It’s hardly possible to overstate the value of placing human beings in contact with other persons dissimilar to themselves…Such communication has always been one of the primary sources of progress.
— John Stuart Mill, 1848
Do you have a friend, relative, co-worker, or fellow citizen whose politics is different from yours, yet with whom you find that discussions are mutually beneficial? Would you be willing to go public, putting on something as small as a dinner party, or as large as a public or televised discussion? If so, then consider declaring yourselves an Asteroids Club and sharing your example with others here on this site.
The science behind the Asteroids Club
Why an Asteroids Club?
In this age of highly divisive politics, there are many efforts to find common ground. Debates don’t work to soften divisions because reasoning is generally used by people to harden their side’s argument. Alternatively, the Asteroids Club approach softens divisions as a result of the process during the meeting, a process firmly planted in an understanding of human nature and our moral reasoning processes. Read more
The more typical “common ground” approach to solving the problem works against the basic nature of human beings, who are highly groupish and whose groups are often (and increasingly) defined by their like-mindedness. People aren’t naturally anxious to step outside of their comfortable groups, except to handle a common threat. By a focus on identifying common threats (“asteroids”), the Asteroids Club works with – rather than against – human nature. If both sides of the aisle can accurately see a common threat – and we’ve got many common threats, they don’t have to be made up – the common ground flows naturally from there and our group is naturally broadened.
The Asteroids Club also puts the enduring human quality of reciprocity in service of decreasing divisiveness. Participants take turns explaining, then listening. Their success in making their case is immediately dependent on their level of cooperation with the other case that is being made. Club motto “I’ll help you deflect your asteroid, if you help me deflect mine” emphasizes the reciprocal nature of the Asteroids Club.
The Asteroids Club approach is entirely novel, like nothing that has been tried before. And – if you’ve noticed the tenor of the civic dialogue lately – it’s probably about time to try something new.
Begin with an established relationship
Your Asteroids Club must begin with an enduring, established relationship between two people who don’t see politics the same way. If you don’t start with this core of trust, expect choppy waters. Identifying a central friendship is a step that is key to future success. Resist the temptation to begin the club between two friends on the same side of the aisle. If you want to start it with a likeminded friend, find two more acquaintances who are your political foils to join your effort. Have a get-together with your friend/s to both cement the concept and discuss your goals.
Build your group beginning with about 8 to 15 mutual friends
After having started with solid personal relationships, your next task is to enlarge your group. People who join should be willing to at least entertain agreement with the founding notion: an acknowledgement that the other “side” may see some real threats more clearly than does one’s own side. Keep the group roughly balanced politically. Avoid bringing in flame-throwers or participants who you intuitively find worrisome. This group of people is most critical as they will create the culture of what is to follow, especially if you plan to hold large or public events. Once the Asteroids Club culture is established, challenging personalities and stronger partisans can join without undue disruption.
Host your first Asteroids Club dinner party with this group and use them to help you evolve the process and perfect the idea. Even if you’re planning large public events, a dinner party is a great first step.
Working toward a big public event? Invite about 50 “founding members”
If your ultimate goal is to host large and public Asteroids Club affairs, you’ll need some people who are likely to attend until the group gets off the ground. A personal invitation by mail or by phone is far more likely to get a favorable response than general publicity. Ask them to be your “founding members” – to commit to assist while the group is still new.
Consider asking founders to make a small dollar contribution to help you publicize your events and meet expenses. Keep this group roughly balanced politically as well. By making them founders, 50 people will immediately have a stake in the success of your effort. They’re also your audience.
Embark with a spirit of adventure and a devotion to having fun
Sure these are serious topics – about as serious as they come – but no one will spend their valuable free time with you if your club is deadly dull and morbidly depressing. Keep your head in the game: this is ultimately about building new relationships and mutually acknowledging the concern of the other. Enjoy the team spirit, revel in the diversity of opinion – something that is as American as apple pie – and your Asteroids Club will succeed.
Tools & Tips
We’d like to make this whole business of deflecting asteroids easy for you. So we’ve done a few things to help you get started. You’ll find an example of a public Asteroids Club event online here, hosted by The Village Square in Tallahassee, Florida. They’ve made it easy for you to use their basic event page format to make your very own event page in 15 minutes or less (call if you need help). Find instructions for how to make your own event page online here (scroll to the bottom of the page). For a dinner party, we suggest you use Evite (or go low-tech with snail mail invitations). Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 850-264-8785.
Click here for a sample poster for your event, you can also requested a version of it that is editable in Adobe Photoshop.
Click here to download a large dpi version of the Asteroids Club logo.
Coming soon… a model press release for your public Asteroids Club meeting.