A Sunday Chat with Myself—25 February, 2018

“The Greatest Problem in the world today is intolerance. Everyone is so intolerant of each other.” — Princess Diana

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In Stony Plain Alberta, a shop owner that makes wooden signs and things had a brilliant idea. In an effort to promote reading in the community the owner decided to create a small weatherproof, but easily accessible box, containing books that are free to anyone who wished to take one—or exchange it with one of their own from her “Little Library.”

The project worked great for about 3 years, then a neighbor complained to the city about the Little Library, demanding that this “offencive??” item be removed! The push was on. Should the owner of the Little Library resist the crabby, short-sighted grumblings of the complainant, or should she just shrug indifferently and concede—give in—remove the Little Library—and move on with life? After all, it didn’t seem really all that important to warrant any kind of altercation—or was it a very important issue?

At first blush, all this seems so insignificant. For the newsmedia, nothing newsworthy here; just another minor happening, not worth sharing with the busy minds of Alberta, especially when there are more interesting, dramatic, hate and fear-promoting negative stuff out there to feed the public mind—like the latest  shooting in the Florida school that killed 17 students; or, we can take a pick from the almost 1.9 million police-reported Criminal Code incidents (excluding traffic) reported by police in 2015—an approximate increase of 70,000 over crime in  2014. Ask any news anchor worthy of their advertising customers, those are newsworthy items—but in reality, I feel that the Stony Plain incident is more important than the most of the dramatic “dis-information” appearing on the evening news.

Intolerance: unwillingness or refusal to respect other opinions or beliefs

Intolerance. A small, seemingly harmless action, like, I remember the time when I was shopping in Lethbridge at one of the stripmall markets and needed to use their washroom. Unfortunately, the washroom wasn’t functional at the time. Some bored person with mscief on his mind had taken a bunch of paper towels and completely blocked the toilet with them. Then flushed the toilet, allowing the water from the tank, mixed with his excrement, to overflow and make a mess all over the floor. Yes, I was inconvenienced and somewhat irritated that  I couldn’t use their washroom and had to, instead, leave the store and go across the street to the Costco store and use their washroom. On the way over to Costco, I couldn’t help but think, why? Why would a person do such a thing?  Did he have an anti-social problem, or was he seeking revenge against the store for a perceived or real grievance he had with the store, and this was the best way that he could get even?

But, what really bothered me was thinking of that poor store clerk who now had to take time out of his busy schedule and go into that stinky washroom and clean up that disgusting mess so that it was respectable again for future customer.

If I may take a moment to address the perpetrator that blocked that toilet, I’d like to assure you that, no, it was not funny nor was it a joke! It was not a ‘small’ act: it was a very big, inconsiderate and mean act, and if you wanted revenge against the store, I doubt that management was even made aware of your meaningless act!

“Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.” 
― Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Another intolerant act that really annoys me is when I pull into a parking lot and see some vehicle straddling two stalls, meaning I have to go farther down the line to find an open spot. What causes people to be so inconsiderate of others? Psychology Wiki tells me, “Selfishness [intolerant] is usually associated with a deliberate act. For example, a selfish person deliberately focuses on their own agenda, rather than that of others.” I think that certainly would apply to the person that blocked the shopping mall toilet: he was thinking of pacifying his own feelings—whatever they might have been—with no thought of the inconvenience he was causing others.

Psychology Wiki goes on to say, ‘The act of being selfish can also be unconscious or accidental.” This particular idea can easily apply to the person that parked his vehicle to straddle two parking stalls. Maybe s/he had a deeply troubled mind at the time—keeping an appointment with a divorce lawyer or some similar high-tense meeting. I could easily forgive the person in such a case. But, since I’ll never know why s/he decided to take two parking spaces, I’ll never really know the reason: was he preoccupied with troubled thoughts, or didn’t he just give a damn?

Hate, ignorance and intolerance is what killed the Jews during the Nazi era, not their targeted, mis-informed delusions imposed by a political regime of seeming righteousness

Intolerance is a complex social issue, both for individuals and groups in general. Throughout history, intolerance certainly has been a troubling issue that has plagued mankind since—well, since man learned to be intolerant! There is a time to take a stand against intolerance, and there’s a time—usually in individual cases—when it’s wisest to talk to the person and try to find out why they are so troubled and angry. I wish the Little Library in Stony Plain the very best, and may your issue soon be resolved. Above all, don’t leave the issue in limbo. Reading—the act of gaining knowledge and improving humanity’s intelligence—is not a small matter: it’s a big issue!

“Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. ― Kofi Annan

 

Arguing …

“The moment we want to believe something, we suddenly see all the arguments for it, and become blind to the arguments against it.” — George Bernard Shaw

I love to argue! Some of my colleagues refer to this, my passion, as a barbaric sport. If I must argue, then, instead of arguing, why not debate like civilized people do? Debating, they say, is more civilized and, since Man is the only creature that we’re aware of  that can reason, why not help him reach for higher stratums by reason of ‘civilized’ debate, rather than ‘barbaric’ arguing?Argument

Hogwash!

