Thursday, October 17, 2013

Post No. 188c: Both Sides Equally Wrong on Most Issues

We originally generated this post in 2009, when we thought that the level of political discord in this country was at its peak. At that time, we gave some consideration to using the title which appears above, but instead chose, "It All Depends on the Price of Your Ticket on the Train." We seemingly have lost the ability as a country to appreciate the views of others. We thought that re-visiting some principles from the physical universe might be helpful in that regard.

© 2009 and 2013, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

There’s a good and bad side to everything.

Including conduct and relationships.

(Are you aware the largest source of violence against women is not strangers, against whom one might use a gun, but from their “loved ones,” who they know?)

The Logistician is the only guy we know who takes dangerous vacations.

Like walking the back streets of Rio amid warnings of “the Mafioso.” Or scurrying from Caracas just before riots resulted in 300 deaths. Then there was cruising in the Adriatic when the U.S. bombed Libya.

Some brave, macho guy? No. (Stupid is more likely.)

His problem? Curiosity.

About any and every thing. And open to all points of view.

He suspects that how one views the world, and what they value, depends on where they’ve been, what they know, and what they’re willing to experience.

As an engineer and a lawyer, he had to appreciate all sides of many issues. He had to find the facts, not just those which advanced his goals.

He learned that advocating a position, which was patently disingenuous or specious, detracted from the power of your advocacy, and made others question your motives, if not your professionalism.

Rightly or wrongly, he applied that principle to all things in the Universe, and thought that others did also.

But it now appears that we either live in a new environment, or the Logistician is just waking up to reality.

Many have figured out that drawing lines in the sand, making specious arguments, if not telling out right lies, and resisting the views of others, works. Especially while pushing emotional buttons.

For someone who learned to argue the merits of a position, and not their own belief system, this is proving to be a very troubling revelation.

Today it appears that if one does the Nikita, pounds the desk, speaks at a fever pitch, and exudes “passion,” one will attract attention. And perhaps even a lot of followers.

That may be good. May be bad.

We almost named this piece, “Both Sides Equally Wrong on Most Issues.”

Why? When Einstein was exploring “simultaneity,” or the simultaneous occurrence of events (and its relationship to relativity), he asked, “How do we know two events are simultaneous?”

He provided this mental example. Lightning strikes to one’s left, and a separate strike occurs the same distance to the right. To the person standing in the middle, the light from both strikes will be perceived as reaching the person at the same time.

The observer will consequently view the events as “simultaneous.”

Next, imagine a very, very fast moving train. Lighting strikes the front, and a separate strike hits the back, when an observer, standing beside the track, is in the middle of the span of the train.

Again, the observer would consider these “simultaneous.”

Then Einstein threw us a curve ball.

He asked us to imagine a woman sitting on the train, in the middle passenger car, when lightning strikes both the front and rear of the train.

From her perspective, they would no longer be simultaneous events. Moving in the direction of the front end of the train, she would perceive two, separate, and distinct strikes.

And so we thought, how we view the world, and the positions of others, depends on where we sit on the train.

When it comes to considering the behavior of others, or formulating solutions to problems, we should recognize that others are located in different cars.

And that their perceptions are equally valid.

Bill Bernbach, founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach and Father of the last meaningful creative revolution, famously kept a scrap of paper in his wallet. Upon reaching an impasse with clients about his radical approach to advertising, he would pull it out.

On same Bill had reminded himself that, “Perhaps he’s right.”

As we speed toward that stalled R.V. straddling the track down the road, we need the input and contributions of all observers, not just those in any one car.

Like Mr. Bernbach, we need to put ideology aside in favor of pragmatism, when the logical outcome of inter-railroad employee fighting and a bad decision might be a massive train wreck.

Rigid adherence to one’s position may work on a personal level.

However, it significantly complicates collaboration, and has the potential to distract us from reaching common goals to our collective benefit.

After our original post, we followed up with another post on the same subject of civil discourse or its possible absence. It was entitled, It's More Than Just the Difference in the Price of Your Ticket on the Train.


  1. And here I thought perception was reality. Which, I suppose, is your point.

  2. There is a quote from Anne Sexton which we have used on a number of occasions: "It does not matter who my Father was; it matters who I remember he was." In our view, that concept is applicable to many things in life.

  3. The problem, as I see it, is in figuring out whose perception is most accurate. One should not let personal bias distort one's perception.... as tempting as that might be.

  4. Several thoughts, Douglas:

    (1) Some folks are interested in being right; some are interested in being accurate;

    (2) In our view, accuracy (unless it is of a purely physical nature and not in a parallel universe) is arguably in the mind of the beholder; and

    (3) The Logistician's Father once told us of a story about his younger brother. Having grown up in a seaport city, the first time his younger brother personally saw a cow in a rural area, he referred to it as "a big dog." Accuracy can be a relative concept depending on one's experiences AND the experiences of those around them. Think of the time when the entire known world thought that the world was flat. Until it was established otherwise, the perception that the earth was flat was arguably accurate for a lengthy period of time.

  5. Arguably, everything is arguable. Since I wrote "most accurate", I suppose I should defend it though it is difficult to argue "most accurate" against plain old "accurate." The modifier "most" would seem to take in that variance set by personal experience and personal bias... but that's just me. Am I mostly accurate about that?

  6. Interesting. We'll look that up shortly. We realize that lots of "stories" about specific individuals and specific events have been embellished or inaccurately recounted over the years, as a result of watching the History Channel and other reading. As a result, inaccuracies regarding people or events do not surprise us.

    From a purely theoretical perspective, to describe a perception or a concept as a myth is interesting. Does that mean that not one single person thought the world was flat, less than 50% of the earth's inhabitants entertained the notion at a given point in time, that no humans whoever lived on earth had that view, or that by some force, edict, or agreement, society agreed to lie or deceive others?

    We'll look it up.

  7. We tend to believe what we are taught. I merely pointed out that a "flat Earth" was not likely to be the official view nor, let's say, the "entire world['s]" view. I believe it was you who engaged in that rather broad assignment, not I. I try to avoid large generalizations. I do not know what the "average" person thought of the shape of the world, probably he or she didn't think about it at all. But, clearly, it was not a widespread belief among the educated.

  8. Extremely well versed and compelling write up. Thank you for your thoughts and perspective on the state of civil discourse.

  9. Thank YOU, NICD. I'm all for civil discourse. Please visit and contribute to my forum often.


"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense should be a Way of Life"™

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