Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Unrest, Politics, and the Importance of Critical Thinking

 [NOTE - As always my intent is never to expressly disregard the beliefs of a particular group or to seem like I am championing one side in a conflict over the other. It is more like the opposite. Consider the whole article here and, as always, feel free to talk about this in the Comments Section or on FB]

Quick! turn on the TV and see what kind of things are currently listed as 'big news' as of today, 2/26/2014. You are likely to come across three things:

Two of these stories are far from our shores. They detail reports of events where humans are dying and spilling blood on two sides of political divides that threaten the imagined futures of their country's identities. While it might be hard to imagine what it must be like to live with neighbors one part of your political system thinks wants to absorb you like in the Ukraine, or that you might think the system of government that has been you have grown up under might be undone like in Venezuela, there is something there we need to consider - human compassion. Regardless of our views on what happens in these two countries we (as American citizens) should pray for the outcome of these conflicts to be resolved with dialogue so long as dialogue is an option. We should care about these events as humans who are apart of a single planet. While I do not believe dialogue will solve all problems once a people (any people, anywhere) are put under fire and force, we live in an age where too many sides in conflicts are bullied into violence because the unreasonable and the violent and the un-compassionate are the only ones who make an effort to shout their opinions.

I have heard many would-be-politics scholars say they know why Side A or B is justified in these conflicts, but just like any political situation here in the US, these are hard to discern with clarity at times because of the relationships between local history, cultural history, foreign relations, media perceptions (foreign and domestic), and 'trendy' opinions that sound good when spoken from the arm-chairs of a college kid's dorm or apartment.

Instead, study up on the conflict/issue. I don't mean wiki the nations and leave it at that. Really dig into the history, media, and opinions on both sides of the issues. This is not so you will "suddenly think that Russia should absorb the Ukraine" if you previously thought otherwise. This is so you can understand the other side of the aisle and comprehend where their moral/ethical center is.

Agreement and Comprehension are completely different, yet people still can't bridge the gap between the two. A common saying is that "Compromise is what somebody expects the other person to do" and that is true in the modern, harshly polarized US climate. American has a wide variety of political advantages over other countries, namely that we only have to (largely) disagree with ourselves. Canadian and Mexican disputes largely do not encompass (say) Texas or new York being taken away from the US, or in California becoming socialist when it has been apart of a Western Capitalist political system for generations. These kind of drastic, alarming shocks are what is in store for not just the Ukraine and ven3zulea, but also Egypt and Thailand and (possibly) North Korea and other places of the world. These countries have highly hostile neighbors, they have ethnic/cultural disputes that threaten to make the ones we worry about on the US news seem tame by comparison, and some of these countries have children who grow up in a state of absolute terror as they think their families and their neighbors might kill each other en-mass.

Thinking critically does not mean explicitly changing your views, it means standing up for them with facts and with the decency to treat those you do not agree with as humans. Take the Texas Court decision on the Gay Marriage issue that went down earlier today. Texas has long had a conflict between democratic city-dwellers and the larger, rural counties, both of which have a legitimate right to have their views expressed. People who do not wish to feel their country stands for ethical principals they do not endorse have a means to express themselves in the Government through the people they elect, however laws must be based on the U.S Constitution and they should be challenged, and upheld, accordingly. If the right for non-heterosexual couples to be married can be allowed according to the Constitution and there is a body in Congress and the Senate who approve it, it should become the law of the land on those grounds. Still, many brush off one side of an argument by citing things that are not laws, which do not have a place in secular government (ie: religious texts), and, really, are just opinions.

Having said that, dismissing a person's faith "because it's stupid" undercuts a rather drastic force that has shaped human existence since before we could write the history we now cite. Change as drastic as what has been going on over just these last 100 years is positively rapid-fire and human "growing pains" should be understood, not dismissed as people completely being "backwards for the sake of being backwards." Most people do not think that without reason.  Dismissing the conditions a person was taught and raised under flippantly is (in a sense) disregarding the person's whole life and can it makes them feel as if you do not care about the core of their ethics/philosophy/family values. Dismiss it at your own risk I guess is all I am saying but don't act shocked when you are dismissed in return.

Human progress takes time, compassion, understanding others, and genuine study of issues and being able to see many sides at once.

Disagree with people but care for their well-being and rights while you do. Have opinions about the world but make sure you're reading articles from first-hand sources, checking your facts, and thinking about the best outcome for the human race while you do so.

Critical thinking is not just something to do in regards to thinking about shallow issues, it must be applied to the whole of human experience and that includes when things are violent, polarizing, and challenging your established beliefs. I'd argue that is the most important time to be critical, not because you could change your mind through force but because you could genuinely come to believe what the other side is saying once you look at the with compassion in your heart and not contempt.

This is something all sides in all disagreements should consider.