• Kim F Vaughan

Don't be too sure!

I am noticing a surfeit of certainty these days. Everything seems clear cut and binary. There seems no room for nuanced argument, for pondering all aspects of a topic before proclaiming a point of view. And, once proclaimed, and quickly please ..... don't delay! ..... that point of view is then set in stone and becomes part of your 'brand'.

When I was growing up, there was no shame in saying 'I don't know', or 'I haven't decided yet'. Asking questions in the spirit of gaining knowledge and understanding enables us to establish the facts and distinguish between truth and interpretation. 'What else don't we know?' is a powerful question.

Nowadays, it seems that there is no topic too small to polarise our views. Social media channels are full of people whipping up a storm over the rightness of their views. Not only are they right, but everyone else in wrong! Completely wrong!

How much does a point of view matter in the great scheme of things? If we don't mind sitting on the fence on a low stakes topic, we may never reach a conclusion and it won't matter a jot. What purpose does it serve to have a point of view anyway?

Sometimes, it is critical. If you are a juror, you are expected to listen to all the facts of the case then decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. Famously, we start out with the assumption that the defendant is 'innocent until proven guilty'. The skill of the lawyers is in ensuring that all the nuances of the facts of the case are laid out clearly. The judge will decide on the action to be taken. The juror is asked to leave preconceptions, prejudice and biases at home and make a binary decision based only on what they hear in the court.

Other situations are not so important. The speculation around Harry and Meghan and their relationship with the British Royal Family reflect the common story of a family adjusting to new circumstances, albeit a very privileged family. It's a private matter, surely, important to them but not so interesting to the world at large. Yet feelings run really high, though we have little idea of all the facts of the case. We are with Harry and Meghan, or we are with the Royals. Compassion, you say? What's that?

Mind you, what would we fill our social media channels with if we remain uncertain about so much? Are you prepared to fall out with your family and friends if they don't come to the same conclusion as you did? How willing are you to take on board new information and reconsider your view from time to time? Circumstances can change and we need to remain flexible, especially when the outcomes can impact heavily or affect the lives of many.

Think about the furore around the main players in the recent election in the USA. Or the arguments about Brexit. These are serious, complex and diverse topics, with many threads, but it is important that we decide one way or the other eventually, in order to cast our vote.

Sometimes the nuances leave us deep in the grey area, just one step to the black or white end of the scale. Certainly, many have jumped a few steps towards the other end since making their decision. Yet we have been branded as 'Socialist' or 'White Supremacist', 'Brexiteer' or 'Remoaner', nevertheless.

Now that I am older, I am suspicious of anyone who comes up with a sure point of view straight away, and actively resist anyone who imposes that view on me without a good justification. Good riddance to anyone who ghosts me if I come to a contradictory conclusion to them, and take that difference as a personal insult.

But here is a big, warm virtual hug of welcome to those of you who aren't sure and want to formulate a position by understanding the niceties of the argument, by asking curious questions, pondering the potential of the facts and appreciating the subtleties of the grey area in between. Especially if it's OK for me to change my mind later.

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