Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Worlds Apart

I recently read the article Heavy Boots and was struck by the difference of world view that some people can have.

The article is about "If you were standing on the moon and drop a rock, will it float away, or fall down". The answer is obvious to me. But then I got thinking...

I grew up with a father that designed the lunar orbiters in the 1960's, build telescopes for fun, we launched rockets, read SciFi, I have a degree in engineering. I can remember standing on a street on a hill in Spain in 1980, with a perfect starry sky, and several planets and moon in the sky, and the sun had just set. I could perfectly visualize the actual and relative motions of all the bodies in my mind.

So many people live in a different world than I do. They have no real concept of science or how the world around them works. It reminds me of the dark ages when the world was haunted by spirits and people were killed for witchcraft. (See Monty Python and the Holy Grail, "She's a witch!") Such persecutions were not done so much out of cruelty , but on response to a world view of "how things work".

There seems to be a common thread through conflict and conflicting world views.

1.) If you have conflicting world views, and you try to change the world view of someone else, they can get very angry. This seems to be because people see attacks on their world view as a personal attack on them self. Everyone's world view has a huge chunk in it called "I" and who "I" is. A change of world view is nearly impossible for anyone over 20, and difficult for anyone over 2.

2.) When people see you as threatening their well-being according to their world view, they will violently defend them selves.

  • Religious conversions are almost never a change in world view, they are a coming home to what is viewed as the world view they always had but never quite had right.
  • Wars are always justified as "If we don't act they will kill us." This may seem obvious, but in any war both sides always are justified this way. E.g. The Iraq war. If the USA didn't do something, those #$%@# terrorists will come over here and kill us." and the terrorists justify their actions as, "Those foreigners are trying to foster democracy which will reduce our power and will result in our death". (Note: I won't dignify their actions as actually religiously motivated. The leaders are thugs that justify their actions by assuming all the rest of the world is thugs, and there are a few rank-and-file terrorists that are actually motivated by religious ideals. See Bully below.)
  • Teenagers are solidifying their world view, but run hard up against reality, and so it is a difficult time of life.
  • Religion and Science: Many religions see science as an attack on their safety and salvation and that of their children. Scientists see religion as undermining the science that has brought us such a high standard of living, and endangering lives.
  • Swine Flu: The recent Swine Flue Hysteria, in several countries they want to or have killed all the pigs. This exactly fits a world view that includes pigs being fundamentally unclean, the flu has to do with cleanliness, governments can not be trusted, and a past history that includes plagues, and western science that is simply one more way for the heathen invaders to lie.
  • In politics, government decisions can be a basic way of ensuring standard of living and opportunities for people. There seem to be two basic world views on the USA, one is 'government is the problem' typified by the Republican view, and 'government is the solution' typified by the Democratic view. Thus politics is a very serious game indeed. We could argue quite a bit about whether Republican and/or Democratic actions seem to match such stated world views.
  • A bully or crook. there is a world view that the world is difficult, everyone is a bully (some more successful than others) and the only way to survive as a person is to be the most skilled bully. "Survival of the Strongest". The opposing view is along the lines of Brotherhood, or "I am a child of God, and so is everyone else", etc.
  • Pacifists: there is a world view that violence is unjustified no matter what. This vew tends to follow along the lines that the world has a 'rightness' to it and if we would just calm down, the bullies will change their world view.
  • Elitists: The world view that I am smarter than most every one else and I know what is best for you, so toddle along there and let me run things. This is one of the most dangerous world views there is. It is the exact opposite of brotherhood. (Ok, I'll bite, this is Obama all the way.)
Such a list could go on and on.

Now look at the specific conflicts of out time in light of this. Think "what are the conflicting world views". Who holds which views? (Not necessarily the neat packaged world views the opposition supposedly has.)
  • Us vs. Terrorism
  • Science and Religion
  • Bailouts vs. Let-em-die
  • Right to Choose vs. Right to Life
  • Global Warming vs. Many alternate priorities and conclusions.
  • Socialized "fill in the blank" vs. Free Market.
  • What Paris Hilton wears vs. Who is Paris Hilton?
  • Save the Planet vs. Save the Humans.
  • USA vs. China
  • Illegal Immigrants vs. Jobs
  • Inner Peace vs. Outer Appearance
  • Paper vs. Plastic vs. Bring Your Own Bag (Yes I'm serious about this one. It is a shallow placeholder for much deeper beliefs.)
  • Gun Control vs. Right to Bear Arms.

So what is the whole point here. Ill preach a bit now using absolutes...

If people would just realize that rule number one is "If it involves violence, be very cautious".
If justifying your acts of violence includes any level of indirect reasoning, it is almost certainly wrong.
Violence is always a result of conflicting basic world view issues. In all cases violence will never change someone's view.
Seek to understand first.

What would ever justify violence?
A direct and obvious attack on person, your family, or your ability to be left alone to 'do your own thing'.

All other cases should be handled with talking, and talking, and talking.

And then there is something deeper. Our values, world view, and beliefs are really conclusions that we have drawn from our individual experience. Everyone is in this same trap of a single thread of experience. 'They' can't hold any other world view because it is a result of their experience. Once you truly understand this, you can be very tolerant of others. Maybe this is the ultimate 'Brotherhood'.

There but for the grace of God, go I.

Your Fellow Human Being