I am not a person who gets into conflict. I understand the idea of having differences of opinion with others – I can most assuredly grok the idea of having a spirited discussion with others over those differences. However, I do not understand or even condone the idea of stepping up to directly challenge someone’s perspective in a confrontational manner. I would guess, that its a difference between what I perceive as “manners” and the way others may see a need to crusade for some cause. I’m just not built or wired that way.
We’ve seen a lot of this in the news. Westboro Baptist does this all the time – essentially invading funerals to promote an anti-gay agenda. They show up uninvited to high-profile funerals, and attempt to push their perspective down the throats of the individuals who arrive to mourn the loss of a family member or friend. That’s confrontational…and I would certainly believe that to be ultra-bad manners as well, as well as completely disrespectful of others. Unfortunately, this becomes more and more common-place, as political and religious agendas creep further and further into our daily lives.
Most of you know I’m not a political person whatsoever. I already know who I am voting for in the Presidential election, barring anything wild and insane coming out about my candidate. I have no desire to shout that from the rooftops to try and convince people to vote for my candidate. I honestly don’t care who you are voting for or even why. Nor do I care if you decide not to vote. Those are choices you need to make – and I honestly would rather you made them on your own, rather than being swayed by something I said. I don’t want or need that kind of “power”…I’m not built or wired that way. But aside from that, I see politics seeping into parts of our lives where it shouldn’t be. And with it, the concept of rational debate and lively discussion are pushed out of the landscape – allowing argument to enter the fray.
I’m not talking simple argument, where you disagree over what gets made or purchased for dinner tonight. I’m talking about irrational, spiteful argument – where an individual’s choice is belittled as being “stupid” or where their choice of political perspective is labeled with some descriptive of derision. I mean, really? What happened to having common manners and a position of decency in a discussion of differences? Does it really provide a “winning” concept for one’s position through the use of such negative language? Well, look at the political advertising we’ve seen so far in this Presidential election – it apparently does work.
What if we peeled back pieces of the advertising or descriptive adjectives to reveal the over-arching topic? Would we find enough evidence to agree with the topic or position? I would hold that it is unlikely that it would not, hence the need for the negative connotations to assist in dressing things up. Hate, anger, prejudice – these are all strong emotions, all of which are readily available just beneath the surface of an individual’s personality. Its just a matter of scratching the surface in just the right way to bring these out. In Business Advertising, the usage of descriptives and emotional appeal is known as “lift” – and its very easy to get swept up in it.
Have we been caught up on an upward spiral of lift? Are we willing to toss aside the conventional aspects of positive discussion in favor of a more accessible emotional appeal? Both inside and outside of the college I teach at, I’ve seen a lot of discussion on the idea of critical thinking. I’ve seen a lot of different ideas of what critical thinking is or isn’t. I’m not going to define that here – but I will note that critical assessment is another skill we’ve started losing. Instead of picking the object up and examining it from all sides before rendering an opinion, we look at the object’s outside qualities and instantly form an opinion of its worth. In my opinion, before we get to the point of adjusting ourselves to critical thinking, we need to get back to critical assessment.