A lot of argument during debate is the result of those engaged being unable to alter their position in the face of new information. Much of the time on these pretend news programmes, they don’t even listen to the other side. I sit there thinking, “They’re having two different arguments and they don’t even notice.”
But, why is that? In this day and age (and, it has progressively become this way for a long, long time) people are trained to pick one side of an argument, be absolutely apologetic for their chosen side, and unwavering in the face of opposition. If someone says something that might make them reconsider their opinion, this training has inadvertently made them block out information that they don’t already agree with. People go to drastic measures, sometimes, to shut me up as I’m talking, lest I prove them wrong. One woman starting singing, in a choir voice, “I know my Bible is right! Something else is wrong!” over and over until I went away. This behaviour is completely irrational. If you’re certain you’re right, you have nothing to fear by letting me get my argument out. If you’re not, then you have everything to gain by hearing me out. Censoring me does nothing but create an admission that you are wilfully ignorant and wish to remain so.
Once someone asked my opinion on gun control. At the time, I didn’t have one. I was largely ignorant and mostly apathetic regarding the issue. I’m still pretty apathetic, which is why I haven’t posted the opinion I ultimately developed here. I told her I didn’t have an opinion, but she demanded I have an opinion. Considering I was now obliged to have an opinion, I told her my opinion was that she was very annoying and she should go away. Well, as the old adage says, be careful what you wish for.
Also, on many occasions, people try to hold me to positions I’ve held in the past. As if I don’t learn. They simply can’t understand how my opinion may have changed.
The fact is that you can’t really understand why you agree with your own side of the argument until you understand the points of those who disagree. I don’t mean the strawman version. The strawman version never makes sense. It’s designed to show you how ridiculous the opposition’s argument is. I mean, the actual argument from those who subscribe to it. Don’t even censor a bigot. Try to understand his point of view. I mean, more often than not, both sides of the argument are flawed. And this is where ambivalence comes into the picture.
Now, if you’re a part of the above majority, you’re going to have a hard time understanding this, but then, you’re probably not reading it anyway. Ambivalence is the subscription to two opposing, and often contradicting, points of view. This does not mean you agree completely with both sides. It doesn’t mean you are contradicting yourself. What it means is that you understand the points of both sides, and you support the points of both sides, and ergo can’t really make up your mind as to which you will fully support. You may find yourself supporting one one day and the other the next, depending on whom you are speaking to.
When you hear someone say, “On the one hand,” this issue, “but on the other,” this issue, they are expressing ambivalence.
For example, on the one hand, I support the right of my loved ones to do as they will, but on the other, it really pains me when what they will is something that is self-defeating.
I’m ambivalent more often than I am of firm belief, though ambivalence does not necessarily imply that you can’t make up your mind. Sometimes, you see both sides, you support both sides, but you think some side is slightly more warranting of your support, so you choose that side. However, you can still see the points of the opposition.
Another thing that happens is the creation of a new point of view. Sometimes it is possible to take what you support from both sides of an argument and create an entirely new position. This is why I can sometimes present something new to the table on an old issue. Because I can understand both sides. You can, too, if you just listen to them rather than be apologetic for your side.
On the one hand, I want you to think for yourself. On the other, I want you to subscribe to the above editorial. I guess I’m ambivalent.