Thursday, June 18, 2009

James Callis Quote of the Week: "Conversation Is a Form of Conversion"

It is only through understanding that we can create, you know.. harmony, really. My feeling is.. as a person, not in the show.. is that the only thing you have is other people, and their ideas, and how you meet them and their ideas. And conversation is a form of conversion, they come from the same root. it's desperately important that people start speaking form the same hymn sheet or start understanding where people are coming from. You know, to negate it actually is.. prejudicial, it shows a kind of ignorance and... fear.

We really do live in a world laced with fear right now. We can't seem to help it and the news seems to perpetuate it. And I think we've got a very... I think the task for us as human beings right now is to try and get rid of that fear. The only way you can get rid of that fear is talking to peple, is dialogue, lots of dialogue all of the time. It's a lot more difficult to want to klil somebody when you're face to face with them. It's a lot easier when you're removed, you can do it on the internet or on a telephone line that you can't see somevbody on... It's about finding our humanity.

This is from the BBC Cult TV interview done in 2004. The chosen quote is a response to "Why it's important to know your enemy."

It's a very rare old interview in that it still works. I should really transcribe the whole thing; it's one of my favorite interviews, because it really goes sort of deeper under the skin. Many of the first interviews during BSG were just "how did you get the role" (well, that's in there too) and "what's it like to work with Tricia Helfer" - which is also there, actually, but at least they asked something a bit deeper as well. My only complaint is that the videos are in a weird aspect ratio, and James' face looks twice as wide (he still looks skinny though, just squashed). It's a bit disturbing. But the stuff he says is great. On to the quote.

I like that Professor James shows up briefly to say that conversation and conversion have the same root. It's not just to show off, I think; he's making a good point. When you have dialogue with people, you learn to know the way they think, and it's very difficult to hate someone when you understand their thinking - their pain, their fears, their anxieties, and so forth. My theory is that when you get to know a person, you can no longer hate them, because no one's ugly inside. (I haven't ever gotten to know mass murderers and such though, so I could be wrong in some cases.)

I also agree totally on the fear argument. I'd even call it hysteria - almost every month, there is a new news item that inspires fear and panic. Swine flu is the latest example. I think we need more calm discussion of big issues, and less "OMG watch out you're gonna die!" It seems to grab the least informed the most, like people instinctively grab onto fear when they're not sure if something is safe. There's nothing wrong with playing it safe, per se, but I think it's psychologically unhealthy to live in fear.

I'm not a huge fan of the "face to face vs. internet" argument, because my experience is that you can get to know people very deeply online and share things you'd be shy to share offline. A lot of conversation depends on context - they might or might not be from the same root - and it can be difficult to create an intimate context if you're meeting a friend in a coffee shop.

However, I guess what he's talking about here is a context of prejudice and hate, and in that case, the internet can indeed be a place where hate is spread freely. It's easy to hate people you can't see - you lose the idea that they're all somebody's daughter or son, somebody's friend, wife, husband, mother, father, etc. There's something about the internet that makes it easy to see different people as a manifestation of their ideas, rather than as human beings with feelings. Debate and trollery can be a very fine line to draw, and I've seen this many times. (And maybe even been guilty of it myself.)

I love when James talks about understanding other people. He's very serious and warm talking about this, and you can tell we're going into his core values here. Sometimes I think he should be a diplomat.


Wesoly said...

Hey, D!

I think what he's saying is that we all need to speak from "the same hymn sheet."

Deniselle said...

Ah, you must be right! Thank you! :) I tried searhing for "himpsheet" at first and it suggested "hemp sheet", but I see I was going for the wrong word.

Thank you! Post edited. :)

kixxa said...

I can't get that video to play whatever I do (and I've done an awful lot). So, you've gotta do a full transcription, baby! I need my James words of wisdom!

Deniselle said...

Aww, too bad! You need to dl a program - Quicktime? Realplayer? - to make it play.

But I'll probably make a full transcript though, because I love that interview. Every answer is worth reading.