July 2, 2006

Ability To Analyze

I recently received the following comment:

You tend to really analyze this stuff and give both sides of the story. That's rare in the blogosphere anymore.

I was so pleased that I felt the need to expand on the thought further:

This ability to analyze did not come easily. I have spent years ranting and raving against what I perceived to be a monolithic enemy. Years of always aligning myself with a side and arguing for it passionately have left me exhausted. There is nothing easier than having an opinion. Reading blogs has only elucidated this fact for me more clearly. We bloggers take an issue and find the side that feels right for us and align ourselves with like-minded individuals, but we lose touch with why the issue was important in the first place.

In the past I constantly found myself becoming extremely attached to my opinions. I still do it some extent, but now I am trying to see what arguments look like from the other side. If we do not practice arguing both sides of an argument, our own arguments will become insulated and ineffective. There is nothing easier to sit here and say that I am:

Pro-choice
Anti-War
Vegetarian
Anti-business
Socialist
Anti-death penalty
Non-violent
The list is endless...we always end up on a side, if we allow ourselves to.

But only choosing a side does nothing to bring about change. We must expect more from our values, and the only way to do this is to allow ourselves to see other people’s points of view. Anything else is insecurity. The hardest part of being open-minded is that most people do not return the favor, and so we become frustrated and defensive. But we feel that our thoughts have merit and can stand on their own, then we shouldn’t feel the need to defend them.

Something, I have found extremely useful in not becoming entrenched in my own mind is that I am starting to understand that it is not a good idea to split the world into concepts like right or wrong, or good or bad. Creating this type of dichotomous world only forces us to attach ourselves to a side. We must see the world and the issues in it as a whole. If we feel we are always right, then how can we listen to the other side? But if see the world not as a choice between good and bad, we will see that we can reduce conflict and hopefully work toward cooperation. In order to achieve this collaboration, we need understanding. And understanding comes from listening and not choosing a side.

It’s funny. I sound quite confident here, but these ideas are very fresh to me too. In fact, I am shaping them as I type now. I guess I am tired of arguing the same points repeatedly. I mean how many times can I debate the Israeli Palestinian conflict? As soon as we feel we are right, the other side becomes wrong. And suddenly every Israeli becomes the enemy. When in fact that should never be the case. It is this type of thinking that brings more conflict. If I were to pick a side, I would pick the Palestinian, but is alignment helping to bring peace to the very people I wish peace for? One has to look and see why the Israelis act the way they do. Just as the Israeli must ask themselves, why is it that men are blowing themselves up on our busses? To truly understand, we must ask question. We may not find answers, but the very act of questioning brings more understanding.

So now what? I am not sure. I guess we simply debate, argue, question, and try to be open-minded. I think on the left we see ourselves as more open-minded, but sometimes it would behoove us to sit back and see exactly how much we are listening. This is not easy, and I am not saying that we should give in and stop the fight against injustice. I am simply saying that I don’t believe the world is in the state it is in because some people are good while others are bad, or that we are right and they are wrong. The world is in the state it is in because we do not listen. We do not understand. I for one am finally starting to understand this very simple lesson. So thank you for noticing my newly found open-mindedness. I hope it lasts. I hope it is contagious.

9 comments:

  1. Understanding another view is one thing, validating it is another. I think we'd be better off as a society, debating polemics like Hitchens vs Galloway.

    Someone with your sophistication has to lead, not follow or pander. Understand where your opponent comes from, but don't be him.

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  2. Someone with your sophistication has to lead, not follow or pander. Understand where your opponent comes from, but don't be him.

    I hope that this comment goes without saying. I think one danger we face, or I should say I face, becoming this new “lite” version of myself, is to say that I am giving up and pandering. That is not my case at all. I am simply trying to approach these debates in a new way, at least for myself.

    I hope I didn’t come across as saying I was validating the actions of my opponents. That was not my intention.

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  3. This is one of the best posts I've read in a long time...It's what I've been thinking, but not able to express it words as descriptive and elequont (please spell that for me, please)..as you have.

    thanks!

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  4. i have been striving for open mindedness and i try to be balanced but it isn't easy. i welcome debate but i think that my opinions are formed out of facts- so i generally try to be right before i make them. i lean left of center because i don't care for what the right stands for- and at this point i feel that we are in a fight for our lives and way of life- not because it is a political thing. i don't know if i think solidly right or wrong- i think maybe i do- but i don't hold it against entire populations. the illegal immigrants for example- i think that they should be here legally but i also see that big corporations bus them over the border to work- so there is that subtlety to problems- that complexity that i think that most people see and choose to ignore. come by anytime you want- and i will add you to my list. thanks alot! :)

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  5. i am working on a post that looks at cheney, rumsfeld, and wolfowitz as the architects of their own doctrine. it is my belief that bush does not have much say in what is going on.

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  6. "If I were to pick a side, I would pick the Palestinian, but is alignment helping to bring peace to the very people I wish peace for?"

    BZ, I truly admire your thoughtful approach. I believe that your desire to be open minded is an essential quality that most people don't share.

    I'm 57, and as I look at my thoughts vs. my actions, I realize that in many areas of thinking I am NOT open minded. I am open-hearted, which is different. My thinking is fraught with opinions and judgments. It simply is. My actions lead me to be of service to others despite my thinking.

    My thinking requires me to comment on your statement quoted above. My thinking tells me that you haven't really studied the history of this conflict, and that you also believe that the Israelis (and Jews) don't want peace with the Palestinians. Israel wants peace.

    Many of us who are strongly pro-Israel know that for this region to truly flourish, there MUST be peace, and that Palestinians must be full citizens of Israel. Has to happen, has to, or this region will eventually blow itself to smithereens.

    There is no right or wrong in this conflict. It is a blood conflict, it is ugly. Both sides have valid issues. And so one more time I will say someone go first.

    This leads me to the spiritual principal of "You go first." Bill Wilson, in the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote: "It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us." He goes on to talk about "justifiable anger" being the luxury of others.

    So. Israel and the Palestinians have "justifiable" reasons to fight with each other. Because both sides are completely attached to their reasons, they are both wrong. My thinking tells me that the Palestinians are "more" wrong than Israel; my heart tells me it makes no difference at this point, and someone must go to the table and lay down their weapons.

    The Palestinians who recruit their young men to become suicide bombers prey on the heightened dissatisfaction and despair that all teens have. In the case of the Palestinian youth, it is worse as there appears to be no way out. There is a way out.

    An incredible film, "Paradise Now", visits this condition. Made by Palestinian filmmakers, it makes me aware that they also have their own anti-war movement going on. In Israel, Shalom Akshav (Peace Now) is a strong anti-war voice.

    But here, in the US, the gut reaction among the left is to "side with the Palestinians." That limits your options. I personally, as a leftist, and as a Jew, side with the Shalom Akshav movement which includes a sovereing state of Israel and full citizenship for Palestinians.

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  7. I meant Sovereign, not soereing. Masters degree in fine art, not spelling. Sorry.

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  8. did you all have your baby?

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  9. Still waiting...

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