I feel it necessary to address the tendency of people today to take offence at pretty much anything. It seems that everything from a sonnet to a sneeze must these days be accompanied with a declaration of the issuer’s non-participation in the opinion thus expressed. “The views I express in my own words in no way reflect my own views or opinions, and anything in my views or opinions which resembles my own views or opinions must be taken as nothing more than pure coincidence.”

If I like vanilla, but you like chocolate, you take offence. If I am a Republican and you are a Democrat, you take offence. If I’m a dog person and you are a cat person, you take offence. If you’re in the street and I hit you with my car…well, a pattern emerges. I mean, seriously, people–is there no end to the cycle of indignation?

I long for a forum in which honest debate is not only welcomed but encouraged, where opposing viewpoints are taken as helpful contributions rather than personal attacks. Where the conversation proceeds along lines other than: “You suck!” “No, you suck!” A forum in which we can tell each other the ever-lovin’ truth, for Pete’s sake!

Orthodoxy is the refuge of complacency and intellectual cowardice. Answers are to be found not in constant, rote agreement, but in the midst of sharp disagreement; not in the isolation and segregation of the like-minded, but in the collision of disparate worldviews; not in unanimity of opinion, but in unanimity of purpose.

In any case, the answers are not what define us. What defines us is how we deal with the questions.

But you didn’t hear that from me…


16 thoughts on “Disclaimer

  1. Wonderful post, fully agree.

    Once upon a time, daily discourse could only happen when two people shared different views. Instead of taking offense (which is the knee-jerk reaction of people today), a different perspective was welcomed. At the end of discussions/debate, while both sides often walked away with their points-of-view intact, they also walked away better informed. Being better informed brought people closer…and made for a better life.

    1. What is this “better informed” of which you speak? :0p

      Seriously, though–it does seem that “debate” and “discourse” have become prolonged exercises in preaching to the choir…and in being preached to AS the choir. We all pick whichever news outlet best fits our worldview and then allow it to massage our egos and confirm our opinions, and learn absolutely nothing in the process.

      On my way into work this morning, I was talking with a colleague who at one point commented to me about “those liberals” and their global warming. Never mind that I’m one of “those liberals”; in itself, the comment epitomizes the breakdown of conversation in recent times: it’s “us” and “them”; there is no “we” anymore…

      1. This is what’s driving me up the wall. Be it liberals or conservatives, the concept of being in one camp or the other is defining who we have become. Intelligence (wisdom is a better word) is enhanced when you fully understand the argument on each side and work out a compromise…it is common sense. These days, people who should make an effort to fully understand an argument (impartial understanding) are unable to even partial understand the situation. It is incredible.

        One of my best friends from HS is a conservative…and now every stance in politics, religion, social arena comes out as if it was scripted by the extreme right. Now, I understand her logic…but just happen to disagree with it. She, on the other hand, makes no effort to understand my logic to why I disagree. Frustrating. Futile.

    2. Dalo, I appreciate your comment. Most of the past discussions/debates I was involved in had been of a religious nature. Having once been a Christian, I had been programmed to believe that nonbelievers were immoral. I had been programmed to fear them. I had been programmed to not associate with them.

      It was through debate that I came to realize that I had been lied to. This was at a time that I was at the end of my deconversion. I did have trepidations that I might become like those ‘immoral nonbelievers’ I’d been told about most of my life. Debate showed me otherwise. I had never talked to, much less met a nonbeliever in my entire life until I got involved in debate.

      So I have to wholeheartedly agree with you that I walked away better informed, and that being better informed brought me closer to the very people I’d been taught to judge, shun and fear.

      1. Beautiful response.

        At some point the pendulum will begin to swing back to a more moderate view of issues, and debate will be encourage and tolerances improved. What you have written is actually my belief that someday the world will all be on one page. Globalization and transparency of information will help, but I also think some sort of evolutionary event must also take place (even if it is just a millennium or two of races/cultures/politics blending) and then they will look back on our barbaric ideas/beliefs and shake their heads.

  2. I was recently dealing with this very thing on a forum I frequent. Like most forums, posts about disagreements come up with regularity. I decided to ask whether the group thought that ideas/beliefs deserve respect or just people. Honestly, it was a pretty even split.

    The way I see it, people deserve decency. We should treat each other with care, but respect comes through relationships. Ideas are up for grabs. We have to be able to talk about the validity of our opinions openly, but to do so effectively we must detach ourselves from our views.

    We are not our labels and our ideas should evolve with gained knowledge. The people who insisted that ideas deserved outright respect tended to argue that they *are* their beliefs and to be kind to them meant to be kind to their beliefs. I can understand the feeling. I know it all too well, I think we all do. We can’t let that stop us.

    There is too much we don’t know, too much we will someday learn to be so certain of ourselves. (Certainty. I’m telling ya.) We have to be willing to talk about it all, no holds barred. It can be a difficult thing to do and yet we must challenge our own understanding if we are to combat stagnancy. Will we be offended? Sure. That doesn’t mean we have to stop talking. And when we do, who knows what we might find…

    1. “We have to be able to talk about the validity of our opinions openly, but to do so effectively we must detach ourselves from our views.”

      I think you’ve hit upon the heart of the matter, my friend. This is the hardest thing about engaging in open, honest conversation–the willingness to have our views questioned, and even proven false. Which is what I meant by orthodoxy being the refuge of intellectual cowardice. We can choose to believe something, or we can choose to accept something. The two are not the same, and too often we think that they are…

      Hope you are well! :0)

  3. Here, here. I would also like to add to your “you suck” example “your an idiot!” Seriously, if I’m on line chatting with someone or with a group of people and the i word comes up, I’m out! As a non believer, I notice how other non believers LOVE this word. If I notice how much they use it when discussing religion imagine how much more obvious it must be to believers.

    1. I know what you mean. Personally, though, I’ve gotten to where I take that word as applied to myself as a compliment: I’ve said something they can’t argue with, so they respond in the only way they can…

      1. Just for clarification purposes, debate is not about winning or losing for me. I used the term ‘won’ as a figure of speech. It’s about learning in all that that entails. It was through debate that I gained a passion for research.

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