Wednesday, March 09, 2005

YOU THINK SO, DO YOU?

It's hard, really hard, to admit when we're wrong.

Right now, a lot of Democrats in America are getting worried. Biting their nails. Nibbling at their lower lips. Reaching for those cigarettes on the nightstand.

Why?

Because things over there in the Middle East are getting...interesting. Elections in Iraq. Upcoming democratic elections in Egypt. Lebanon standing up for itself. Israel and Palestine trying to sort stuff out, and actually, kind of, getting somewhere.

All because of Bush.

Aha!

Instantly, upon hearing the word Bush, you went into a defensive mode. I heard it! His name inspires either revolt or rejuvenation, and I'm betting which side of the fence you fall on, and I'm betting that it's not conducive to Dubya's health and prosperity.

That's fine. That's cool. I'm Canadian, after all, and I can afford to be a little, well, detached from it all. You want to hate Bush, draw swastikas on his newspaper-photo forehead, go right ahead. Or if you want to love the man, chill in Crawford, go for a little fishing with him, fine by me.

What interests me is not the man himself but the way that his actions, and subsequently your reactions to his actions, affects the way that you respond.

Let's put it this way. Right now, things are going (relatively) pretty good in the Middle East.

That makes Democrats uneasy.

Why?

Not because they don't want things to go well in the Middle East; they do. But they don't want it to be because of Bush, and if the tide does start to turn because of the President's actions, that will be a bitter pill that many Democrats refuse to swallow.

Works both ways, though. Let's say this temporary thaw in Middle Eastern hellraising is just that -- temporary. Let's say the proverbial fit hits the shan over the next six months, a year, two years, and the Middle East explodes in violence. Republicans will not blame Bush, despite all of his efforts and interventions; Republicans will point their fingers somewhere else.

That's what we, as humans, do.

Because it's hard to admit we're wrong. Because we're raised in a society that demands that we have a belief, a firm belief, a pretty much fixed belief, and that we stick to what we believe, come hell or high water.

Fine. All well and good. But the world is not a fixed place, so why should our beliefs be?

Because letting go of those beliefs is hard, soul-damaging work; labels are easier. Labels are the way we make our way through the world. I am white and he is black and she is Democrat and he is a Republican, and all of these classfications enable the building of blocks in our brain to allocate our judgements accordingly -- this person goes here, that person goes there.

But life doesn't work that way. People change and shift; so do events.

We have to find another approach to the way we view things, something beyond our initial, judgmental impulses.

Edward DeBono (www.edwdebono.com), who I've written about before, tries to do this, to go beyond what society has conditioned us to think is right and wrong, doable and not-doable, plausible and implausible. So much of the way we are brought up concerns itself with defending our own position, come hell and high water, without logically considering why we are so, so, so protective of our beliefs.

Consider the construction of the modern judicial system. There is a prosectuor and defendant;
each is trying to win. If the prosecutor has information that would help the defendant, do you think he/she would unleash it? And vice-versa. It is set up as a game, with a winner or a loser. Whoever can argue the best, persuade the best, wins. Truth is a by-product, an irrelevant afterthought.

I'm not saying this is completely wrong, or that I have a better alternative. (I'm from St.Catharines, alright?) But I'll steal DeBono's metaphor: It's like the wheels on a car. It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with having a car with only two wheels; it's just not
enough. There's nothing wrong with our courts systems either, or healthy debates between conflicting parties -- but are they enough? Are these kind of paradigms designed to actually find the truth of a given situation, or are they designed as forums for the relentless defense of our own egos?

My point (and I think I have one; feel free to disagree) is that our own thoughts and views on issues are so tied up with our psyche and our peers, our own feelings and emotions and those of our family, friends and compatriots that it's become increasingly difficult to shift perspectives and swallow our pride and admit that we're going about something the wrong way. It's very, very hard to stop; disengage; step back; and consider. It's very, very difficult to admit that, you know what, I'm not really sure about something. Society tells us that if we don't have an opinion about something now, this very second, then we are apathetic drifters.

So, again, I say 'George W. Bush', and, for 99% of you, your mind is made up: savior or saboteur, saint or slimeball. If you think the man is a twit, you will not be receptive to anything positive I have to say about the man; if you think he's doing a good job, any criticisms coming from me will be tossed-over-the-shoulder right away, plain and simple. (I'm generalizing, but you get the picture.)

The advent of the Internet allows us to broaden our minds and consider points of view alien to our own. The danger is that we will just continue to sample that which reflects back our own beliefs.

I think it's important to at least listen to others who believe stuff that we don't. You ever listen to Rush Limbaugh? (Your mind whirs -- judgement time!) I disagree with most of what he says, 80 per cent of what he says, but you know what? He's actually kind of entertaining. Often funny. Uses satire well. I don't implode after listening to him; he doesn't really change my mind about much. But I learn how people different from me think.

It's a brave new world, yes, linked as never before, but filled with the same old two hundred countries. There was just an article the other day about how a lot of people are getting pissed off at the Indians on the other end of the line who man the phones for various different call-centres, the ones who are 'stealing' all the jobs from the Americans. The customers would get ticked off, then tell off, the Indians, insulting their ethnicity and ability.

We gotta get beyond all this. I don't know how we actually go about doing that, but I think it starts by investigating why we feel the way that we do, and acknowledging that thoughts change, that we change, and that we are, in the end, sometimes, like it or not, fallible.

Unless, of course, you try to tell me that Oliver Stone is a hack.

'Cause then you'd just be wrong.

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