Well this is the 14th post and the first ‘Life’ post on my Tech and Life blog. I think it’s quite fitting it should be the first post in this category as it’s a very important attribute somehow lacking in many walks of life including tech. This won’t be a very philosophical treatment, just some personal views on tolerance or perhaps more accurately, intolerance.
We’ve all come across it on the Net and in daily life. Religious and political blogs with extreme uncompromising views, flame wars on forums and blogs often over quite trivial statements, blog bullies, and a general bullish need to get across the view that ‘I’m right, my view is the right one and I just won’t tolerate anyone having a different viewpoint’.
We hear it on TV debates and radio phone-ins all the time. Two sides each with their own viewpoint battling it out for supremacy. I often wonder what’s the point. Okay we’re hearing both sides and we are hopefully better informed as a result, but very often neither debater nor listener changes sides as a result of the discussion.
I often think how refreshing it would be if sometimes, one party would stand up at the end of the discussion and admit, ‘Well the other side have made some good points here, and I’m going to have to change my stance on this’. No, that rarely happens because admitting you’re wrong is often taken as a sign of weakness. A prime example is in politics where the media will invariably pounce on a politician who admits that his/her views or actions were wrong, or that they have changed their view, portraying this as a sign of weakness and somehow it’s wrong to change your view.
The reality is that we all make mistakes, even politicians, particularly when we are rushed to make a decision or are not in possession of all the facts, or even turn a blind eye to the facts. It’s part of human nature – we’re not perfect. But it’s so hard for some people to admit they’re wrong , or that they have a flaky viewpoint not based on facts or that they have made an incorrect decision. We must learn from our mistakes and benefit from our experiences as we go through life and let that help form our views.
Our opinions, views and beliefs are very much coloured by a number of factors: where we were born, that country’s traditions, our upbringing, what our parents taught us and what we learned at school, among other things. It’s obviously important to respect people with a different perspective on life from our own and respect that diversity. Clearly if we had been brought up in that situation, we would probably share those views and traditions. But this is somehow difficult for many people to grasp and has been a root cause of intolerance throughout history.
Our opinions are important but they must be based on the best facts available at the time, not on gossip, or what we read in poorly researched newspaper columns or blogs or see on TV. This is made really clear when we have actually researched and understand a subject and we can see the factual inaccuracies, bias, spin, hoax and general misinformation in what is being said in the media for example – which of course others without adequate knowledge of the subject are going to read, watch, believe and pass on, for example, in blog posts, blog comments and on forums.
In a recent post on Windows Tips and Tricks, Vic Laurie notes that as history has shown many times, the majority of people often believe things that are not true. Unfortunately, he has lost the source of the following quote he gave in that post, but it is apt:
“Belief” is a funny thing. In human psychology, belief is the intersection of logic and emotion. It’s not always clear what irrational or non-rational factors cause us to accept, discard, overweight, underweight and otherwise synthesize the facts before us in a belief. Sometimes we sincerely believe things without facts. Other times we believe things despite facts.
Some people do speak and argue with real authority. They sound confident and positive and we feel they must be right. But be careful to check their arguments and opinions are well founded.
We are so lucky nowadays having access to the Internet. It’s perhaps the prime example how tech can really have an amazing benefit on our lives. Knowledge, opinion and viewpoints are all around us – on blogs, twitter, podcasts, in forums, encyclopedias. We can search for information and read the facts and the spread of views on a subject and armed with the facts and opinions, we can make our own opinions better informed if we chose to. As well as reading a blog, we can read and contribute to the comments and see the spread of views there.
But at the end of the day, if someone else has a different view from your own, all you can do is politely let them know your views and what the facts are behind your view. If they choose to hold their view, fine. We must be tolerant of that. On the other hand, if their opinion is persuasive, then change sides – it’s actually not a sign of weakness but of maturity.
I’d love to hear your views on intolerance. Drop a comment below.
‘Your neighbor’s vision is as true for him as your own vision is true for you’. – Miguel de Unamuno