Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Civil Discourse, Fanaticism and Opinion

The Fanatics of Tangier by Eugène Delacroix
fanatic
noun
1. a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause.

synonyms: zealot, extremist, militant, dogmatist, devotee, adherent;

informal: a person with an obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for something, especially an activity. "a fitness fanatic"

adjective
1. filled with or expressing excessive zeal. "his fanatic energy"

Origin
mid 16th century (as an adjective): from French fanatique or Latin fanaticus ‘of a temple, inspired by a god,’ from fanum ‘temple.’ The adjective originally described behavior or speech that might result from possession by a god or demon, hence the earliest sense of the noun ‘a religious maniac’ (mid 17th century). (Source)

Well, I was going to address an incident which occurred on Facebook over the weekend, but Tuna covered that pretty well yesterday. Rather than come up with a completely new topic (something my brain just isn't capable of these days, lack of sleep, Mama ain't home yet, blah, blah, blah) I decided to go ahead and get semi-political, semi-philosophical today anyway. Blame Tuna, actually blame the trolls, which are (knock on wood) rare around here. So buckle your seatbelts, ensure your seats are in the upright position, and your tray tables are stowed, it could get bumpy.

In my opinion, I daresay that 75% of the world's problems are caused by fanatics of one flavor or another. Another 20% are caused by stupid people who are not fanatics but somehow get to positions of influence. The remaining 5% are due to random chance.

opinion
noun
a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge. "I'm writing to voice my opinion on an issue of great importance"

synonyms: belief, judgment, thought(s), (way of) thinking, mind, (point of) view, viewpoint, outlook, attitude, stance, position, perspective, persuasion, standpoint; sentiment, conception, conviction "she did not share her husband's opinion"as I see it, to my mind, (according) to my way of thinking, personally, in my estimation, if you ask me, for my money, in my book "in my opinion, the green tiles clash with the yellow walls"
  • the beliefs or views of a large number or majority of people about a particular thing. "the changing climate of opinion"
  • an estimation of the quality or worth of someone or something. "I had a higher opinion of myself than I deserved"
  • a formal statement of advice by an expert on a professional matter. "seeking a second opinion from a specialist"
  • LAW - a formal statement of reasons for a judgment given.
  • LAW  - a lawyer's advice on the merits of a case.
Origin
Middle English: via Old French from Latin opinio(n-), from the stem of opinari ‘think, believe.’ (Source)

Opinions are like                      .

Yes, that was the first ever "fill in the blank question" here at Le Chant du Départ.

Far too often I think we all get wrapped up in arguments over opinions and not over the facts. If I say, "The weather is very nice today." that's an opinion. You could disagree with that opinion, perhaps you think the weather is either too hot or too cold. What suits me meteorologically may not suit you. Neither opinion is wrong, neither opinion is based on objective fact.

Now if I say, "It's raining outside" and you say "No, it's not" that is something that can be measured objectively. It's either raining or it's not, it's not something that can be argued.

Yet people will often argue about opinions. For instance, I think the current President is a complete idiot and has no more business leading the United States than I would have playing quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. My kid brother, on the other hand, along with numerous friends of mine, would vociferously disagree. They like the guy. I do not.

While there may be objective facts one could use to measure his success as President in comparison to previous Presidents, most often the arguments boil down to personal feelings and beliefs.

In 1933 a majority of Germans elected a leader they thought would be just peachy and do great things for Deutschland. While it didn't turn out that way, at the beginning who knew? There were facts which would lead an objective observer to deduce that the man would be an absolute disaster for Germany and Europe, but one had to be paying attention. Hitler made no bones about his plans in Mein Kampf. The facts were there, few paid attention.

No, I'm not comparing the current occupant of the White House to Hitler. I merely cite Nazi Germany as an example of what happens to a people who are either not paying attention or are letting their own desires and opinions stand in the way of rational thought.

For a less violent example there is my own opinion of the New England Patriots hiring Bill Belichick as their head coach back in 2000. I expressed my opinion that that would be an absolute disaster. He came from the Cleveland Browns, who arguably sucked at playing football. (Opinion, though there are certain facts supporting that. Like their record under Coach Belichick.)

