Think with nuance
25th Jul 20166m25s
- One thing I've noticed with a lot of the debates that take place nowadays on social issues, on political issues, is the inability to hold a nuanced opinion on something without being labeled as an extremist of some sorts. An example of this the debate around criticism of Islam as an ideology. All the terrorist attacks that happen, especially the ones that are driven by ISIS, clearly have something to do with Islam as a religion, being that Islam is the ideological basis on which many of these groups commit their attacks, even if Islam isn't completely to blame. And yet, just mentioning this fact gets one labeled as an Islamophobe or, worse yet, a racist. A racist who is trying to cover up their racism through criticism of the religion, even though the facts show that this viewpoint that Islam has something to do with it isn't invalid; because this prevailing idea is that the religion of Islam is completely peaceful and Muslims are all peaceful and that criticism of Islam is equated to criticism of Muslims as a people. Because of that prevailing narrative, it's very, very difficult to criticize Islam as an ideology without then being labeled a bigot as oneself. And what this has resulted in is the inability to have a nuanced opinion, such as, Islam must be criticized as an ideology even if Muslims as a people are mostly peaceful. Which is, in my opinion, the accurate nature of the current state of affairs. Another example of this is in child pornography or any such activity where the perpetrators are considered to be evil or monsters by society at large. I mean, child pornography, in my opinion, is clearly wrong because it's the same as child abuse. But to call people who commit this abuse as monsters and evil as people who are deliberately going out to abuse children is, in my opinion, incorrect. Yes, there are certainly some people who want to satiate their appetite and are willing to abuse others to do so, but some of the people who are committing this child abuse actually genuinely believe in their mind that they love children and that they're simply showing love to kids. And no matter how much we call them monsters or evil, it doesn't change the fact that some of them are doing this in, as they believe, the goodness of their hearts. So, it's mental health issue, it's something that we need to deal with if we need guidance on how to help these people understand the true nature of what it is that they're doing and understand that society doesn't find it acceptable. Calling them monsters, calling them evil isn't going to help us figure that out. It's just a painting with a broad brushstroke all of these people and thereby obscuring some of the root causes of this issue in the first place, same as for Islamic terrorism. We obscure the root causes when we don't allow nuanced opinions of things, when we don't allow criticism of the ideology because we equate that with vilification of the people. Not having a nuanced opinion on something means that you are unwilling to listen to opinions which conflict with what you believe, unless those opinions are diametrically opposed to yours; in which case it's easy to paint the person with those opinions as belonging to the other team or the other side and therefore as wrong. But somebody who is sort of halfway between the two is more difficult to place in your mind. It's difficult for you to categorize what side that person is on, and so you tend not to like people having nuanced opinions like that, because it makes it harder for you. Even though nuanced opinions are actually the only kind of opinions that really make sense, because life is complicated, it isn't simple. Not everything can be simplified in life, some things are just a bit more complex than that. I mean, is it wrong to kill somebody? Yes, but what if you're killing somebody in self-defense because they're about to kill you? Is it still wrong? Some people will argue yes, some people will argue no, it isn't wrong if you're doing it in self-defense. So the correct answer is there isn't a really correct answer for every situation. It depends on the situation, it depends on the people involved, it depends on the people who are judging the outcome of what happened. That's the nuanced approach to it, the simplified approach would be to simply pick one of the answers as the correct one; i.e. it's okay to kill or it's not okay to kill. Or even, it's okay to kill unless, it's okay to kill if it's in self-defense or else it's not. Whereas actually, it depends on every situation. That would be the nuanced, complicated approach. People prefer taking the simplified approach and painting with broad brushstrokes, because it makes things simpler. It makes everything easier to quantify and therefore easier to reason about, easier to deal with. But unfortunately, because real life doesn't work that way, this approach can only go so far in terms of solving problems. What ends up happening is too much group think. If you do not really think carefully for yourself and you do not value having a nuanced opinion on things, then you're more likely to pick a particular side that aligns most closely with yours. So the reason we have the problem of being labeled an Islamophobe or a racist if you criticize Islam, is because most people on the left just follow the group think mentality that exists there. Which is, if someone criticizes Islam it must be because they're racist and because you are someone on the left who doesn't want to be called a racist, then because the other people are left agree with you on other viewpoints and other things, you think that they must be right about this. But, they might not necessarily be right about this. And not just people on the left, people on the right make this mistake too. So, this is a real problem with not having a nuanced opinion and not being able to have a nuanced opinion and not being able to have nuanced discussion about things; group think, obscuring the problem and ultimately failing to solve the problem. If we're really gonna solve problems, if we're really going to have debate and dialogue, then we need to be able to hold nuanced opinions on things, we need to be able to look at things in all of their complexity and not try and dumb things down or always simplify them just because that makes things easier for us. Because in the long run it doesn't, it really doesn't.