I am right and you are wrong

I am right and you are wrong (regardless of whatever you are saying).

We are all human; we are all fallible and none of us are all-knowing. Most of us are beset by doubts, and we hold a number of conflicting opinions (which we usually try to pretend aren’t there). Is this a bad thing? Quite the opposite, I think.

We can only really grow in the company of people who challenge our beliefs. We can only really attain empathy for others when we understand where they are coming from. That is why it is, for example, so important to understand the reasons that terrorists carry out atrocities. Understanding is not the same as condoning. Understanding someone’s point of view, understanding why they hold that point of view; what events have shaped their lives, can only help us to a better understanding of how to deal with any conflict that this may produce. This is the way that conflict resolution works, and the way that we can work towards ensuring that in the future individuals or groups feel less inclined to resort to violence.

On countless opinion boards across the internet, countless posts seem to hammer home the point that there are no shades of opinion, only polarised beliefs. Whether it be political, religious, ethical living or even sport, it feels as though the only people who post comments, are those with extreme, unshakeable beliefs.

Just to contradict myself, though, for a moment, there are also plenty of posters, of course, who are constructive, questioning without being confrontational, willing to concede points, and even, heavens above, polite. They do seem to be in the minority, though.

But the predominant narrative does appear to be ‘this is my opinion, and I am right; I challenge anyone to dare to disagree with me!’ Does this all simply reflect a certainty that we are the only ones in the world who understand what is going on? That we have all of the relevant facts at our fingertips? That we are the experts on this or that subject? That anyone who disagrees with our opinion is a knave or a charlatan? It surely sounds ridiculous when put that way.

No one, as the saying goes, has a monopoly on the truth.

Phrases such as the ‘the voice of reason’ or ‘the voice of common sense’ prefacing an opinion piece are generally a warning that a bigoted piece of writing is following. Equally infuriating, I find, are ‘received wisdom’; such as ‘it is received wisdom that all left wing/right wing (delete according to your preference) politicians are out to feather their own nests and hate little fluffy animals and would probably eat babies if they had half a chance’ or something similar, or ‘everyone knows that…’ All of these are meaningless phrases, inserted into the piece in an attempt to justify the nonsense that the author is spouting.

To take a step sideways, slightly, there are the leaders who surround themselves with yes-men. This is generally considered to be a foolish move in a corporate situation, for a bad decision is unlikely to be challenged until it too late. And the nodding advisers are dismissed as sycophants.

It would also appear to be a common trait of dictators of whatever hue. Whether it is North Korea, Stalinist Russia or Hitler’s Germany, to contradict the great leader is usually a guarantee of a rapid and, often, most unpleasant end.

These are examples of where such blinkered certainty eventually leads us.

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31 thoughts on “I am right and you are wrong

  1. One could go even further, Mick, and say that all ‘fact’ is merely opinion, the interpretation of someone’s perception. The only fact we can be sure of is that we exist. But even that is arguable. Descartes asserted: ‘I think therefore I am.’ Irrefutable? No. He did not define the term ‘I’, so his argument was self-reflexive. And Descartes does not exist, so his statement is plainly wrong.

    If we can’t even get our ‘facts’ right, what hope is there for our opinions?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. There are, certainly, rich seams to mine on that point, John; much Eastern thought conjectures that there is no such thing as ‘I’, perhaps even that the whole universe is merely an illusion, but perhaps I’ll save that for another post (would you like a guest post on that subject?). My point (without spelling it out) is that any two person’s ‘facts’ can be contradictory, so at least one of them must be on shaky ground.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If you could write a guest post on the topic that everything is an illusion (including the post, the author and the reader), but that leads into seven killer new ways to write a story – which will itself be an illusion, of course, but what the hell – I’d be happy to take a look at it 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m afraid I’m not much of a philosopher like John in the thread above, so I can’t really contribute much to that part of the discussion. What I will say, though, is that I gave after Twitter because of the polarized beliefs there.

    The biggest problem for me wasn’t what other people said but what I began saying. I have a fairly liberal (in the sense of left-ish) viewpoint, so naturally, other liberals were the sort of followers I generally attracted on Twitter. But being surrounded by people with similar viewpoints, I tended to have all my opinions reinforced in a way I ultimately found unhealthy. It turned every discussion into “us” against “them” and pretty soon anybody who held a different opinion came to be seen as an idiot, a corporate stooge or a traitor.

