Regular readers of my waffle know that I am a great fan of balance, it's the basis of my personal philosophy, and I do believe more balance in the world would be a good thing. I don't resort to actually getting preachy about it, but I do sometimes explain it. I am always puzzled that I have to explain it, but there it is.
The idea is that instead of swinging from one extreme to another, one finds the place in the middle and endeavours to stay there, all the while recognizing the extremes, and seeing them as having their place and purpose. They do come in useful occasionally.
The example I'm going to use first is Facebook. At one extreme are people who claim to be (or deny it but are accused of being) addicted to it, and who waste excessive amounts of time on it when by any definition they should really be doing something else. It's never quite been clear to me how you get addicted to it, but I'm assuming it's the games? At the other extreme are people who don't simply avoid it, it's not enough for them to just not use it, they spend time disparaging it, and claiming it is dangerous, even occasionally venturing into conspiracy theory territory.
Balance, surely, is finding out what benefits it can have, taking advantage of them, and then including that in one's daily mix.
So far so good. And this was my opinion for a long time.
Then it was pointed out to me that there is another aspect of Facebook, or indeed any social medium where discussion occurs, that balance also needs to be found in one's attitude towards the discussions. Having been involved in online discussion for about 16 years now, this is very familiar territory. I remember the flame wars of USENET, and nothing much has changed really. Now there are trolls on every comment opportunity. Go to You Tube, watch a music video of a gentle folk song with images of hills and flowers, and you'll find arguments about racism, party politics, Hitler, etc.
Anyone can find themselves in a heated debate, but those who go looking for trouble (or actively cause it) are specifically not wanting balance. They are opponents of it. Drama won't work if people are being balanced. Balanced views are not what they seek, not at all.
It is possible to enjoy active discussion as a balanced person, in fact it's far more enjoyable that way. Seeing both sides of an issue, rather than going in with one's fingers rammed in one's ears, we learn, we grow.
This is why the balanced person is not, as is sometimes believed, simply a fence-sitter. I've been accused of cowardice when I would not take a side on a given issue. It's not that at all. Apart from anything else, it's about having the honesty to admit I may not have all the facts. It's also about not seeing angels and demons everywhere.
Rather more interesting is the idea that balance should be sought from a group rather than an individual, where opposing views compliment one another, and ultimately achieve compromise. This is the idea behind modern government after all.
That's not enough for me, personally. Not my way. While I might take a firm stand on an important issue, I have never found any benefit to rejecting opposing views outright - assuming they are presented rationally. I find I learn a lot by listening to them, even if they are discomforting. In fact the more I listen to opposing views, the more balance I am able to achieve. It doesn't mean approving them, and this is very important. It's an attempt to understand.
An absolutely fascinating example of lack of balance has cropped up in the discussions about Chris Dorner (who it appears has been killed, yesterday) and in the police action involved in the attempts to capture him. Opinions about him vary dramatically, and very few people seem able to take a balanced view on the issue. Either they saw him as some sort of avenging hero, or an evil madman. At the same time opinions about the LAPD range in very much the same way. When I offered the idea that it was possible to hold two thoughts at once, that it could be seen that while his actions were clearly wrong, that the police department (and individuals therein) could also be wrong, I had some very strange reactions. The desire to choose a side seems to very strong.
Why is it so obvious to me that there are many sides to this story? Why do I seek AND FIND a balanced way of looking at it, while others can't or just refuse to? I'm no more intelligent, no more worldly. This is what puzzles me.
Which is easier, choosing balance or rejecting it? I'm not sure.
Remember, if this should lead to discussion, and you wish to take part, you'll have to check back, I've found no way of following discussions here by notification.