Clashing world views

By Michael Leung

After nearly five years of working as a quasi-journalist, it’s still a marvel to contemplate the bitter arguments that have coloured my existence at the Gauntlet.

There are few other places where people engage so passionately as to be moved to write about it. It’s simultaneously enlightening and saddening to see generations of editors, letter writers and columnists use opinion in ways that always means more than the
opinion itself.

There are two types of people.

The first is one who uses opinion to stake out where they stand, to build fences and protect their islands with barriers and exclusions. Others are free to disagree, yes, but that is up to the others.

The second uses opinion as a consensus exercise-an exercise in discovering common ground, finding out who shares similar opinions and learning about other perspectives. Others are free to disagree, inevitably forcing the question why, but all is done in the hopes of
coming to a better understanding and achieving something greater than before.

After watching both types of people hack at each other in print and in heated arguments-myself included-I’ve decided I’m of the latter persuasion. I don’t mean to say that one is any better than the other, rather they’re different and serve different personalities.

You see, opinion is a very messy process that mirrors life in many ways. Each of type of person described earlier shows up in the Gauntlet offices, whether they’re my best friends, pissed off readers or wackos bent on conspiracy theories. Each of them fit rather neatly into either of the two categories once the signs become more apparent. Their personalities mirror their opinions and, by extension, mirror their lives.

In the former person’s perspective, the argument is that one can only understand and satisfy oneself. To attempt to satisfy, understand or comprehend another to the same degree as oneself is, in essence, a futile exercise.

Moreover, attempting to find any common ground in opinion is to spin one’s wheels in much the same way. Among the signs of this individual are a deeply set confidence and cockiness inherent in their stride and mannerism. Again, not a bad thing because it serves certain purposes and certain personalities.

From the latter person’s perspective, the argument goes that people have a compelling ability and a need to try and understand one another and should therefore exercise that ability. Attempting to satisfy, contemplate or completely understand another person is more satisfying than being correct ever could be-even if it is at a cost to oneself.

Signs of this individual include a desire to appease everybody else because, at least as this person understands it, the group always comes ahead of the individual. They also harbour an intense desire to discover the right thing to do, and do their best to avoid asking what’s right for oneself.

For these latter individuals, satisfaction doesn’t necessarily come from knowing where one is. It comes from knowing that between the different islands, there is a common ground that unites us and helps us understand one another. And they use opinion to endeavour and to find this.

For the former individuals, it seems that opinion is the tool and the weapon used to divide. For the latter individuals, this isn’t necessarily so.

Yes, people are free to believe what they wish, but for myself and those like me, there is something much more satisfying in the middle ground that falls between black and white-it is the satisfaction of understanding something between the extremes.


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