    I have one or two old friends who are massively more right-wing than I am, but our emails about certain subjects (e.g. immigration) became rather frosty. This made me stop and question what was going on. I gave up Twitter after that and took up blogging instead. It was a move I don’t regret. As a blogger, I’m regularly in contact with a lot of people I don’t agree with about various issues, but they remain just that: people I don’t agree with. They’re not my enemies.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Definitely my point, Bun. I came off of Facebook a few years ago for precisely those reasons, but have resolved to have better ‘personal filters’ this time around. I read things on there now by people that I disagree with, but try to simply acknowledge to myself that they are just views I disagree with. That doesn’t make them bad people, it simply means that they think differently to me on some things, but I know that we agree on others. I had a long discussion about politics with a good friend a year ago over a few beers (often a risky scenario!), and we disagreed strongly on some points. It did cause me to go away and examine my own thoughts on the subject, which is a positive thing to do.

      I haven’t yet experimented with Twitter.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s interesting. That sounds rather similar to my own experience. An additional problem with Twitter is the 148 character limit. It means there’s no room at all for nuance. Everybody just screams what amounts to newspaper headlines either at or to each other.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. This post is phenomenal! 👏🏽 The whole of it, including the comments encouraged by it, is the perfect example of intellectual fortitude. The struggle is real out there, but here you all are, hashing it out fluidly. People just expressing their individualities; their concepts of right and wrong, and being allowed to do so without experiencing the hangups of the conditioned definition of right and wrong. I am so glad that I found your post. I deeply appreciate the mental nourishment. I believe this is just the kick I needed to share my feelings about this and similar subjects. This comment had become extremely long in elaboration when I realized I had to stop myself for fear of being rude and/or excessive. You have just become the inspiration for my next post. Thank you so dearly for sharing. 🌟 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, LargeRoomNoLight, and so glad you came along. And no, your comment is neither rude nor excessive! Yes, it is important that people should be allowed to express their opinions in a ‘safe environment’, without fear of being shouted down or attacked for those opinions, but in return they need to express them in a respectful way. Does that make sense?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Makes perfect sense. Everyone should be allowed to speak his or her mind and say how they feel, but they also have to think about how they want to come away from that experience. And what they want to come away with. It should be a positive experience where everyone gains insight, but no one gets hurt or offended.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I totally agree that, if we surround ourselves only with friends of a like mind, we reinforce our bigotries and theirs. That was hilariously apparent to me some years ago when I visited a postgrad committee at a major university. Surely such bright, erudite PhD students would encourage free debate? Not at all. Any view that did not accord with the ‘correct’ liberal dogmas was howled down. When I suggested that the knee-jerk vilification of right wing views, as transiently defined by left wing intellectuals, was itself a mindless bigotry, I was almost shown the door. Group think rules at every level. It is the writer’s task to challenge it 😉

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Hmm, I feel for you having worked quite a lot with disadvantaged youth groups (not that I’m suggesting said PhD students come under that heading). I do try to remind myself when I have any sort of (especially) religious or political discussion, that no matter how strongly I may hold certain views, I can still learn from others who think differently to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. An excellent post, Mick, with some insightful comments. No trolls, so far!
    Philosophy, of the sort discussed here, seems to me to be no more than an attempt to explain the inexplicable, usually with the outcome of causing further confusion rather than resolving any issues. The wonderful conundrum about existence is fine for the purpose of intellectual discourse, but can have no bearing on the way we live our daily lives. Whether we exist or not is hardly the point, after all: since we live our lives under the assumption that they are real.
    It’s a sad fact of life that people generally restrict themselves to the media outlet that most echoes their own views, thereby reinforcing their beliefs rather than daring the means to undermine them. Such isolated thinking is what ultimately causes groups to form and support their sometimes frankly mad theses and even become violent in their efforts to promote and protect them. Whilst we all accept such behaviour as axiomatic of politics, politicians, religion and the faithful, when the same inability to be open-minded occurs with scientists we need to be rather more alarmed, perhaps.
    As writers, it’s perhaps more important than in other fields, that we maintain open minds and embrace the opportunities to change our thinking when circumstances and new learning encourage such moves. The opposite attitude, that conviction is paramount, is surely the way to bigotry?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True, Stuart. Conviction means nothing. Bigots tend to be utterly sincere. To paraphrase what someone once observed about madmen: ‘The most disturbing thing is the total conviction in their eyes.’ Did Hitler not remark ‘I love the German people’? Did Robert Mugabe not say, upon his election, ‘I love this country’? Did Jeremy Corbyn not echo him two days ago: “I love this country”?

