Thursday, April 01, 2010

This Might Sting a Bit

If you give me a choice between getting my teeth worked on, or engaging in a political discussion, I’m going to opt for the drilling, grinding and Novacaine every time.

I finally figured out why I dislike politics so much, and it has to do with the same things I dislike about religion. Both seem hell bent on converting the opposition, but neither side seems very interested in listening to anyone else. I’m left feeling a little angry, and a whole lot confused, wondering, “Is this the way it’s supposed to be, or is it just the inevitable result of the human condition?”

Last year, I read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, at the behest of an employee. Labeled by many as socialist propaganda, the story looks at the horrendous working conditions in the Chicago meatpacking industry at the turn of the 20th century. Sinclair tells the story of mistreatment and misfortune of immigrant workers by the business owners, and leads you to his conclusion that the only logical answer for such injustice is to turn to socialism.

But Sinclair does what every other politician or pastor does when speaking about the point of view he is defending. He compares the strengths of his doctrine against the weaknesses of his opposition. Socialism, he says, is built on fairness and equality for all people, while Capitalism is driven by greed and avarice of the rich and few. Ironically, even in his own argument, he is in violation the very thing he espouses. He is not being fair to his opponent.

If you want to convince me of your point of view, don’t tear mine down. Instead, try to build a case by first understanding what I think and believe, and then compare strength to strength. Compare apples to apples, not apples to microwaves.

If Sinclair was truly fair, he would look at the strength of his foe, Capitalism, versus the strength of his Socialism. If Socialist doctrine is build on fairness, then to be fair, one must ask what is the equivalent positive trait of Capitalism. Granted, it may be hard to fathom, but it is a system of opportunity, rewarding hard work and determination.

On the converse, continuing to be fair, Sinclair would then compare weakness to weakness. He must admit that his Socialism has a dark side, just as he indicted Capitalism with a verdict of greed. Indeed, making money can lead to greed, but it can also provoke jealousy and envy in those who despise it.

My point is this: Take time to listen and understand those who hold an opposing view to yours. Be secure enough in your own belief to not react defensively, but see if you can clearly articulate back to your rival what it is he believes. Compare strength to strength and weakness with weakness, and don’t confuse the two. See if this leads anywhere.

What have you got to lose? It can’t possibly make things any worse.

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