Monday, 18 March 2013

My Truth

Why do we write? It is to be read. It doesn't matter how modest you are, if you don't want to be read, you don't write. Or you'd put it on paper and burn it afterwards. No, we write to share our thoughts with others. That's the truth. Of course, we also write for ourselves, just to get it out. When we organize thoughts in a piece of writing it is almost the therapist's couch. For that reason, if no other, there is no point writing anything that isn't honest. The truth.

I saw one of those little "memes" (I do wish they'd called them something else, but that name has stuck now) going round, that said "I do not write to sway the opinions of others, but to let others know they are not alone in their thoughts". There's a lot to be said for that. It's like self-help groups. Knowing you are not alone is very uplifting. But once again, it is critical that what is being shared is sincere. The truth.

So, when one has an opinion, it is always acceptable, even if it's offensive. I have to work at remembering that. There are two rights within the concept of free speech, the right to voice our opinions, and the right to object to the opinions of others. Which is of course why even the fairest commenters get into arguments.

I have noticed that when I speak my mind, my personal truth, my deepest held feelings, and somebody objects to it, I don't care. I can shrug it off with no difficulty whatsoever. Often, I don't even bother to argue because there's nothing to be said. There's certainly nothing to justify. I have arrived at that position after time, careful reflection, repetition, and I know it is my truth. And if it's not yours, well, sometimes it just doesn't matter. Other times it simply means that I'll avoid the topic with you in future, and occasionally it means I don't want anything to do with you.

However, I've also noticed that sometimes I am concerned when my opinion causes objection, and on these occasions it causes me to re-visit that opinion. Have I not been thorough in my reflection on that issue? It's not just a question of being open-minded, there is a real concern there that I may have mis-judged it. Of course, it also depends on who is objecting.

I like to think of myself as a good listener, and also a fair person. I avoid jumping to conclusions, or at least I try to. I'm especially careful with issues that I don't personally know much about and rely solely on third-parties for information. It's vital then to choose carefully where I get my information from. Then, with a bit careful, critical thinking, I form my opinion, aware that it's an "outsider" opinion.

So it is then, that twice in the last week, kind friends, intelligent people, deep thinkers, have objected to my opinions on two men. Men in positions of leadership. I shall begin to explain my opinions by not naming them, because the positions they hold are possibly the key to my objections.

Deep inside me, I am an anarchist. A true anarchist. One who rolls her eyes at the very idea of "anarchist organization". I, personally, me, Melanie, do not need any authority, save that of the Laws of Nature. Those among you who are atheists can call it the Laws of Physics, those of you who are believers can call it God. It doesn't matter to me what you call it, but we're all on the same page really. Those I can't fight, and have no intention of doing so.

But other humans? No. I answer to nobody. I never have. Of course, a tyrant can take over my country, imprison me, torture me, and so on, I can't fight that either, but it doesn't mean I defer to him. I am my own authority by choice.

I am aware that not everyone is able to do this, or chooses to do this. In fact, this is why anarchy as a way of life for human beings is not possible. By nature we are leaders, followers, or independant people. Independant people are also often natural leaders, but they are also pretty good at refusing the job. Please nod if you are a natural leader who prefers to remain independant but gets co-opted to lead with great regularity. Yes.

The worst type of leader is one who is not a natural leader at all. If they think they are, and usurp the leader's position, they become tyrants. If they simply find themselves in that position, they struggle. Many kings have struggled. Some cope. Just.

It's fair to say that as a species we need leaders. That's we, you see. I don't, but the many do. They really do. They will find them too. There are plenty of people willing to be leaders. There are plenty of people who seek being leaders. Some are better at it than others. Some guide well, despite personal flaws. They're only human after all. Some let power go to their heads, some abuse it, and some are horribly corrupt. Some are a waste of time, talk out both sides of their mouths trying to appease everyone, and some are cruel tyrants. Some are in it for the money, glory, and power. Some are born to it. And some don't quite know how they got there. Some are victims of the Peter Principle.

The question often arises, can we respect the position, even if we don't respect the man? I came face to face with that fresh from school, head full of anarchy, in my first job, where the "boss", ultimately, was military. A major. An idiot. A man with a silly hat and pips on his sweater. A man with a fat red face, a ridiculous laugh, and a sense of his own self-importance marginally below that of Mussolini. So I drew cartoons of him. Nobody knew who'd done them except one colleague who tried to explain to me how I should respect the fact that he was a major, even though I was a civilian, and not make fun of his personal appearance (agreed, but how else do you draw a cartoon?) and treat him with the respect he deserved. Deserved, hmm. No, sorry, couldn't see it. Every time he opened his mouth, he said something stupid. How could I respect that?

Elton John wrote "Texas Love Song"

So it's Ki yi yippie yi yi
You long hairs are sure gonna die
Our American home was clean till you came
And kids still respected the president's name

Obviously a conservative view, but as we all know, there's not much respect shown for the president by conservatives.

How about the other way around then? Can we respect the man if we don't respect the position? Often, it is not relevant to us. Not our own personal authority. I suppose we should at least respect the fact that it is an authority for others, of value to them, and our feelings towards it are not relevant. Yes, the masses need leaders. They do.

It can't be easy being a leader. If you are elected, you are always trying to lead anything up to half of a population who didn't elect you. They may resent every single thing you do. They may thwart all your aims, even if they might benefit from them, on the basis of ideology. They may spend all their time trying to remove you from office, which you then have to spend time fighting, preventing you from getting anything done - which they will then lambast you for.

