Thursday, 13 January 2011

Serious issues -- Do we avoid 'em?

What do people talk about? You have coffee with a friend; what do you discuss? Do we tend to steer clear of serious, potentially controversial, issues? Talk about family/ friends, holidays, health, tv, celebs. -- OK; politics, social issues, religion -- no way!?

Are we able to discuss serious issues without risking falling-out? Do we have the ability to debate an issue without the risk that the discussion will become somewhat acrimonious? I believe that the general answer to these questions is "no". Most people don't have this ability and even if you believe that you do have it, you will often doubt whether your companion also has it and you don't want to take the risk.

Therefore we rarely get to test our, unspoken, views on such subjects against alternatives. Since we aren't used to expressing and defending our views, our ability to do so decays; thus making us even more reluctant to discuss these issues. Lack of this skill results in our frustration when we do try to express a view; thus making it more likely that any exchange with our friend will become fraught and ad hominem.  Our opinions get stuck in the mire of our own prejudices and we selectively chose only evidence that supports our moribund views. Sometimes these issues get pushed to the back of our consciousness and we aren't even sure  what our opinion is!

Isn't that a pity? All because we haven't been taught how to debate an issue without getting too attached to our own preconceptions. What can we do about it? I'll try to address this in my next post. Try to control your excitement folks.

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