Shades of Gray

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 | featured, Pete Stuff

I don’t know if its something that comes with age or what but I’m becoming increasingly tired of people (myself included) speaking in absolutes. Right / wrong. Conservative / Liberal. Good / Bad. Pro Life / Pro Choice. Pro-this / anti-that. I haven’t fully fleshed out the reasons why (and thats part of why I’m writing) but it seems to me that it bugs me for two very important reasons. First, because I don’t think, by and large, people don’t believe in absolutes if you actually get them to let down their guard and talk about where they’re coming from. Take the Conservative / Liberal thing. I’ve seen a WHOLE LOT of debate on the news, on twitter, and in person that start with the us versus them crap but if you start analyzing the statements being made they’re all somewhere in the middle… ya know… in the shades of grey…

Which leads me to the second reason why it bugs the hell out of me. If you start with a premise of debating differences you immediately deadlock all conversations because you’re in a defensive position debating and defending your position. If, on the other hand, you started the conversation without these assumptions and focused, to start, on where you agree and then branch out to explore and understand differences and the reasons you can have a much more sane conversation. Otherwise the debate send everyone’s blood pressure through the roof and have people walk away from every conversation thinking ‘well they’re just a fucking idiot’… not productive.. not helpful..

I’ve seen SO MANY examples of this around me over the years. You see it in politics. In the President’s speech the other night you saw half of the audience cheering and the other half sitting on their hands pouting. Same premise on both sides – i’m right and they’re wrong. Get over it. Stupid – all you people have a big problem you need to solve and if you can’t work together – ALL OF YOU – then we’re screwed.

I see this in my day to day life. My solution to the problem is the right one and yours is fundamentally flawed. The truth is neither is true. Both are options with merit and if you start with where they work and go from there you’ll ALL come up with a solution that is better for the effort. I even see this in debates in forums like twitter.

The result is the same in all situations – deadlock.

Now mind you I’m not saying that we all don’t have incredibly firm convictions on certain topics. There are people who think that abortion is wrong in all cases. There are people who believe that gay marriage is a fundamental human right. There are people who believe that Objective-C is the appropriate language for all development problems. Whatever. The point is if you start with those absolutes first the conversation is SO MUCH HARDER and, quite frankly, the debates are T.E.D.I.O.U.S…. Put those absolutes aside and start with the gray so you can actually make some progress…

Sorry for the rant and the random stream of consciousness post. I’ve just been thinking a lot about what has me tied in knots lately and it boiles down to that – I’ve allowed myself to get drawn into, worked up by, and emotionally invested in following these types of debates. Sure they can be entertaining on occasion – but if you get invested in them they wear you down and you don’t actually solve anything…

Deep breath…

now back to your regularly scheduled program

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2 Comments to Shades of Gray

Stephen
February 26, 2009

You are ABSOLUTELY 100% right about this. šŸ™‚

Laura
March 6, 2009

I couldn’t agree more! I was thinking about this last night when I watched Obama’s conference on health care reform…I’m not used to a person who can actually be respectful, wise, open-minded, kind, and yet wholly decisive. Hopefully this marks some sort of change in our fundamentalist, absolutist ways.

As for all this “right/wrong” hubalub, I blame it on the Puritans. When Britain divided and Canada got the french, Aus got the criminals, and we got the Puritans, I would have given anything to have been able to lay down roots north of the border. šŸ˜‰