Friday, October 29, 2004

Standing Ovation

B-squared, the famous Byun, has said something very profound. Go read that and think about it.

I did, and now I must pontificate. No doubt I've said all this before, because it's something very central to my beliefs and usually pops up at least once a week.

Anger does not change minds about issues. Being angry, being vitriolic, being sarcastic or crudely insulting doesn't do diddly squat to change anyone's position. In fact, the entire concept of attempting to change someone's mind is pretty questionable.

To change one's mind about something based on the rhetoric and reasoning of another means that, from the start, one was prepared to admit that one was WRONG. Being wrong, at least in my observable corner of American Culture, is nearly criminal. To admit to being wrong about anything is to simultanously admit to being weak, stupid, morally rotten, capable of eating babies and giving up your lunch money to bullies.

People will do anything rather than admit they were wrong. I've watched it. Ever catch one of those Police Video shows, where hot pursuits are recorded on the dash cam of the local cop? At least every other show, some person will take off when pulled over, determined to escape rather than admit they ran a stop sign or doing 35 in a 25 MPH zone. This person inevitably wrecks the car and then jumps out to argue with the policemen about why they were pulling him/her over in the first place.

The scale doesn't matter. People will fight equally hard to be right about the answer to a Trivial Pursuit question as to be right about their choice of healthcare method or political representatives. Whatever question might be raised, someone has "THE" best method for handling it. Look at the weight loss industry if you doubt this -- everyone has "THE" best method, be it exercise machines, programs, diet books, pills, drink mixes, electric devices...

Ok, so if no one wants to be wrong, most people are convinced of their own rightness because they perceive themselves to be in agreement with an authority, a majority, or a divinity. All three are problematic because, withoutdoubt, all three are pretty shaky. Authorities can disagree, majorities are not always right, are difficult to accurately measure, and tend to shift, and divinity...well, it depends on which version of the Divine interpretation you consult. Facts are only as good as the source that perports them, and facts change all the time.

In essense all matters of opinion on who is right and who is wrong are matters of faith. And you can't argue faith. "True Faith", in my definition, is something you have when everyone and everything says you are wrong. In general, my observation is that the faith most people have in anything (be it God, Science, or Politics) is affected by how many other people, authorities, or divinities they can say are in agreement with them. The more of these three sources one can claim to have agree with one's point of view, the "more right" one is.

In my little corner of the universe, I've struggled and continue to struggle with the imperative to be Right All The Time. I have to remind myself that I have no monopoly on "facts", "truth" or "right". I have to keep in mind that fear rules. We are afraid of being wrong, because being wrong is so terrible.

Only being wrong isn't so bad. I've been wrong a lot and it's always been a chance to learn something. Yeah, it can be painful and embarrassing, but so what? There's no point in fearing pain, because it just makes the pain worse. Being wrong is survivable and being right is damned hard work. I do not gloat when I am right. I'll be wrong again.

I don't know if that's something a lot of people realize, up front and on a daily basis. I think everyone knows it somehow, but they don't live with it as a tenet of their lives.

Which brings us back to B and his sniper. I see this as a giant exercise in getting away from the overwhelming burden of fearing to be wrong. I see B's actions as a huge and difficult step toward accepting that his beliefs are just that -- beliefs -- and that being angry at those who disagree is useless. They, too, labor under the crushing weight that They Might Be Wrong, and that fear directs much of what they do. Fear is a foundation emotion, creating hatred and anger and jealousy and resentment. To go past the fear is to offer understanding. One may disagree with another person without hating them, hurting them, or avoiding them, if that other person also understands the possibility.

I say ye, B.

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