Monday, 28 September 2015

Saints and Sinners Redux

I am actually a little shocked that I'm writing this. Last time I did it, I had an overwhelming agreement from you, dear readers, that there are only people, and people do good things and bad things. Some more of one than the other, sure, but there really are no evil people, no perfect people, and some aspects of ethics are (shock, horror) not agreed upon.

And yet, pretty much every day just lately somebody tells me that X is evil, or gets all bent out of shape because somebody posted nice things about X, or whatever. Or they do some X worshipping.

It doesn't matter if it's a politician, a cleryman, a child, a celebrity or your old Mum. Nobody is ever all good or all bad. When you even begin to suggest this it simply screams your own agenda to me.

Example #1. Bill Maher.

When he's trashing politicians for you, you love him. But the moment he puts on his militant atheist hat, you hate him. Is he really good or bad? Neither. He's a guy. First and foremost he's an entertainer (so any reaction is valid) and any attention you give him makes his agent very happy. Like so many of the more intelligent comedians, he has dipped his toe in political waters (actually, in Bill's case all the way to the neck) and as soon as you do that, you're not funny any more, if your opinion is the wrong one.

Example #2. Pope Francis.

Because he's all about helping the poor you think he's awesome, but when he sticks to the traditional Catholic anti-woman and anti-gay lines, he's a git. Well, what did you expect? He's a Pope. He's not even doing anything innovative. Believing these things together has been going on a long time. Not new, not only Catholics and not that remarkable. It is very modern for social justice to be universal, and I'm not even sure it is now.

I'm not going to give you any more examples. No, not even Obama. Use your head and find your own. The people you don't like (i.e. the majority of stuff they do, you oppose) and the people you do like (i.e. the majority of stuff they do, you support) are just people. With jobs and lives. Who make decisions. The best you can ever do is choose whether to trust them or not. Then listen/vote accordingly. It's all part of critical thinking, and isn't it already how you pick your friends anyway? That their good bits outweigh their bad bits, from your perspective?

You (yes YOU) are reading this because you know me, and presumably like me, or because you stumbled across this blog and find it worth reading. You are therefore, in a way, one of my fanbase. This makes you biased towards me. The advantage (for me) of this is that you are more likely to read my stuff, and even more likely to consider it deeply (even if you don't agree with what I say). You give me the gift of your attention and time. Thank you, and namaste.

But the problem there is that unless you are really careful, you could become biased. A few of you will never have any issues there (including some I'm related to, LOL) because (thanks to me?) you are SUCH a critical thinker, you will tell me I'm full of shit.

Bias towards people you usually agree with and against people you usually disagree with is normal. We have to sort the wheat from the chaff somehow, there are only so many hours in a day. So unless I'm on a "know thy enemy" mission, I basically don't read anything written by people whose values seem very differently to mine.

It reached a point where I had effectively shut all of them out of my life. I don't actually regret this, but I threw the baby out with the bathwater. You see, along with the gits, I had tossed aside some good people. People who I almost always disagree with, but their reasoning was genuine. So I made the conscious effort to acquire new social contacts who, while we didn't have much in common on "issues" were nevertheless basically decent sorts, with good intentions, a good heart, and the ability to think outside the box.

I've only just lately discovered that the result of this was sheer bloody ignorance on my part of some recent attitudes. In other words, a distinct lack of know thy enemy missions. I get too busy. That won't change but I need to let a few more people into my life who do have time, so I can pick it up 3rd hand. There is no excuse for ignorance these days.

That is the long-winded way of saying that you really need saints and sinners - or at least, those perceived that way - in your life for complete awareness in any issue.

Let me give you an example of how important this is.

I grew up in England during the active IRA attacks on the mainland. Terrorism was all white for us, back then (oh, how quickly we forget). I grew up hating the IRA and anyone who supported them, even the slightest bit. At one point, because of NORAID (q.v.), that included Americans. How dare people who had no idea what it was like to have a genuine danger of terrorist attack 24/7 send money to those terrorists. HOW DARE THEY?

Well, I was fucking ignorant.

One day, I was out shopping and was stopped by a handsome young middle eastern guy (nobody batted an eyelid at this, back then) who was collecting money to help arm freedom fighters/rebels in Afghanistan. I knew about that. Russia had just invaded. The Mujahdeen needed foreign aid. They got mine.

I was fucking ignorant again.

You only know what you know and I was only 17 anyway, for pity's sake. But when I look back, I'm quite sure that many, if not most (but not ALL) Americans who gave money to the IRA were just unaware of the whole situation, and didn't think for one moment that children would be blown to bits with their money. I certainly had no idea what the future of the Mujahdeen was to become.

But that's not even it. The Americans who knew EXACTLY what the money they gave to the IRA would be used for weren't monsters either. And.....neither were the IRA. They were just people.

Some years later I got to know a girl who'd been active in the IRA. And I found out why. Because as a child she'd lost family members and several homes to the Ulster loyalists, and she was bitter and wanted revenge. As an angry teenager she got her revenge. Did she regret it later on? Sort of. Anyway, she dedicated her life to peace but also to explaining, and she taught me something important. An explanation is not the same thing as an excuse. This is one of the pillars of my personal philiosophy, and yeah. I got it from a killer.

The most important thing we ever do in trying to understand, and trying to get along with one another, is to listen. But right alongside that we must always remember that may still not hear, if we prejudge. After we've listened, considered, researched, asked more questions, then we can decide. Then we can judge. It really isn't necessary to like everyone, and you certainly won't/can't/shouldn't like everything they do. But you have to find out what that is first, AND WHY.

There really are no evil people, and no perfect people. Not one of either extreme. And all the time YOU are not perfect (and, like me, you are far from it) you have to listen to the gits. And you have to examine the heroes carefully too. Get them down off their pedestals. Find out what makes them tick.

It's OK to point out the strengths and flaws in our leaders (of all types). Good grief, we don't want to censor dissent. If you put yourself "out there" you leave yourself open to it. The right to an opinion, and the right to challenge an opinion must be equal. I'm just saying that it's childish and possibly dangerous to allow emotions towards a person, be it from admiration or disgust, to cloud your judgement. AND......there's always the chance, after all, that you may be wrong.

1 comment:

  1. With you on the either/or aspect, but we also forgetting the third. I want to say that in the options of choice, we tend to overlook the choice of [equanimity, abstention, and maybe even apathy]. Sure, one can pick sides, and even think critically, but opening to the idea that our energies do not necessarily have to go to either extreme is also important. For example, when it comes to voting, I have heard people say 'they do not have a horse in the race.' It may not be that they are against voting, just that they may not belong to any party or that none of the candidates necessarily pertain to them.

    It is how I opened my awareness to the utility of money, as well. There are those who look at the 'good' it does, others who count the 'underhanded' ways it is used, and those who participate (or not) because of its economic use. Much of the 'all or nothing' mindset is changing to be more inclusive (and I can only hope more balanced), and that means considering there is more to decision making than the extreme either/or. ~ Blessings! :)