Inspection- Is It “All a Matter of Perspective?”

Here in Beaver River Station there has been a revolution. At the Property Owners Association one group has been voted out, one in. I’m the kind of guy who talks with both, friendly with both, and can understand their individual perspectives from their viewpoint, well “understand” as best I can.

I suppose this is because, in part, I’ve never been much of a follower and am a bit contrary. Whether it it be politics, religion, or what to do with the railroad tracks in town, the more resolute and uncompromising the opinion, the more likely I’m going to start leaning the other way. It’s a family trait. The Carman family came here from not so merry old England/Wales in part because some of us were burned at the stake.

And they didn’t even have A1 sauce yet.

How uncivilized.

Like most of us I’ve used the phrase from time to time, “It’s all a matter of perspective.” But when that rule is applied to the extent that civilized family relations, work relations and common sense jump out the window…. like some of those unfortunate folks on 9/11… I begin to wonder, “Is it always just ‘a matter of perspective?'”

Our society has reached a crossroads. We can get along and coexist as best we can, or we can kill each other. In a sense we are heading towards societal suicide if we choose the latter.

I spent the last few weeks talking with those on the “winning” side, and the “losing” side, though those who have gained power may soon question the application of those labels, if they don’t already. “Winning” isn’t always all we suspect it will be; especially when it comes to winning the right to handle pressing issues. Losing can be a relief, if we look at it right.

That’s true in Beaver River Station, nationally and pretty much everywhere when power is lost, or gained.

But what amazed and bothered me at the same time was how both sides told me the tale of what happened. I find it bothersome that they could have such different perspectives on what actually happened that day. It’s like they attended entirely different events where they, the heroes or the victims, wound up saving the day; “It had to be done; handled just right…” or, as another partisan claimed, “It was mob rule: a lynching.”

Sometimes you wonder if people were in the same room… or observed the same event.

Once again, this is not a Beaver River Station problem. It an “everywhere” problem, especially these days. When passion passes by common sense and common decency, when opinion makes one right no matter what, when the end justifies the means, it is no longer just “a matter of perspective.” Perspective itself is the problem.

I’m not a great believer in “truisms.” “Government is always corrupt/inefficient” is as bad as “government is the answer.” “There is no God” is just as obnoxious and absolute as “There has to be God.” As a species we have argued every issue and concept we debate today in one form or another. We’ve had very intelligent; and often quite brilliant, folks on every side of damn near every issue, yet we persist in pursuing the insane illusion that we absolutely know the answers. Believing is a beautiful thing, as long as you understand you could always be wrong; just like wanting a railroad to flourish, or be taken out of, Beaver River Station is your right. But shouldn’t civilized behavior come first?

And if you believe one person, or a few, specifically might be the problem, don’t be surprised when those problems follow you like a rabid skunk when you vote them out of office, or they leave.

This I believe: most people, not all, think what they are doing is the best for their community. They may be horribly wrong; but this alone means some respect and some understanding is due. Not all Republicans, or Democrats, are evil, or atheists, or theists, or…

Despite the bad press, doubt, without being excessive, is a good thing. And to quote a very smart man I had a lot of respect for, and worked for as a young kid: Barry Goldwater, “excess in the pursuit of liberty” can actually be the worst of vices. Damn near every revolutionary believed their excesses were necessary. Excess, no matter how well intended, often leads to tyranny, oppression and even genocide, as Mao and Ho proved, amongst many, many others.

The problem is these days partisanship is so one sided, so “me” focused, everyone other than the believer is thought to be irrational and excessive. Clinically that’s insane.

We all have a right to our individual opinions. We even have right to hate each other for them. And, to a lesser extent, we have the right to berate each other for those opinions… though I do believe our slander and libel laws need to be taken off the shelf and applied far more liberally. “Free speech” should not mean “free to destroy others with lies and assumptions,” especially when it’s for personal, or political, gain. Hence Andrew Breitbart.

So is it all “a matter of perspective?”

No, our relations with each other are more important. Otherwise we might as well go back to the caves… assuming of course they were as inhuman, as uncivilized, as those these days who act as if they lived in caves. They certainly carry over sized clubs and apply them far too liberally, far to often.

I’m not sure even those who lived in caves were this bad, this intent on not working with others; this intent on destroying others by any means because they may not agree: or we would not be here today.

And if we continue down this path… we may not be here tomorrow.

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Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

Copyright 2010
Ken Carman
all rights reserved