Me, when something new comes up, I like to do a bit of what a friend & I dubbed “data-mining”. From our starting positions, we’d throw around stuff we already knew, adding to it as we came across more information (read, researched, heard, been told), and we’d ask “what if” or “how about” and “maybe” questions, and the whole discussion (or series of discussions) would be done from a position of curiosity, trying to figure out where we sat on the subject, whilst being open to having our position changed.
I’m probably being naive and idealistic, but this seems the responsible way to deal with stuff. I know that there’s a vast amount out there that I know only a little about and I can’t help believing it would be wrong to take a firm or fixed position based on that small amount of knowledge. That doesn’t make me wishy-washy, or unwilling to fight my corner, it just means I want to know what my corner is before I fight a battle over it.
Yet it seems that’s having a ready opinion is somehow expected. As a society, we’ve become all about sound bites. Whatever happened to taking the time to mull things over, to test out a thought or a theory via open discussion, rather than in combative debate?
And adding insult to injury, there also appears to be an increasing requirement to toe the (politically correct) line, with the danger of being vilified if offering a different viewpoint or perspective, even when it would be relevant to the situation at hand. How can we – as a society – truly develop if we don’t critically examine things from a wide range of viewpoints? Surely that’s why most civilised societies have enshrined the right of free speech.
And whilst it’s always possible to have such discussions in private, that tends to limit the range of knowledge and views available to you. Social media could have been a great place for a data-mining discussion, but the legendary nasty and vitriolic responses flying about on Facebook and Twitter means one tends to keep one’s head down and remain within the safe confines of our friend-zone.
Putting aside keyboard warriors, there’s also the ever present problem of being right, with too many absolutely confident there’s only one version of right … and that it’s their own. The more reasonable (or less egotistical) of us know there isn’t always one empirical right, especially when people are involved. For even when there is an empirical (scientifically proven) right, too many are inclined to rubbish it because it doesn’t fit with their view.
How can we change this? Or will it remain ever a pipe dream?
© Debra Carey, 2018