Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is Your Opinion Valid?

“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed, in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a wide-spread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible” ~ Bertrand Russell

And how do you tell?

In the wake of the death of Michael Jackson, once again, the news is full of the boy/man who has spent an inordinate amount of time in recent years living down his reputation.

It is this reputation, or at least the way that it seems to have been gained, that leads me to write this blog.

With Michael Jackson's sudden death, we've seen an avalanche of tributes and outpourings of support and messages of rememberings and replays of videos and songs on the internet. In amongst these, of course, have been those who apparently are holding fast to their opinions of what this person was like. And their dislike is obvious.

Like we witnessed during the recent US election, and just as we watched the different sides of the 'pro' Vs 'con' sides of the "Should we be in Iraq" debate, some of the more heated and vitriolic comments come from people who it would seem, have arrived at their opinions, without any real consideration for the context and without any facts or appreciation of the overall implications that such opinions must create.

We know, and have seen time and again, how the media can create a story - create as in completely fabricate - in some cases, and at other times so twist the facts as to render the correct version of events impossible for the remote observer to acess.

We view our tabloid heroes as though we know them. We don't. We are treated to media stories that exploit every news opportunity, real or fictional, and are swamped with slices of information that may or may not be correct, but are peddled about as though saying them will make them true. We sneer at the paparazzi who carve out a career by invading the privacy of others, even as we - some of us- give in to the irresistible compulsion to buy their cheesy magazines and leer at the photographs they have taken. Discriminating between what is true and what is fallacious seems to have become a moot point. If it titillates or lets us pass judgment on someone who is just media fodder for our entertainment, then that's all that matters.

Objectifying people in this way, can easily become a habit. We see a series of 30 second grabs on the TV and we think we 'know' this person in the spotlight. We know who they are, what they do, what their sins are, and what their punishment should be.

Do you form your opinions in this same rapid-fire way? Do you stand back and make some effort to objectively separate what you know, and has been verified, from the emotions that you feel when you read or see some of this news?

Are you open to discuss your opinion, or do you just want to blurt it out without any thought to the consequences of what it says about you, as well as the person of whom you hold this opinion?

Do you keep an open mind so that you can revise your opinions as new facts emerge?

Perhaps the single greatest wish that I have in this regard, is for you who read this, and as you read this, consider perhaps if you have jumped to conclusions about people in the past, without real scrutiny of those opinions... Consider what it might be like to to move toward a position where you are able to be a little objective ... Even when the topic is emotionally compelling... and allow yourself to observe without jumping to an opinion straight away.

Just observe.

Notice what you notice.

Question what else this information you are noticing might mean, if you looked at it from different angles.

Notice yourself noticing the information.

Think about the information and ponder, "If what seems to be, is so, what would have to be true, in the mind of that person, for those actions to make sense?"

Then perhaps we may arrive at a place with some scope for understanding and a position of compassion.

Good things can come from a place of compassion.

Good things rarely come from a place of derision and hatred.

What's your opinion?

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