Connect the Dots
Open your nearest book to page 82. Take the third full sentence on the page, and work it into a post somehow.
It seems to me that one of the hardest things to accept in this life is that other people don’t think the way you think.
Yeah yeah, I hear you scoff, what rot. Of course I know people think differently.
But really, do you accept that at its most fundamental level? Think about it.
Whether we like to admit it or not, to ourselves let alone anyone else, we all make judgements. And at the root of those judgements is our core value system: our sense of right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, kind and unkind, moral and immoral, ethical and unethical… All as we believe them to be, whether we act on them or not. All as the family/society/culture we grew up in has taught us to believe them to be. And all absolute. And what is so hard to encompass is that there are other value systems out there that their adherents consider equally absolute.
When someone does something we consider ‘wrong’, we are assuming we share the same value system, and they have chosen to flaunt it. We may give them the benefit of the doubt – they didn’t know any better – but we are still implying that ‘better’ means conforming to our value system (which we know is ‘right’) and they, poor things, haven’t been taught it properly. But perhaps they have a value system of their own that they consider to be equally absolute, and who’s to say which of us is right?
To my mind, the most obvious example of this is the Iraq war. Why didn’t ‘shock and awe’ happen? Why didn’t the Iraqis embrace democracy with tears of gratitude? Because we, in our blind arrogance, didn’t begin to understand that we were trying to impose an alien value system they didn’t want. And why should they? Who are we to decide that our culture is ‘better’ than theirs? That our values are ‘better’ than theirs? I’m sure we can all come up with a dozen ‘valid‘ reasons, but here’s the kicker – they are only valid in our belief system, and we have no more right to try to impose that belief system on Iraq than current terrorists have to impose their belief system on us. Assuming otherwise is hypocrisy.
The closer you get to home, though, the harder it is to get your head around the idea. How can two members of one family interpret supposed absolutes so differently? Easy to blame it on their mother – why not? Generations of thinking will support that one! But…
When one of my grandsons was about three, he gazed at the back yard for awhile, and said thoughtfully, ‘You know, when I draw the clothes hoist, I want to draw what’s under the ground, not what’s on top.’ He’s now nine, and it’s abundantly clear that he and his brother will never see the world from the same perspective. They’re both, for example, champions of justice, but it’s unlikely they’ll ever agree on what justice is in any given situation, not because of what they’ve been taught along the way, but because their perspectives on it will always be quite different. Neither will necessarily be right or wrong. They’ll simply be weighing the evidence on different innate scales.
Which brings us to capital punishment. The only justification I can see for killing another human being is a him-or-me situation: self defence. Killing as punishment, or as a pre-emptive strike against possible recidivism, is still murder, in my book. But in other countries, and in certain states of the US, capital punishment is part of the justice system. I’m sure people with opposing views believe them as passionately as I believe they’re wrong, and who can possibly be the ultimate arbiter?
And please don’t say God! Because I’m pretty sure I’d have to say Whose god, yours or mine?