Okay, we're heading in a totally new direction in the Nth Degree today. I'm used to writing around learning and technology because hey, that's what I do right? But today I thought I'd go for something slightly different and look at the thing which really stops us breaking down barriers and making effective change - it seems to me it's the fear of not fitting in or belonging - the very groupings that seem to define us could be what is at the heart of lots of our problems. So here we go, let's look at some of the big issues and ask a few questions:
#1 Is patriotism wrong? Maybe it really is. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong in loving where you're from or where you live, but when where you're from is more important than treating other people with respect (for example the people in the next city or state, let alone country) then something is out of kilter. When wars occur they're usually between one geographic area and another. At the heart of these wars there may be a lot of different reasons, but eventually we choose sides based upon where we're from rather than being able to clearly think for ourselves and choose what is right or wrong. Here's the essence of a lot of what is wrong with our world - gang mentality is like a drug that impairs our ability to make well-balanced decisions based upon what we know is right or wrong. I like this article http://listverse.com/2014/03/27/10-unavoidable-arguments-against-patriotism/ from the US (arguably the most patriotic of nations). In answer to the question it really can be, but loving your country doesn't mean that you're automatically in the wrong either, it's when the love of your country becomes greater than your abilities to apply critical thought to a situation.
#2 What if I don't fit in? One of the biggest drivers for us doing things is to try and fit in. We all do it and we all make questionable judgement calls based upon trying to worry about what others think and fitting in with the group. Think frat-house mentality for a particularly clear example where people will do things out of character in order to prove their 'worth' to the group. It's another example of us overriding what we really know is right or wrong to go with what we think we need to do to impress. How many of us truly have the strength to stand on our own? It's truly scary and I know at times I've been as guilty of trying to fit in as anyone and have acted poorly in that way.
#3 Is love blind? So if love of your country is wrong what about love of another person or
group of people? What about love of a football team or friends? When can love be the problem? When love is blind. If we blindly do things we know are wrong in the name of love that can only be a bad thing. I know that many of us say we would do anything for the person or people we love, but would you really? If your wife or husband asked you to kill another person they didn't like, would you? If your child did something illegal and abhorrent would you cover up for them? It's not black and white I appreciate, a starving family would you steal for - yes and I'm sure most would... that leads into the next one...
#4 Is it black and white? The issue of right or wrong is as grey as most of my arguments so far. How many times have we acted on an issue because of the unshakeable knowledge that it's right? There are laws and rules, but we break these under certain circumstances because actually there is a time to use your judgement, to realise that we don't live in a world of absolutes. There are times when the law says something, groups of people agree, the people you love agree - but actually it's not that simple and it's not as clear cut as all that. All the big issues; race, religion, love... none are actually black and white. Sorry to spell this one out but there are no wholly good or wholly bad of the above. The problems often occur when we think in black and white and lose our ability to see both sides of the argument. If nothing else, take away from today that nothing is harder to deal with than absolutes and inflexibility.
#5 Is believing enough? I'm going to try gently (again) to touch religion without causing
outcry - but actually it's wider than just religion, it's about belief. Believing in something is a natural human thing - we find something, a mantra an ideal or a way of living that we associate with and tie ourselves too. There's nothing wrong with a belief that's not totally based upon hard evidence (even if hard evidence itself actually exists - another time, another blog), unless that belief again clouds our ability and blindly allows us to act without thinking. Remember that black and white issue? If you believe that being a christian makes you right and a muslim makes you wrong (or vice versa) then you're not seeing things as they really are. Good and evil are just classifications of belief - and like all classifications they are approximations, digital extremes on a life that is analogue.
#6 When are you going to mention attitude? My good friend Ryan Tracey waits for me to mention attitude because at some point in every chat I resort to my catch-all; it's about attitude. Reason being that my belief centres around attitude and how it's our attitude that affects what we do more than anything else. In my usual context that's about learning; learning simply doesn't take place too often without the right attitude. We can talk about change and breaking down barriers all we like, but without the right attitude it's unlikely to happen (you have no idea how hard it was to right that sentence without using extremes like 'never'!).
In summary, I'm not sure where my motivation for today's post came from or even what my point was - I think most people are aware that the biggest challenges we face in learning and in the world perhaps are around the barriers we erect and silo-type thinking, I just want to highlight that there are some pretty big things that we place in the way that impact our abilities to think.
Agree or disagree? (or somewhere grey in between?)!