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Impossibly Trying To Understand The Irrational

Let's just be up-front about things at the onset: To be human is to have biases. It is an inescapable facet of the human experience. In my opinion, it is nearly impossible (if not actually so) to be completely indifferent about anything at any time. True indifference, of course, should never be confused with ignorance. Biases, after all, are usually an expression of opinion and are borne from some type of experience. It matters very little whether this experience is direct or if it is indirect.

The difference between people is not the obvious fact that biases are all unique; rather, I think the true important difference among people is that we all have different degrees of expression of our unique biases.

Some people hide their biases carefully, while others shamelessly trumpet theirs from the highest mountains. Some are very tolerant of dissenting biases, ideas which are different from their own; other people feel threatened and get unreasonably aggressive once they detect a differing stance or opinion about something they hold dear.

It hardly seems to matter what aspect of life we are looking at. Discussions of politics, religion, race (and race relations), nationality, and other such abstract constructs are correctly judged to be utterly divisive because not only are there black and white sides, but infinitely different shades of gray in between. In other words, there is such a wide spectrum of possible opinions on such topics that the potential for conflict is much greater than the possibility of having consensus agreement. That, and the fact that biases are products of not just reason, but emotions as well.

(As a quick aside, OCN expressly forbids discussions of such topics in its ToS very likely for the reasons expressed above.)

Because biases are at least partly emotionally-motivated, discussions of topics for which people attach certain emotions should always be approached with a conscious attempt to be careful with what you say (or, as in the case of an online forum like OCN, write). This circumspect approach, actually, should be at the forefront of anybody's mind in regards to anything we do; always must we be mindful that anything and everything we do, whether it is good or bad or somewhere in between or a mixture of the two extremes, will have consequences. This is emphatically not an argument in favor of political correctness (though you can choose to use it as such, if you wish), but merely a reminder of a basic fact of life. It's like a Newtonian principle: Actions will have reactions.

Sadly, there are people on OCN who seem to never have this mode of thought at all when they see certain threads. A recent example deals with the News threads discussing Steve Jobs' absence due to illness. In such threads, there were actually people posting their wish to see Mr. Jobs dead. Other posting in such threads expressed similar sentiments, but targeted at other people such as Bill Gates. Since I don't frequent the News sections much at all, I didn't actually find these on my own, but because of an OCN staffer with whom I am friendly I saw such atrocious behavior. Moreover, since I was at work, I didn't have enough time to spend more time in such threads and therefore hit the "Report" button for what I judged to be reprehensible behavior.

It did motivate me to quickly write this piece on my lunch break, though, on the back of a couple of paper napkins and my pen.

Am I the only one who is disgusted by this? I mean, I'm sure that the offenders would argue that they meant such words in jest. I don't know if it's ever amusing to express a desire to see someone dead, all because he is the head of a company that manufactures certain technological products. I fail to see the joke in wishing ill will towards someone you don't know at all.

Besides, this isn't the first time when biases for or against the hardware manufacturers and software producers have been the sparks for massive and destructive conflicts on OCN. The battle lines are drawn very clearly. It's an old topic on which I've made comments in the past, but alas, perhaps because we are humans (and therefore probably fundamentally flawed in basic ways) the lessons are hard to hear and learn.

It's okay to have our biases. All I'm saying is that we have to be careful in how we say things. This is not an argument against honest spontaneity. You can still be honest and spontaneous without being hateful and irrational and venomous in revealing your biases, though. Whether it's for certain companies, and especially when we're talking about people, we all have to be mindful about what we say, and how.

For that is the only way to be a better human.


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