invented to clarify anything or to compartmentalize anything. It was invented to justify slavery.... It came into being to justify swapping human beings....
“It’s not biological, it’s not social, it’s not legal. If you try to define race, all you do is get confused. Look at Strom Thurmond. How can a white man have a black daughter? Suppose when Strom Thurmond’s daughter had been born he had claimed her: She would have been raised as a white person.

“On the Census there are 63 categories for race. And if you don’t fit into any of the 63, they have one called “other.” And you can put yourself wherever you want to put yourself. So if it’s that flexible it’s got to be crazy.”

--

“There is one [emotional feeling] that conquers all this foolishness: love. Everything in the physical universe vibrates.... This is the highest vibration in the physical universe -- love. So the term ‘love conquers all’ is literally true because any lesser vibration that comes in contact with this one gets zapped.”

--

“One of the problems in the Middle East is Israel is a Two. Everybody else is a One. Now I’m not saying there aren’t some other conflicts, but value differences are part of the conflict.”

--

“One of the first things dictators do when they take power is they get rid of these folks [Twos].”

--

“The question for Obama is, is he what -- black enough. What they’re really saying is, they don’t trust Twos. Obama is a Two. Why don’t they trust Twos? Twos tend to intellect about stuff. Ones emote about stuff, and they don’t trust folk who think too much.”

--

“One of the things America really needs is a Two president. We haven’t had one since Nixon. Only thing that’s kinda saved us has been that all of the first ladies have been Twos.

--

“After the Second World War education was viewed as a way of moving into the middle class. So we started something called teachers colleges, which were one of the worst things that ever happened to education. You cannot be taught to be a teacher. In my opinion you were born to teach. Now, you can teach people to be instructors. There are too many Ones in education. To be a teacher, intellect has to be the highest value to you. If emotion is the highest value you won’t be a good teacher....”

--

“Keep in mind that all African-Americans are not Ones. We tend to think that all African-Americans are Ones. Now how do I know that? When an African-American Two comes along, we say he’s trying to act white, as if all white folks are Twos. We say children trying to use correct English are trying to act white....”

--

“Yeah, George Bush is a One. It’s how he feels about things, not how he thinks about things.”

--

“Dr. King was not an idea man. If you think about all the speeches that Martin made, none of them were great ideas. They were absolutely genius at taking ideas that were already here and fixing them so we could understand them and appreciate them.”

--

“The nearest thing we had to a Two in the superintendent was a guy named Bill Self. Peter Relic was a Two; he came in at the wrong time. Bill Self was it. What we’ve had since is variations on the One.”

--

“In my opinion there are two kinds of students -- those that are doing, and those that aren’t doing -- and damn everything else. Free lunch? Free lunch is better than no lunch. Either a child is learning, doesn’t matter white, black, green, purple, free lunch, no lunch, poverty, two parent -- all of that stuff, foolishness. Are they learning? If the answer is yes, you don’t need to do anything. If they are not learning you need to do something. Charter schools are an attempt to do something....

“KIPP is coming. KIPP -- Anybody in this room who is 60 years old, you KIPP’d every day. If you went to Fairview School in the ’40s and ’50s, if you went to Billingsville or Morgan... the people downtown didn’t care what you were doing in school as long as you didn’t ask for any more money and you didn’t burn the building down.... So we could learn.
“We didn’t have no libraries, we didn’t have no microscopes. The school I went to had an outdoor toilet and a pump. If you wanted a drink of water you had to pump. No cafeteria. But we learned. Why? There was a fifth-grade lady in that article about KIPP that said, this is not a normal school, this is a learning school. Do you hear the wisdom of a fifth-grader?....”

 

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