I think it's safe to say that I couldn't have been more wrong. Six Super Bowl appearances, four Super Bowl wins and damn near in the playoffs every year (save one) since he was hired. My opinion was fact-based, but it was only my opinion. When you also consider that the Belichick Browns eventually moved to Baltimore and have been competitive ever since, perhaps Coach B wasn't that bad there either.

Again, facts showed I was wrong. (For those who whine / complain about the Patriots "cheating," put on your big boy pants and go read this, they all cheat. That's a fact. Sure I root for the Patriots as I'm from New England. I also root for the Broncos because I went to college in Colorado. I still have a great deal of warm feelings for Green Bay as well, I was a Packer fan as a youth. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say I was a fan of Vince Lombardi, Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer and Jim Taylor, et al. Times change, personnel change. Loyalty to a sports team is, for me, fleeting. My loyalties are to family, God and country.)

When I go up north to visit family, we don't talk politics, we all have differing outlooks on des affaires politiques. It's better if we stay away from that topic. Which we do and we get along just fine. Only a boor would bring up politics in a social setting or familial gathering. It's that whole "things not to be discussed in the wardroom" concept. In order to have a polite society there are rules to be followed.

Unfortunately, in this Old Sarge's opinion, we don't seem to have any rules these days. I don't know who to blame, perhaps the media is too easy a target. No doubt my late Dad would blame the Beatles, long hair and all that followed.

As I get older, I often wonder if he might have been right to some extent.

Anyway, that's

20 comments:

  1. Good post, you should think out loud more often. Smart not discussing politics at home, it never pays off. I learned
    a long time ago, when it comes to politics and religion, you can sit down with a diverse group of people and discuss,
    argue and shout about those two subjects but at the end of it all, 99% of the group will walk away with their opinions
    unchanged. (except possibly their opinions about some of the other members of the group)

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    Replies
    1. Totally agree Russ, and I hope that I can continue to exercise restraint.

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    2. Hahaha, you're usually pretty good about being restrained Ron. A true gentleman.

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    3. When I come across groups of these discussions, I usually have a seat and join in but my
      only purpose is to stir the pot and stoke the fire. Cheap entertainment.

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  2. Most folks who tour the ranch come equipped with a slate of "everybody knows" opinions. In the vast majority of cases they experience some level of "Ah did not know that" shift in their thinking/beliefs after seeing, discussing and pondering reality and her facts and evidence. It's really a lot of fun to be present and participating when this happens. I take it as a good sign that nearly everyone I meet has the capacity to be honest and objective and to figure out the difference between what they know and what they think they know. Just wish more folks would take that road more often.

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    Replies
    1. It's easy to adjust what one "knows" when it is fact-based. Opinion-based stuff, more subjective, can be a pain in the butt. Politics is the ultimate bugaboo, some people still hold to the idea that Communism can work if the "right" people are in charge. There is objective evidence to suggest that people with that opinion just might be full of excrement. Maybe.

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  3. Just a note here totally unrelated with today's post. Ever since I started reading Chant Du Depart, I've thoroughly
    enjoyed it. You always had a way with words back-in-the-day and your talents as a Word Monger have even improved
    over the years.And Juvat and Tuna are just as good. My one complaint here is all the links you have to other blogs.
    They're so good I have try to read them all and then I end up wondering where all my time went. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Russ, I really appreciate the kind words.

      I too find myself spending a lot of time checking all those other blogs.

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  4. Most fan[atic]s pretty much know what they like and base their opinions and judgments based upon those likes.
    Heaven forbid that anyone should try to confuse them with proven facts.

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  5. Good points. Something I learned from a coworker (who I intensely disliked) was this, "Reasonable people, given enough factual information, can change their minds". The key word is "reasonable". People with strong "feelings" seldom change their minds, facts be damned. Hence, fanatic.

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    Replies
    1. Yup, "reasonable" doesn't seem to exist in some folks' vocabularies.

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  6. Very well written. I refrain from engaging fanatics, with a vastly differing opinion from mine, on Facebook. You cannot convert a fanatic. The best you can hope for is a "we'll have to agree to disagree". The worst is that you'll spur him on to greater fanaticism.

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    Replies
    1. Too true. Sometimes all you can do is walk away, slowly, maintaining eye contact until at a safe distance, then run like Hell.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)