Today I'm ranting - sorry. I don't mean to offend, but something like this may very well offend and I apologize...
So here’s some things to consider before deciding to read…
I think racism is bad and shouldn’t be tolerated
I think police generally do the best they can and try to protect our communities - I don’t believe there is systematic racism, but think that instances of racism should be called out, investigated and prosecuted
I think we should be respectful in public and wear a mask where required by private businesses and organizations. I wear one voluntarily and would respect any private business’s policies to that point and I would likely avoid ones that were too cavalier - because we want to protect loved ones.
I don’t believe that the government should be in the business of mandating masks in public with fear of prosecution
I don’t think you can police the hearts and minds of men, but I believe you can change the hearts and minds of men
I don’t believe any of us are completely innocent and we all have our flaws (I have many and my faith in God helps me work on mine)
I am tired of hyperbole and flawed logical arguments meant to spark a lucid emotional reaction and not to invite dialog - example, if you believe this then you are evil (insert any politically charged topic here)
Objective Versus Subjective Truth
Today is a bit more of a rant. Something to help get my own thoughts centered in this time and I apologize if anyone reads this and sees that it is more “stream of consciousness” and a little all over the place, but I’m writing is as much to get it out on “paper” but also to provide some of my own therapy. We’re watching chaos unfold in our great country and we’re just getting “news” that claims to report the facts but those facts are littered with interpretations and opinion.
It has weighed on me and most people for many months or years or more. We’re hearing two stories at the same time on nearly “every” talking point in politics and the media. And we’re living in an adversarial culture where we no longer respect the adversary but retreat into assumed self righteousness. In all this, I keep coming back to the idea of objective truth and subjective truth and the danger involved in the latter.
First, I think it is important to define the two terms.
Objective Truth (wikipedia): Objectivity is a philosophical concept of being true independently from individual subjectivity caused by perception, emotions, or imagination. A proposition is considered to have objective truth when its truth conditions are met without bias caused by a sentient subject. Scientific objectivity refers to the ability to judge without partiality or external influence, sometimes confused with neutrality.
Subjective Truth (wikipedia): Subjectivity is a central philosophical concept, related to consciousness, agency, personhood, reality, and truth, which has been variously defined by sources. Three common definitions include that subjectivity is the quality or condition of:
Some information, idea, situation, or physical thing considered true only from the perspective of a subject or subjects.
These various definitions of subjectivity are sometimes joined together in philosophy. The term is most commonly used as an explanation for that which influences, informs, and biases people's judgments about truth or reality; it is the collection of the perceptions, experiences, expectations, and personal or cultural understanding of, and beliefs about, an external phenomenon, that are specific to a subject.
I have to be very careful in my own head as I frequently want to be “right” or have answers because I’m an opinionated Son Of a Gun from time to time (or most of the time). But I do try to approach things from multiple viewpoints and angles before coming to a conclusion - I have countless arguments in my own head when trying to form a viewpoint on a particular topic. And I always try to question my own orthodoxies - do I believe it simply because I have always believed it, is there good reason to continue believing it, OR are there points from another side that I need to consider that could change my mind. But here’s the kicker, with all that, a contrary point of view should be something we agree to disagree on unless there is some contrary moral law that should take precedence.
But today, we’re confusing objective truth and subjective truth everywhere we go. We hear things like “this is my truth” and we’re supposed to “accept” that truth at face value simply because it has a strong emotional appeal. Empathy has been confused with “truth” - if you don’t empathize, then you don’t believe, and if you don’t believe then you are callous and disconnected from the truth. I know this oversimplifies things, and the logical argument could be better laid out, but you get the drift.
Everyone wants to talk about how “data reliant” we are and how reliable data is, but we still have humans interpreting the data. The problem is that we look at these interpretations as being “objective”when they are really VERY subjective. Take a look at the news on any given day, but especially today, and you’ll see examples of this. One news organization will produce an article or news story talking about an incident in one way while another will talk about the very same incident in another - how are we as consumers of the information supposed to interpret this difference? The incident happened - Objective Truth, but what the motivation was, what led to it, what the consequences are are “subjective”. BUT we’re being told that we are getting an “objective” story.
Data, like religion can be manipulated to tell a story that frames a point of view that “we” accept. The problem is that our interpretation of the data or religious premise doesn’t mean it is “true”. Many bad things have been done in the name of religion in the past, and we will likely see the same thing as a result of our reliance on “data” as a form of objective truth…The facts are valid when looking at data, but interpretations are hard to make objectively when you are looking to prove a point or are so heavily invested in a point of view.
So this leads me to today. Believe the doctors and scientists - which ones? The ones who state information that supports what you already feel? Ones who state things that fly contrary to the information you support? Or could it be that we are unified in ALL things Covid? No, we’re not…we should own up to that and stop playing blame games and review the data and adjust as we move forward with new findings and new “concrete” facts based on continual measurement and interpretation and we should be welcoming when new facts come in that might be contrary to our established beliefs. Many scientists and doctors do caveat their theories with things like “based on what we know now…” it is accurate, but news reports take it and run and then we have battles of hyperbole when there are two conflicting viewpoints, or the language used becomes hyperbole - If you don’t do this, you will be killing someone…or if you do this, you are bowing to oppression - COME ON!