Troubled by the restrictions and shortcomings common in formal debating, many years ago two friends of mine and I organized our own “Arguing Club” in order to satisfy our penchant to exercise our minds.  But, instead of adopting the many rules found in a formal debate, we had only one rule that mattered: the person who got angry first, lost the argument! We did, however, add an addendum to this rule–an “Escape Clause” that we knew  at some time we’d need, should one or all three of us become disinterested in the subject being argued and wish to just drop it, and call it “a draw.” Also, unlike a formal debate where opposite teams are given time to research their point of view, our topic for argument was mutually decided upon at the moment, allowing for no time for either parties to do research. Ours was a spur of the moment thing, and we had a reason for doing so, which I’ll get to later.

So, before I go any farther into proving the superiority of arguing over formal debate, let me state that, to stubbornly argue about anything— little things– and insist that you’re right gains you nothing. Many friendships–indeed, many marriages have suffered simply because one or both members just refuse to give in, afraid that their ‘error’ might expose a weakness in them. To the contrary. Be assured, to admit error is not a sign of weakness. In fact, to stubbornly insist on being right against all odds can show you up as being ‘brilliantly’ clueless! Instead, if you find yourself cornered where you face superior reason, take advantage of the moment and listen: open your mind to learning something new from your ‘opponent’ that you didn’t know before. In the end, that little bit of humility will thank you for it: you’re now truly on the road to getting smarter!

So, back to my ‘argument’ that arguing is superior to formal debating. Spur of the moment arguing, like my friends and I had set up, can be compared to driving peacefully along a straight stretch of road when suddenly you hit an icy patch. You can’t stop Father Time so that you can dig out the driver’s manual from your glove compartment and quickly brush up on what to do in such a slippery emergency. All that you have at your disposal now is a very heightened awareness. You’re suddenly more awake–desperate– than you’ve been during your trip up to now. Good driving habits–instructions– long forgotten, stored deep within your psych, pop up front and center as you wrestle with the emergency.

The same mental awareness happens when you properly prepare yourself for an argument. Like a crack platoon of  battle-hardened troops, all your heightened senses now are front and center, ready to defend your views! Bits of information–maybe something from years back that you had glimpsed on a billboard, or heard a high school teacher say, crashes through your brain’s cobwebbed time barrier and rolls off your tongue as if it’s always been there, fresh and handy. You’re a sudden genius!

No, I don’t promise that, overnight, you’ll become a famous battle-hardened arguer, feared by all opposition. Oh, if it only were that simple!  First, it’s not that simple and, like all worthwhile skills, it can take a while before you become a real challenger in the argument arena, and like the skills of any Learned Grand Master of any trade or profession, it takes a lifetime to make your opponents fear and/or respect you. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

  • Arguing and formal debating can be compared to a speaker and a listener. As in all meetings that we attend, the one giving the talk can be compared to the arguer, because he has to be more aware than the listener. The listener, for all that it matters, can fall asleep. Awareness plays an important role in turning on all your senses. Because of this heightened awareness, the speaker will always end up knowing more about the topic than the listener, no matter how much the listener concentrates on the topic.
  • A true Arguer is a person who desires to learn more than the average person, and to learn it fast.
  • Although we “Three Musketeers” had one rule: he who got angry first lost the argument, not once do I remember any one of us getting angry during our many sessions. That rule was just sort of a decoration that we added to help keep our arguments fun and in line.
  • Did I mention that our argument sessions were designed to be fun? A lot of studies have shown that the brain learns better, and retains more of the information, when it is fun to learn.
  • Back to the topic of speaker and listener, have you noticed that a good speaker, one that the public flocks to, enjoys speaking and, over the years, that makes him ever more proficient in his speaking skill, and develops a broader span of knowledge? The key here is, have fun and it will all come to you!
  • Don’t be shy about taking the opposite or disliked view when a topic is presented. It’s usually easy to win the argument if you take the ‘popular’ side of the view and one that you’re familiar with, but just spewing out a bunch of known information does little in sharpening your quick-thinking skills, nor will it help broaden your knowledge-horizons. Taking the opposite view in discussions, especially unpopular ones, is a common practice among lawyers when learning their trade. That’s why the good ones seldom loose a case! Besides, it’s taking the opposite view that brings out your platoon of crack self-awareness troops.
  • Be selective in choosing whom you wish to engage in an argument. There are far more people out there who are more interested in picking a fight with you rather than engaging you in mental competition! Not heeding this advice can even put you in physical harms’ way. If your opponent shows any sign of anger, quit the discussion! Believe me, an angry or frustrated person cannot be swayed to accept even the most simple truth. That is why politicians rarely go out and meet with a demonstrating crowd. An angry crowd is a closed-minded crowd!

There are Two Ways …

There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
– S. Kieregaard

The above thought came to mind one day while listening to the evening news. I don’t have a problem accepting the ‘facts’ that are presented by the various news channels during their news presentations. Although presented different, the contents, or ‘facts’, were basically the same, which can be taken for some sense of reliability. However, what piqued my interest was listening to the various opinions that many of the news anchors added to their feature story of the day. Does this mean that the news presented earlier wasn’t complete, or a bias of the real truth?