Thursday, 3 May 2012

Polarisation ...

Sometimes I think this is a feature of our society, that two completely opposing views can take root so firmly in some folk's minds. Sadly, I think it is something that has always been a feature of human society, though one would think, with all the 'information technology' available to us that it would be less of a problem now than say, a hundred years ago. Evidently not if one studies the polarisation of politics, of issues such as climate change, economics, 'green' technology and so many more 'issues' that affect us. Recently I read an item in the Guardian online, in which scientists were appealing to activists not to destroy a trial field of wheat that has been modified to release the scent aphids give off when attacked. The idea being to produce a wheat strain that is edible and not subject to attack by aphids. One would think this is innocuous enough, but apparently not.

The "Frankenstein Food" mob have roused their rabble (Guess I'm showing my polarity here!) and declared that on a certain day they intend to "destroy this evil crop" before it can "contaminate other plants." The scientists have offered to talk to the anti-modification people, but the response is interesting. The spokesperson for the Anti-GM Food group says, they'll talk, but, I quote, "It's pretty pointless they won't listen to us, because they've already planted the crop and endangered the environment." She went on to say that even if they talk, and the scientists make their case, the group will destroy the crop anyway.

This seems to be a major problem in just about everything. Everywhere there appear to be groups springing into the limelight with a "message" formed around some "issue" and they will not listen to any other point of view or any argument that counters their "orthodoxy." Sadly it is everywhere, I've identified the "Frankenstein Food" people here, but a glance at the US Presidential campaign suggests that the US is in serious danger of a major split, and not just politically. The Anglican Church is tearing itself to pieces over the issues of "Gay and Women Clergy" and, in the face of all the evidence, there are those within who refuse to listen to any evidence contrary to their view. Even the Roman Church, despite its autocratic structure has its polarised positions and its cracks, despite the Vatican's attempts to plaster over them. Green issues is another area were the name calling has hardened attitudes on both sides, the "activists" want outright bans on cars, fossil fuels, nuclear and a whole range of things our modern world depends on, the counter arguments are edited out of news media, banned from public debate and anyone who dares challenge the orthodoxy of anything "green" is hounded by activists whose real knowledge of any given aspect of the matters they claim to be defending or demanding is actually pretty basic and far from fully informed.

The saying, "Don't confuse me with facts; my mind is made up" applies to both sides in these arguments, particularly at the extremes. Nowhere is this more evident than in political circles. Never mind the facts or the evidence, our policy is ... has become the norm. Someone once called this "megaphone" politics, and its an apt description.

All of this makes me ask the simple question; do any of us listen to anyone else properly? Do we actually weigh up real evidence and real facts, or are we so lazy and so idle we swallow any urban legend or rumour that happens to reinforce what we want to believe. Is this the "tl;dr"* culture of the Tweet biting down? If so, I think we might as well resign ourselves to a major collapse of our society.

We really do need to stop shouting and arguing and start listening and making informed and educated decisions. With all the information available about just about everything there really is no excuse for anything else.

*tl;dr = Too long; didn't read. (Txt spk ...)

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