The fact is that the vast majority of people are doing their best to get through this and be as respectful as possible, but there are many social and health concerns that are not being accounted for in reporting because frankly it is TOO big for the story to be summarized in just a couple of talking points - economic status, locations, population density, health status and many, many more. So why are news outlets taking data and making it political and why are WE doing it on social media as if we’re in the know and we have to make sure EVERYONE hears the story that we agree with…
On the George Floyd tragedy - the officer was caught on video and his actions, use of force was inexcusable. Nearly ALL people who saw the video came to the same conclusion, Law Enforcement professionals, Republicans and Democrats alike. A crime was committed (objective truth), and an investigation is warranted, a trial should follow, and a conviction “should” likely follow that. This should not be “light” charges either, but information is needed before all judgment should be passed. It doesn’t excuse it at ALL to state this (at least in my opinion), because we should always seek more information before making conclusions. But at first viewing, nearly all “know” something really bad and illegal happened.
Subjective truth in the short term analysis was that there was racial motivation or that the American system of justice has inherent racial bias. Why is this subjective? We don’t know the motivation of that officer to kill George Floyd - was it influenced by race? We don’t know - but the jump was that this is a systematic issue. Someone posted some data that was published from Statista about Police shootings over the last few years (https://www.statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/). Looking at the data both narratives can be supported - but the data “is what the data is”. so if the data is inconclusive, then shouldn’t the interpretation change to represent both sides more accurately? If you don’t see the other sides’ point of view, are you blinded by a desire to feel “vindicated”? When I see data I do my best to look at the data as an objective truth when the source is valid - “this is what happened,” “then we look for other data to support theories,” but we need to be VERY careful not to be wedded to a particular theory and always challenge our own assumptions. Shouldn’t a data friendly world and data friendly press do the same? If you can find a hole in your interpretation, you shouldn’t make the conclusion.
But it seems that news stories refrain from showing both sides of the information or investigating something until it is absolutely “undoubted”. Analysis is restricted to news stories that sell a point of view, advertising and identity with individuals who watch or subscribe to the same belief (my tribe). Knowing both sides doesn’t exclude racial inequality from the equation, but it also makes sure that proof is concrete before rushing to judgment. No, I’m not black, hispanic, a minority or a woman or any other minority group, but I still have a right to think, form conclusions and state my subjective opinion. So no, I don’t have all the personal emotional exposure to all those who have suffered something that I haven’t, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t empathize, hear information and work towards change. BUT if I don’t agree with a narrative, that also is my right, especially if the data is not 100% conclusive.
Most agree that peaceful protest and civil disobedience is a right treasured by Americans. We should always have the right to challenge and investigate our government or policy makers. We should be able to challenge authority and to hold it accountable for wrongdoing. If someone could prove racial discrimination at a systematic level, then we should look to irradiate that and the people who put it in place. But we don’t have the right to steal, vandalize personal property nor put additional lives at risk as a form of protest. This behavior is not protest and it ROBS those who are legitimately making a statement or supporting a movement from their validity in the public eye. Two wrongs don’t make a right and you’re not entitled to something simply because you subjectively feel you are entitled to it. And our media, policy makers and others should have the courage to separate peaceful protest from rioting and looting rather than lumping the behaviors under a generic term of “protesters,” especially when labeling other peaceful protesters who don’t support their view as threatening and violent when no violence occurred.
In the end, we need changes. I don’t know the answers, the how’s. But we need changes. We need dialog, and we need an accountability from media news outlets to explain when they have a point of view in light of contradicting data. There is a responsibility to report the facts, draw valid and provable conclusions that can’t be refuted. The media has an important role in our society to help uncover the objective truth - sift through lies and get the information that proves a point of view rather than one that sells it’s subjective truth to people who look like them. I wish I had answers, but what I know is that in the end there is an objective truth - there is something that is absolutely true, but when humans bring in their personal experiences, beliefs and interpretations we often make grave errors in interpreting the truth. I am not excluded from this. I have changed my opinions on many things in my life and I reserve the right to make changes in the future - but I hope that as I learn more about myself and become more diligent in my search for truth that I will make less mistakes.
Be on the lookout for truth that is subjective or objective. Try not to ignore a different point of view and expose yourself to multiple sources, but just be aware when something you are concluding could be based on what you "want" to be true versus what "is" objectively true.
Sorry for the rant - There may be something here to flesh out more later on - sorry if there was a possible offense generated in this, but it’s what I feel…I am just tired of everything being “this” or “evil”…If we don’t start to come together in communion around certain objective truths, we’ll be at risk of losing what so many great Americans built before us.