Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Post No. 25: Does Everyone Necessarily Have a Point of View?

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

Some years ago, a documentary aired exploring President Johnson’s inheritance of the Vietnam War, and the manner in which he dealt with the conflict. I mentioned to a buddy that, despite the fact that I was in the Army during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, I did not fully understand the forces in operation at the time, and that the documentary provided me with a better understanding. My buddy immediately inquired as to the “point of view” of the documentary film maker. At the time, it really had not occurred to me. It was simply “information.” While I recognized that it theoretically might have been produced with a particular slant, or a particular political purpose in mind, those factors did not loom large in my appreciation of the piece.

There are two types of people who I generally hold in high regard. Those without an “agenda,” and those who recognize that everything is bigger than their pedestrian concerns. My particular definition of those individuals with an “agenda” includes folks who are always proselytizing, disseminating dogma, or passing extreme judgment on others. (Is judgment being passed on them now through this process?) Like those individuals who recognize that the world is bigger than their concerns, those without an “agenda” seemingly have a tendency to listen more, acquire information, and be slow to judge. Those rushing to judgment have always concerned me, and arguably, should concern us all.

We encountered this reactionary phenomenon recently while observing various discussions about our presidential candidates, and reviewing some comments in response to some of our recent posts. In the political arena, party loyalists appear incapable of finding anything good about the candidate who they do not support. Is the recognition of any positive attributes of the opposing party’s candidate a fatal thing to do in an elective contest? The number of times that we have heard commentators mention that neither Obama nor McCain has done anything worthwhile in life is absolutely fascinating. (Of course, many talk radio hosts behave as if they have made tremendous contributions to science and humankind, and the advancement of society’s long term interests.)

In one of our recent posts, we presented the views of a particular citizen and inquired as to whether that individual’s views fell within the range of acceptable positions for a particular political party. One of the positions expressed was that of mandatory service in the armed forces, by all citizens, to protect and defend our nation, and consequently those freedoms which we all enjoy. We simply raised some rhetorical questions regarding one’s identification with certain political parties, and examined potential positions that might be taken by a third, independent party. Interestingly, some readers felt that we were advocating treating citizens as slaves, and branded us totalitarian pigs. Some others assumed that we had taken a position in line with Osama bin Laden and that we were not patriotic. Some frequently assume that simply because we mention someone’s name, or quote them on an issue, we support their position. To borrow a phrase, “Au contraire, mon frere.”

One thing which we have learned during the publishing of this blog is that when you raise theoretical questions and issues, you run the risk of people assuming that you have taken a position along one particular line regarding the issue. Why is that? They obviously have not read the piece from an unbiased perspective. Some have even suggested that no writer can achieve objectivity and put aside their personal biases. I wonder how judges do it, or do they? (Interestingly, it often seems that those individuals who are most offended by the posing of rhetorical questions are those who have hard and fast, unyielding positions themselves.) Our experience also highlighted something said by another writer, that being that in taking a moderate or centrist position, one does not receive some degree of praise from either side, but rather has to fend off attacks from both. Perhaps that’s why we get so little accomplished in the political arena these days, and why partisanship appears to rule. Let’s all rally around groupspeak.

There is so much negative, outlandish, and critical information disseminated daily about virtually every candidate in virtually every election in this nation. The reason is that negative information, particularly bearing on emotional, hot button issues, works. Does anyone really think that McCain plans to open up the border in Arizona and permit all undocumented workers to enter the country, as some of his detractors have argued? Does anyone really believe that should Obama be elected President, more Islamic mosques than Christian churches will be built during his tenure?

This junk is just that; however, it appears to work, at least for a significant segment of our population. We should all be concerned that the innermost “fears” of many may have an influence on the outcome of this election. (Maybe it always has. You will recall that there was a concern that by electing a Catholic, i.e. John Kennedy, the Pope would have too much of an influence in American politics.) What’s more troubling is that the manipulation of our fears is being orchestrated by heretofore, somewhat respected, well educated folks, on both sides of the aisle, who are more concerned about winning, than appealing to our good sense, logic, and fairness. Of course, America loves a winner, but are lies and misinformation any different than steroids in the quest to win?

It’s amazing that these “public servants” have any interest in running for office. The mere fact that they are willing to subject themselves and their families to this abuse suggests that something is a tad different about them. However, it may also keep prospective leaders, who could actually accomplish something of value, from coming up to the plate. Is this the environment in which we want to conduct the selection of our leaders? A totally objective viewer might conclude that none of the candidates in any election is worthy of being elected. What kind of “transformers” and actors are these folks, along with their handlers and consultants? Perhaps we deserve the lies and false promises fed to us so that they can get elected. Perhaps this can be viewed as a necessary evil and simply a means to an end, so that they can actually do something of value once they win the position. Hmmmh, is truth still the better choice, even if you do not win? Is there some value to being a noble loser who took the high ground?

One of my best friends was a college and professional level coach for many years. The phrase which I recall him repeating most frequently is, “Don’t judge.” What he was really saying was to listen, acquire and be open to more information, and do not rush to judgment. As the professor noted to Captain Nemo in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, there are issues bigger than those which we now face, and which have a longer term impact.

The next time that you read or hear something, try to avoid processing it from your point of view. Try to avoid assuming that the writer has a particular point of view. Simply view it as information. The next time that you hear something with which you disagree, assume for a short period of time that you misheard it, or that there is a reasonable explanation for the position taken by the speaker. Consider the prospect of your brain functioning like a hard disk on a computer. Just take in the information, store it there, and process it later when you have additional information and time to reflect. As the old song during the 1970’s used to say, “Expand your mind, you might be surprised at what you might find.”

© 2008, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

3 comments:

  1. Point well taken. I lost several dear friends/work associates in the World Trade Center, so any mention of Ben Laden as a rational cognitive individual sends me right over the edge. (But never did I fathom that was your or your �groups� point of view.)

    I remember when Kennedy was elected and the propaganda of a potential Pope controlled White House. I also remember Oliver Stone�s JFK and the public and political chaos it created on the assassination. Do you remember the director was actually questioned about his �movie making� sources by a Senate Select Intelligence Committee? (How stupid was that?)

    Shocking then, today slanted or misleading opinions, books, newscasts, blogs, etc. are just the state of affairs. We accept it as such and tend to stop listening and believe nothing. I don�t think the public is closed-minded. We�re just exhausted.

    �Truth� � long gone.

    Vikki

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree that we all have our different points of view. Rather than avoiding the difference, I believe what is needed is accepting it.

    If someone has a different point of view, rather than tuning it out we should take a few moments to examine it. Take a look at how they arrived at their viewpoint, and whether some of the facts that led to it have any bearing upon our own point of view.

    Ultimately, if we cannot think critically about our own viewpoints, but only tear down the viewpoints of others, we're only doing ourselves a disservice by not making sure that what we believe isn't rock solid.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Point well taken. I lost several dear friends/work associates in the World Trade Center, so any mention of Ben Laden as a rational cognitive individual sends me right over the edge. (But never did I fathom that was your or your �groups� point of view.)

    I remember when Kennedy was elected and the propaganda of a potential Pope controlled White House. I also remember Oliver Stone�s JFK and the public and political chaos it created on the assassination. Do you remember the director was actually questioned about his �movie making� sources by a Senate Select Intelligence Committee? (How stupid was that?)

    Shocking then, today slanted or misleading opinions, books, newscasts, blogs, etc. are just the state of affairs. We accept it as such and tend to stop listening and believe nothing. I don�t think the public is closed-minded. We�re just exhausted.

    �Truth� � long gone.

    Vikki

    ReplyDelete

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