12/29/2012

Messages Lost

Everything lately seems to be a reaction to something else, someone else, with the end result being entrenched positions and the belief that any difference of opinion means that other person is the enemy. Pretty soon all we're going to have left is a "no man's land." And nothing happens there.

It's impossible to have a discussion of mental illness and violence without incredible blowback. And it's impossible to discuss gun control without someone thinking the second amendment is threatened. And that's just one of the currently hot topics out there. It seems that anything that can possibly be divided into either/or is, even if this is always a fallacy.

The middle ground seems to be growing smaller and smaller, disappearing as we find more and more things to divide us.

And there's no shortage of folks reinforcing their foxholes and girding themselves for war.

What's lost in this back and forth of competing facebook statuses and blog posts and newspaper articles and petitions and memes gone wild is the underlying message.

Fear prompts much of this, and so do our wonderful heuristics, which are great to have until they bury the message under so much baggage it's a wonder the message isn't forever lost and relationships forever torn apart.

In our own families and friendships, we either learn what we can talk about safely when we disagree or those bonds are damaged and broken. In the online world, shifting allegiances based on issue-positions leave me, at least, with whiplash.

We can keep ourselves firmly chained to our beliefs, ostracize anyone who thinks differently, or engage others in a continual attempt to challenge our own beliefs and work to find out how the world really works. Being skeptical, being a critical thinker, means constantly challenging one's beliefs and conclusions, looking for disconfirming evidence. It means being open to new data. It means living precariously on the edge, admitting that very little is absolute. It doesn't mean further entrenching oneself and crying foul when one's beliefs are challenged.

The scientific method is the best chance we have of finding out how things really are. It's awfully hard to maintain that skeptical, show me attitude consistently throughout our life and apply it to all our beliefs.  But if we don't, we can be certain of one thing: messages will be lost and we will see the world as we want it to be rather than as it is. And as long as that happens, it will be impossible to effect real, lasting positive change.

5 comments:

Willis Warren said...

Once again you hit the nail on the head. The polarization that we currently face in this country is deplorable and will lead to a stalemate. A stalemate in which the common man loses. The middle ground is shrinking despite many of our efforts. Every coin has two sides, yet not many look at it in a logical way. With that said it is left to the few, the proud, the bipartisan to implement this "new" way of thinking. There may not be a campfire singsong at the end of this, but it never hurts to open a productive dialoge. If everyone thought this way, we might be able to salvage this mess. Until then keep up the fight, the fight for reason.

K Wombles said...

Thanks, Willis. That fight feels like it gets harder by the day.

Happy Elf Mom said...

Hello, Kim. I think on many social issues, we're polar opposites. But I don't see the harm in being entrenched in the idea that no, we don't lock up autistics and mentally ill people just because of who they are. I find myself more bold about the idea that we need to fight for human rights when that happens.

No one cares about the "mentally ill" unless they are hurting someone, oddly enough. It seems like circular logic that if you are hurting someone, you are mentally ill. Only a mentally ill person could do that.

Like why? People with depression and bipolar and almost anything else live out there in the world and almost never do stuff like this. Same as anyone else.

Sigh. I am not sure how to advocate for change sometimes without re-inforcing the stereotypes?

K Wombles said...

Well, I don't have a problem with being entrenched with that belief at all: people shouldn't be locked up or away just because of mental health issues, nor should they be feared based on labels that the public continually misuses.

I think having strong moral principles isn't so much being entrenched as it is being grounded.

We have to stand up and advocate for compassionate, respectful care of those who are struggling with mental health issues and who are stigmatized by a society that continues to see them as less-than.

In doing so, though, we need to make sure we aren't letting ourselves be hoodwinked by those who take advantage of that very population.

I've always appreciated our friendship and the willingness to allow differences of opinions without it leading to animosity or feelings of rejection.

melbo said...

Excellent, Kim as always.