Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Balance, By Example

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.


  1. Oh, I should have copied my comment before signing in. :( Anyway--

    Like you, I am also a big fan of balance, for all the many examples you have cited here. In fact, I will take it another step and say that (to me, in a religious/spiritual/philosophical sense)this separation into duality and extreme could be the "original sin" mentioned in what keeps us from realizing our oneness with our Source (however we perceive that to be) and each other.

    When we think about life as being inclusive and embracing it All (large/small, positive/negative, etc.), we do best to reside in the center point of all possibility.

    I'll do my best to check back on the conversation. ;) ~ Blessings!

    1. That's a very interesting angle, the separation that is true sin. I like that.

  2. I think often people are of the opinion that unless one choses a clear side of the fence to stand on they don't get to be part of the discussion.
    There are some issues of course where there is no room for debate. You are either for or against. But most issues have room for compromise, debate, discussion.
    I find myself asking of late "Is this the hill I want to stand on and crack on the old helmet and shield for?"

    Violence is my battle ground now. I am absolutely sick to death of violence. Violence against women and children. Rape of women, murder of children... in their schools no less, bullying amongst children, inequity within the laws for gays and lesbians which breeds prejudice and violence.

    Although I have chosen the war I recognize there is much room for discussion and debate.
    Anti gun laws, new and better justice, more funding into mental health programs to rise women up and out of domestic violence, shelters.
    There are people who do not agree with my version of justice They disagree with same sex marriage laws and my wish to see gun laws in the United States, more money into Mental Health programs. Some consider it against their rights, the laws of nature and a waste of funding.
    If the balance could be found.....

    1. Does it even exist? So many views are mutually exclusive. Perhaps that's the point, it's dynamic, not fixed.

    2. My angle on the whole violence/gun thing is that whatever the solution is, it's about time we found it. This is the 21st century, there is no excuse. The only thing stopping us from fixing it is lack of effort. Ultimately, somebody is benefitting, somehow, from leaving things be.

  3. First an unbalanced comment. Last night at bedtime most new stations were reporting "Fox News reports the fugitive's charred body was found" I was wondering if that was meaning we should not believe it or what.
    I am a fence-sitter, devils advocate person much of the time. With Mr. Dorner I see where he wasn't truly evil and I can see where he got to the point he was at. I don't know the whole fact of his past. Perhaps what he said was true or perhaps he only made himself believe it was true so he could be right in his mind. I also do not condone what he did. It was wrong and no matter how wronged he was what he did can never be right.

    1. News reporters seem to be getting more careful in their old age!

  4. Balance is an elusive chimera. Most people agree that murder should not be tolerated. One major group feels that an abortion is murder. Another group feels that you cannot murder a fetus. What is a balanced position? The balance point becomes a debate as to when a fetus becomes viable, and both factions pure understanding of the term murder is compromised.

    Man cannot live under pure law because we neither have a vocabulary for it, nor the wisdom to understand it if we did.

    "Thou shall not kill!"
    "Well, what if I am attacked by a violent person?"
    "You may defend yourself from attack."
    "May I kill to defend myself?"
    "You may only kill to stop an attack if your life is in danger."
    "What may I do if my life is not in danger, but I am still attacked?"
    "Your response has to be proportionate to the attack."
    "What if I can't determine my attacker's ability to kill me?"

    I could carry this Q&A out for eternity, and still not address the pure law. Our courts do just that as well, and another's balance becomes my oppression.

    e.g. I look at my ownership of weapons as a right and a necessity in keeping my family safe as possible. Another says my governor grants my rights, and I have only his given methods to protect my family and treasures.

    If we have peace on this earth, it is because both of the balance may utterly destroy each other. Assuming, of course, your definition of peace is the absence of war.

    1. I have a theory that nothing worth doing is easy. I also think it's impossible to get everyone to agree on anything whatsoever. So I put my effort onto encouraging people to compromise the very best they can, and that's hard, but I think it's worth it.