Contentious is the brand

Another week, and another political topic I’ve tasked myself with coming up with. Several ideas sped past my desk over the past few days (incarceration levels, oil pipeline, greenhouse emissions), but I want to do more extensive research on each of these.

It’s difficult to produce content that remains somewhat level-headed, when the right rails against the left, the left against the right; vegetarians against meat-eaters, vegans against both; organic vs. Monsanto; etc., etc., ad nauseum.

When did having an opinion make a person …?

In this book I’ve picked up to start reading, Tibet, the format is contrasting essays by people advocating both sides of the contentious issue as to whether Tibet should have autonomy, or should the People’s Republic of China maintain control.

This book, one in a series titled “Opposing Viewpoints”, has this to say about considering opposing viewpoints:

“In our media-intensive culture it is not difficult to find differing opinions. Thousands of newspapers and magazines and dozens of radio and television talk shows resound with differing points of view. The difficulty lies in deciding which opinion to agree with and which ‘experts’ seem the most credible. The more inundated we become with differing opinions and claims, the more essential it is to hone critical reading and thinking skills to evaluate these ideas.”

So where is the civil in civic discourse? This is a question I’ve been pondering for some time. The greatest minds in American history at least opened up to listen to the opposing side. They may have remained unpersuaded following their interactions, but at least they listened.

“The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this.”

-John Stuart Mill, On Liberty


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