      Watch out for a Nacht der langen Messer, a night of the long knives. It always follows the statements of psychopathic leaders who are, undeniably, sincere 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The only thing I remain convinced of, John, is that I’m unconvinced about everything!
        My grandfather was a bigot: he would argue that black was white, regardless of the evidence. I learnt a lot from that man, but none of what he intended to teach me!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. No trolls yet, but I do think that I might be trip-trapping over that rickety bridge with this one!
    Thank you for your comments, Stuart, and I think we are definitely in agreement on this. I am sure it is true that if you move within a cabal of entirely like-minded thinkers, then your views (or prejudices) will be reinforced and hardened over time, and that will leave you less open to arguements at odds to those views. And that hardening of opinion leads only in the end to bigotry.
    Interesting your comment on scientists, because I have often felt a certain amount of extremely dangerous scientific research is justified and carried out simply because they can, because the scientists’ view is that they know best and, after all, the maths proves that it will, probably, be safe. Even if the maths, as often is the case, is proved wrong several years down the line.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, Mick. Just because we ‘can’ it doesn’t follow that we ‘should’. Of course, their excuse would usually be, ‘If I don’t, someone else will; and they may not be as ethical as me.’
      Watch out for those trolls!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post Mick. As a practice, to keep my mind open, I try to spend more time in conversations asking questions. Asking questions allows me to dig deeper into a person’s thoughts. I already know what I believe and don’t feel the need to hear myself talk. I will express my thoughts when the other person asks. Asking questions is vital.
    Danny

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I know this would be considered trolling because my opinion is different from most of the above comments. I for one do not desire to be surrounded with negative people and those who espouse falsehoods and hate. I have stopped listening to people who still believe that the world is flat, and blatantly lie and hate so much it makes me cry.. I cannot be with people who praises Jesus to high heavens inside the church but kicks the poor , hungry homeless man whom he sees outside the church.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Renxkyoko, great to see you here. No, I don’t think that would be considered trolling. I am happy to hear and discuss other points of view with people who think differently to me, but I have no intention of giving time of day to those who just spout hatred and bigotry. It is just as important to know when to stand up and say ‘No, enough is enough. I will not tolerate this.’. We are allowed to defend ourselves if attacked and, even more importantly, should defend others who might not be able to defend themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Interesting tension here. I’m afraid the way my mind works is that my first thought is that there’s an interesting story to be had. Although I did write a dystopia that used this idea, or at least a similar one. When public opinion swings, it swings too hard. It can make it seem like rational views are attained only in between polar extremes of public opinion.

    Opinion is tough. Like others, I have deeply held convictions, in my case, Catholic ones. Now, I don’t really think other churches are as good or better than mine. If I did, I’d go somewhere else. But on the other hand, we’ve seen the bitter fruits of trying to force a faith. It has to come from within. Religious freedom is one of the things I really like about being an American. So the last thing I’d like to do is cram my beliefs down anyone’s throat. It’s ultimately self-defeating.

    But still. Where does the line end? People tell me I have no right to my opinions simply because they are rooted in religion. Now that seems wrong. Having a faith shouldn’t disqualify me from having a voice any more than the reverse.

    I believe courtesy is really the key, but sadly, that seems to be in short supply. I can politely disagree with your strongly held opinions. I enjoy an amicable parry-and-thrust of opposing ideas. It would be helpful if we could all agree not to cross certain lines so discussions and arguments don’t deteriorate into mudslinging, but sadly, that seems uncommon.

    I can think of one notable exception. The 2008 presidential campaign between Obama and McCain. Both gentlemen (and I use the word deliberately) refrained from personal attacks. I remember (at least the gist of, not the exact words) one article where a woman said to McCain, “I’m afraid of where this country’s going if Obama is elected.”

    McCain smiled back and said, “Don’t say that. Obama’s a fine American. I happen to disagree with him in matters of policy.”

    I can’t remember as clear an example from Obama, but he was similarly polite.

    The stakes there were as big as they get–becoming the most powerful man in the world. And yet neither man was willing to compromise himself to get that.

    I think we all need to aspire to that level of class. Maybe then we could actually get something done. Courtesy costs nothing, and yet it is so valuable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some very good points there, Cathleen. I think that we can agree on all of them. It does seem at times that everything descends into vitriol and anger, but if we can keep our responses measured and polite, I believe that we can often help to turn the argument back into a discussion. As you point out, courtesy costs nothing, yet is so valuable. I had forgotten about the behaviour of the presidential candidates in the 2008 contest, but remember it now. I was impressed at the time, and how we could do with some of it this time round!

      Like

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