If you arrived at your position without democratic election, then the chances are that much of your effort will involve staying in power by quelling rebellion, one way or another. But this is assuming you don't have overwhelming majority support to begin with. In a few rare instances, there are leaders who are foisted upon the followers in a rather different way. The two gentlemen in question here are in fact spiritual leaders. One was chosen at the age of two, one was chosen by his peers. The masses had no say in the matter, but they accepted it, because that's how it is.

There are many differences between these two men, but also many similarities.

1. While being spiritual leaders, they are also unable to avoid politics. Leaders are by default, politicians.
2. Being spiritual leaders of very old religions, they are automatically politically conservative.
3. However, both men purport to promoting social justice, which is normally a left-wing position.
4. There is an instant paradox here, which makes them look even more like politicians.
5. Being spiritual leaders, they are also followers...of their respective religions. They are most certainly not independant people.

If you haven't figured out by now the two men in question, they are Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama.

I shouldn't be criticizing either of them. I've never walked in their shoes. I am not one of their flock. Most opinions I form are based on third party information, which may be unreliable, from mis-quotes to outright lies, but even if it's accurate, I don't understand the ins and outs of beliefs held, reasons behind decisions, and so on. I cannot justify my opinions, and therefore I should probably keep my trap shut.

But, if I'm honest, if I tell my truth, I'm not a fan of either of them, and there's really not much point pretending otherwise.

There's the whole humility thing, which doesn't impress me. But it's inevitable, and I can shrug that off. If I found myself in a position of fame and and power, I'd bloody well enjoy the luxury and servants too.

There's actual doctrine I cannot possibly agree with, but I am fully aware that you can't change thousands of years of tradition suddenly. In a rapidly-changing world, ordinary people, the little people, have got quite enough to cope with, and they need the security of tradition. I get all of that, and yet there's something that just sticks in my craw.

I've heard all the criticisms, all the rebuttals of the crticisms, and the rebuttals of the rebuttals, you probably have too, and quite frankly, I've decided against hashing them out here. You can Google them if you like, it doesn't matter. You don't have to agree with me, and we don't need to argue over details.

There's something else. I freely admit I hold people in positions of great power to a higher standard. That's probably wrong, it's probably unfair, but I do. I expect them to do their job. What is their job?

Here's where I have no right to an opinion at all, and in fact here's my strongest opinion.

If you are the leader of a massive and ancient religion, in a modern world, you are also a politician. That is unavoidable. But you cannot please everyone. So, the right thing to do is stick to the principles of the religion you represent, the principles you claim to espouse. These religions are so very different, but we are being led to believe that the foundation of both them is love.


Is that what I'm hearing? The answer is sometimes. I'm also hearing "....but...."

Again I could cite examples, from both men, where I am not hearing love or kindness, but something quite different. But if I give details it detracts rather than emphasizes my point. If you share my view you'll know them anyway. If you don't share my view, you'll excuse them anyway. It doesn't matter. Nothing will change.

Perhaps I should keep my opinions to myself, in situations like this, but we all know I won't. My opinion counts for nothing, and if I'm just tactful, probably doesn't matter. I will deal with my own concerns about these judgements in my own time:)


  1. Opinions are like (fill in the blank) ;) We are entitled to hold them, right or wrong. Nobody is going to agree with us all the time and I find, for myself anyway, not many agree with me even a tiny portion of the time. And you know what? I don't particularly care. No one's opinion, even my own, is going to add any time to my life, won't pay my mortgage or wash my really? It doesn't matter.

    1. Of people disagree with me, it doesn't matter at all. BUT...if people agree with me based only on my opinion, i.e. I sway them, convince them, and I'm WRONG....then it matters very much. It's still their responsibility as much as mine, but I do share it. I'm obviously mostly concerned about this when advising my kids. I am their primary educator, and I take that responsibility very seriously. But I also feel that when I write, I should either try to avoid bias or admit to it, otherwise I'm just spreading shit.

  2. Underlying the whole leadership and writing thing is ETHICS and THAT can be spread around liberally to the persons holding the leadership rolls, their ardent followers(!), and those of us who hold opinions and care enough to share them. I tend to expect it and work hard to demand it of myself.

    I wrote last month? about a part of it, at least from the writer's perspective. ( Honest service as a writer means we ought to at least hold some sort of standard ethics when it comes to relaying information and opinion (both decidedly different things, granted).

    As leadership and anarchy goes, I think we share a commonality in being able to lead the various aspects of the self rather well. Managing others can have its successes and problems because we are no longer talking about a singular, contained entity. Systematic leadership, such as what is seen in government and religion, is yet another, constricted problem area. Both religions (Buddhism and Roman Catholicism) are based on very humble beginnings (Buddha and Christ), yet the societal system has morphed those personages from leadership roles into heads of state--quite a bit more than what they set out to be.

    When I think anarchy, maybe the "surprise" of it all comes from the idea that there ARE a substantial number of people in the world who can manage without being told, right down to fitting into society in a balanced way, despite its constant struggle competition, profit, and other structural shortcomings. I think it is what keeps me moving forward, honestly. ;) ~ Blessings!

    1. Can't argue with any of that, LOL. I do wish there was that standard in the media - in journalism.

  3. I can deal with almost anyone but a Zealot, even the ones who agree with me.

    Not being a Catholic, a Buddhist or Tibetan, I don’t comment on the Pope and Deli Lama’s strengths and weaknesses because I am too ignorant of their life and cause to not sound like a braying jackass ...

    Well … even when I am well informed, I still sound like a braying jackass, but you know what I mean. :P