Saturday, October 20, 2012

What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?

Looking at so many political engagements across the spectrum, I see so many people proffer both vice and virtue. There are those who urge us to find love and compassion for our fellow men; lamenting greed and cold-heartedness. Some wish us to be more competent and assertive; eschewing those who lack any sense of responsibility for themselves. And still others call for a deeper patience and tolerance for those with whom we disagree; demanding cessation of unprovoked violence and aggression.

The tragedy in our ideological differences, I think, isn't the variance. The tragedy is that our way of thinking about such issues ("politically") has led us to believe that the conception and practice of these ideas are mutually exclusive. This is not necessarily so. We will probably never see a world with united preferences. There will always be areas (even vast ones) of disagreement. But there is little reason to believe that values (such as the above) cannot be mutually deterministic. That I care about others should not  be construed to mean that I have no sense of someone's personal responsibilities. That I urge competence and assertiveness should not be construed to mean that I'm intolerant. That I oppose aggression should not be construed to mean I'm cold-hearted.

And yet I see such non sequiturs all the time when I witness the political discourse of today. It seems that we have a tendency to believe that because we may oppose the means of others that we must also oppose their ends - but it's simply not the case. Whether such misunderstandings are a subconscious "tic" or simply a strategic way to make those who disagree with you seem immoral, I'm not completely sure. But I'd imagine it's a spectrum. And it's almost certainly some degree of both.

My advice to you, when you should read such things, is to be charitable in your argumentation. Remember that we're all human...we all have (probably) both good and bad ideas. We all certainly have our faults. I've met many people who I believe do and say "bad" things, but I would never pull their intentions into the category of malevolence. Their hearts are, more often than not, in the right place. Even the most vile among us (excluding the inextricably insane) seem to feel the need to build moral justifications for their actions. I don't think that's mere coincidence.

So listen to what others have to say. And when others begin to cast off-hand dispersions towards your intentions, don't simply rebut in kind and leave them feeling vindicated. Patiently but firmly remind them that, if they believe that you simply don't care about these other values, that they are mistaken and need to reconsider their accusations. Real communication about such important things is already going to be an uphill battle. It's not made any better when peoples' familiarity with their opponent only extends to what amounts to a caricature of their views.

No comments:

Post a Comment