Absolutely!

I keep meeting people who have been hurt by ‘absolutes’. It seems that many of those we interact with are bruised from their collisions with absolute truth – or rather the impact of those claiming to have simple, hard edged answers to all of life. The issue here seems to boil down to the experiences that people have had – often negative encounters.

I have observed a number of issues at play here. Some of those who offer their opinions in the form of simplified absolutes are often not as well informed as they pretend to be. The easy answer may only be a vehicle for prejudice, such as generalisations about races or cultures. Many take a political stance based on loyalty to a party or parents, rather than consideration of the arguments. When someone’s opinion is based on wafer thin understanding, they usually put it across with more aggression or vehemence than necessary. An insecure position seems to feed a wrong attitude. In response to imperialistic, dogmatic, non-consultative and authoritarian approaches, many have reacted by retreating from anything that seems inflexible or definite.

The flipside also needs looking at: We have had a generation of being told to ‘live and let live’; that all positions need to be heard. The desire to compensate for past arrogant views of other cultures has pushed us towards making a god of ‘tolerance’. Tolerance that is, of everything except absolutes.

The grave danger is that our society simply polarises: Most people can sense what is authentic, and can also smell a rat. Strongly held opinions aggressively preached by those who will not listen or engage with other views, are discouraging and repelling. On the other side, changeable and indistinct reasoning dulls the argument and ultimately frustrates those seeking answers.

We may not have a monopoly on absolute truth, but let’s ensure that with a good heart, we genuinely pursue truth, more than the vindication of our position.

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