Thinking v. Opining

Marshaling arguments to defend our opinion is not thought—I was watching one of those public affairs shows where guests share what they are supposed to think about what happened that week. A young woman (whose name I don’t remember and I’m glad since pointing fingers wouldn’t be helpful)trying to convey the mood of the electorate said voters will not want to give all the power to one party and so are likely to split their vote between president and congress, underlining her point by adding that was after all what the constitution was about, the balance of power.She was articulate and passionate about what she said unmindful apparently of some underlying lapse. As I recall the concept of the balance of power, definitely a contribution of the U.S. to the rest of the world, is meant to focus on the three branches of government, where one branch is not to exercise all the power, as it was during so many monarchies and is today under any dictatorship. Balancing power among branches of government which are each institutions in their own right not subject to elections, and the idea of balancing power between political parties which are very much based on elections are, it seems clear to me, two separate processes. The later, of course with only indirect and oblique ties to the constitution.
What this young woman did is so typical, as well a good example of what people do when they somehow substitute using facts or concepts to support their point of view instead of actually thinking through a position or idea and then using facts and concepts to explain it. This may sound a chicken and the egg question, if not nitpicking, but at heart reveals a problem so many so called pundits and talking heads often have. Maybe because they are under pressure of the 24 hours cycle, maybe because they just haven’t had to time to concentrate on a given subject, maybe because of something else, they create an illusion of thought instead of actually thinking, tending to mistake opining for thought.
On the one hand it doesn’t matter because we don’t have to agree with them, and certainly don’t have to even listen to them. On the other, however, it is part of a big problem. It is so prevalent.It contributes to our not understanding what thought is or does. It clouds our grasp of the issues. More fundamentally, if we don’t use thought to understand and explain problems, how will we ever find right answers?

Globalization–Lit Up

It’s one thing to talk about globalization, it’s another to actually see an example of it–To anyone who has an iPhone the image is undoubtedly already known, a picture of everywhere in the world where there is one. Orange lights shine showing where they are. Where there is a concentration of phones, the orange gets denser. Asia, Europe have much bigger usage than expected. What completes the picture and in many ways gives it meaning is a lone orange dot in the middle of Antartica. There in what seems no where, the end of the world as we know it, there is an iPhone connecting whoever is there to the world. That lone dot in itself carries its own message–There is no where one can go any longer and be cut off from what we call the civilized world. The mere fact that the iPhone is there tells us that no one wants to be really cut off. Even if that person turns off the phone, it is quite temporary, for its very presence will connect him or her when there is a need or a desire. And so that lone tiny dot in the middle of that far away deserted place does remind us that we are all connected, and that very connection speaks for at least a degree of interdependence.

Lying With a Straight Conscience?

What might be the impact of politicians knowingly distorting facts? Most of us already know that in political debates,in political ads as well as in political stomp speeches facts are bandied, cited, used and quoted but not necessarily accurately.We can go to factcheck.org or wait for an internet or newspaper story to let us know what the true version is. But what we can’t do is see the impact it is having on the candidates. They are intelligent, informed and committed people, for no one endures the rigors of modern campaigning without being committed.They know their record, they know too the record of their opponent. Given that they want to win, I can understand how they would misuse facts with a straight face. What I don’t understand is how they live with it afterward.Either the campaign process has turned them into cynics, and I doubt that very much, or into robots where they do what their handlers and advisers tell them to–and given the pressures they are under, there has to be some of that. Underneath though,what reasons do they give themselves,and what does it do to them as individuals to essentially lie with a certain impunity. The winner will be rewarded, the loser will either campaign again or go on as if nothing happened.I couldn’t do this day in and day out and feel good, comfortable, clear, honest and true to my beliefs.They may be politicians–and sometimes I think that takes almost a different breed of individuals–but they are still human and still prey to pangs of conscience.And if that’s so, then how is all this lying going to affect their carrying out the duties of the office to which they will be elected?

A Hidden Network of Peace?

Nobel Peace Prize laureates are often unknown revealing a hidden network working for the good–In a matter of days the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced. Although 164 individuals and 33 organizations have been nominated, including Vladimir Putin and Bob Geldorf, the runners up are:
Hu Jia with his wide Zeng Jinya the most well known Chinese dissidents
Thick Quanq Do, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk
Lydia Yusupova, a Chechen human rights lawyer
Morgan Tsvangarai, the opposition leader in Zimbabwe
Ingrid Betancourt, the Colombian former hostage
Since no one from china or related to China has won the prize since the Dalai Lama in 1989, Hu Jia is heavily favored according to Stein Toennesson, director of the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo and a close observer of the peace prize.
China has already made its view on such an award public, warning the Nobel committee not to give the award to the jailed dissident. A spokesman for the Foreign ministry said the award should go the right person. Their concern is understandable given that the prize not only comes with a large purse, but can also lift an individual out of obscurity and bring the light of the world press upon their cause, much as it did for Aung San Suu Kyi since 1991. It is doubtful of course that were the Nobel committee to chose Hu Jia that the warning of the Chinese government would stop them. What is remarkable about this list, however, is not the warning issued by China, but the fact that most of these runners up are people only known in very small circles.It does not diminish their accomplishment nor their worthiness to receive the prize, but it does point that beneath the radar of public scrutiny and knowledge there is a network of people sacrificing themselves–for their work usually entails some level of sacrifice–for causes that make us proud to belong to the human race.