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The Natural Human Desire to be Right and its Effect on Perspective

Perspective: Politics July 15, 2003

Printable Version

Perhaps the most powerful human emotion is one’s desire to be correct in what one thinks and says. Many times it even exceeds self-interest because of the importance to one’s ego. This is a critical concept because it has tremendous effect on one’s perspective and how we process information. Each of us can look at a glass as being half empty or half full depending on what our attitude has been previously, and we can take what information exists and process it to confirm our original perspective. It is often referred to as a fairly common psychological phenomenon that is called confirmational bias. You tend to accept or ignore data depending on whether it supports or contradicts your viewpoint. So the perspective by which we look at the information has a great deal to do with how we interpret for the analysis and the trends that are to be selected. In the modern world that is greatly complicated by our division into groups. We have always had perspectives based upon historical or geographical relationships, religious backgrounds, ethnic origin, or a great variety of different parts of our background that we accentuated because of their importance to us. More importantly, in recent years we have seen the number of groups both expand and be consolidated through the concept of diversity. When individuals could not receive proper recognition, rights, or dignity as individuals, they assimilated into groups of various natures, which sought and often received recognition of these rights or dignities through the support of the size of the group. Unfortunately, this can often lead to information being processed from the perspective of that group because of the way the information is presented. It is much like being in a forest of trees looking at the individual trees. A more significant perspective would be a broader view from a mountaintop that got you above the valley in order that you might see more clearly the path that needs to be taken. This becomes particularly true when the concept of “victimhood” or victimization is brought forth. In modern times there has been a small industry emerge in building organizations on “collective victimhood.” Often the concept is to create guilt and seek reform. The significant effectiveness of these organizations in a time that technology has overwhelmed us, often has perspectives looking at the information presented from a very narrow judgment of how it supports this more limited concept. It may well be correct as an answer to a specific question; but the broader issue is often whether that is the right question.

The real solution to many of the problems in society is for people to talk with each other, even though they may not agree. Quite often, if you use conscience as the basis of a perspective, you tend to look at concepts such as the Golden Rule, the common good, and looking from a perspective that also puts you in the other man’s shoes. It provides the framework of how you work with others. Normally, if you can begin with that perspective you have a much better opportunity to communicate with others. You will not necessarily always agree, but you will reach a circumstance where there is a language of conscience in that the environment and the effort in which the environment is more ethical and the discussion is more realistic because it builds a model in all men’s minds beyond the very limited model in a specific group’s mind. That is where progress ultimately takes place. Perhaps the most significant movement in diversity has been that of the civil rights movement. Its most expressive leader was Dr. Martin Luther King. The judgment criteria that he often referred to was character, which is the choice of conscience over convenience as implemented by individual responsibility. In his greatest speeches this was one of the most critical points. He believed in the ultimate goodness of men and that one day good would overcome evil. When he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 he noted, “I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up.” In his most famous speech he probably defined this perspective best, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed….” “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

That to me captures the essence of why character and most importantly the conscience of men that it represents needs to be the perspective by which information is judged. If you ask a question, “Have minorities been ill treated?” The answer is yes, and the response of logic is blame. But if you ask, “What is the best way in the future to bring true equality with the judgment based on character, then the answer is the promotion of an environment where that concept rules. How time is spent, and the attitude taken, is critical because blame may have a part in bringing understanding, but vision as to what you seek is the crucial path to success, and is where the focus must be placed to succeed. You unify or often divide, the question chosen often chooses your actions. If we confirm our facts and our acceptance of facts on the basis of that broadened approach we will find the environment in which we operate far more susceptible to finding common solutions than if we moved to the convenience of trying to promote selective interpretations that may satisfy the ego, but contribute nothing to the true advancement of man. Man will never be perfect. He will always be a combination of conscience and convenience that pull him in different directions. But if the culture of the whole is to look to character and the acceptance of responsibility for feelings and actions; as opposed to the convenience of a shorter term benefit or emotion; then we and our children will benefit greatly. The environment fifty years from now is probably traceable to the seeds of perception of the ten years olds of today. We change the culture not so much for us as for our children and grandchildren if we pass over emotion to the dedication of values.


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