Simplistically Speaking

If only the woes of the world could be solved with a meme! It would be grand if one could post a meme, a symbol or a photo-shopped miracle cloud formation that would magically inspire people to see the error of their ways.  Unfortunately, as OnOldCop has noted before, most memes are simply ways to get likes and shares.  For example, consider the memes floating around showing two characters facing each other across a symbol drawn on the ground. One character claims the symbol is a “6.” The other claims it is a “9.”

Those sharing the meme are undoubtedly well meaning. It is clearly being offered as an attempt to encourage open mindedness and understanding. After all, people see or understand situations differently, depending on their experiences. One person sees a 6. The other sees a 9. How simple. No! How simplistic!

It is true that experience, language, beliefs and other factors may lead people to see things differently. That does not mean two people can both look at the same fact or data and see the truth in it differently. Can one really choose to see a 6 while another chooses to see a 9, simply because of where they stand or how they found themselves in that position? Where one of us stands does not change the fact six is not nine, and that fact might be important.

Okay! It is only a three point difference, and in the real world it is unlikely we would be arguing over the value of the figure. After all, the placement of the figure, the context in which it was used, and other factors would help us know the value was 6 or 9, or would it?

As long as we are speaking hypothetically, using simplistic analogies, consider this one. You and a coworker are called into your boss’s office. The boss says you are both perfectly qualified for a new position, and the selection committee could not decide which of you to promote. Accordingly, the boss, who loves puzzles and contests, tells you he has devised a test of your perception, intuition and problem solving ability to fill the new position.

The boss says the door code for the new office one of you will occupy is printed on a piece of paper. He explains that each of you will have one try to open the door, and you must decide which of you gets the first try. He then slides a sheet of paper across the desk. From your side of the desk the numbers are 60606. From your coworker’s side of the table they read 90909.

Silly? Of course it is a bit silly. It is also silly to think that a meme showing two cartoon people standing at the top and bottom of a symbol on the ground has any meaning beyond the number of likes and shares it receives.

A more serious example of perceptions differing from reality is a situation occurring in a small Texas community in 2015. A black female living in the community was out for her morning constitutional. The local police stopped her as she was walking down the street.

In a day or two, her story was all over social media and the news. She issued a public statement claiming she had been stopped for “walking while black.”  She believed the police profiled her because the community is predominately white. Also, she made other claims that put the officers and their department in a bad light. After all the dust settled, her position changed a bit.

The incident was captured on dash cam video which clearly showed the officers acted legally.  After the release of the video, the individual issued a statement indicating some of her facts and assumptions leading to her public complaint may have been wrong, but her fear had been real.  The individual was asked if the video changed her feelings about the police contact.  She responded with comments about seeing something from different perspectives, concluding with the charge the video showed just one perspective.

What you might wonder is the purpose of this piece? Is it a dogmatic defense of absolutes? Is it a last stand for this writer’s perception that shades of gray don’t exist in the world? No, the piece is simply a statement of fact. Each person bases what they understand of the world on their life experiences, their cognitive abilities and other influences. That does not change the fact there are truths in the world.

The cartoon showing two characters arguing about the number due to their position is cute nonsense. The number is either a six or a nine. One’s perspective does not change the value. The situation with the lady and the cops is more complex, but the truth is the officers did nothing wrong. Her perspective led her to see their actions as inappropriate, but that only proves eye witness testimony is questionable, especially if the witness is involved in the incident.

Does that mean this writer or anyone else should not consider another’s perspective or point of view? Of course that is not the case. It is also not the case that this writer, or anyone else, has to agree to another’s point of view. It is possible to agree to disagree, and it is possible for people who think differently to live together in peace. Unfortunately, the society in which we live today seems to think we should be willing to call a six a nine simply because others see it that way.

© OneOldCop – 2017


About S. Eric Jackson

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