Sometimes you can just hear the complaints coming! You do your best to “nip them in the bud,” but people will invariably take what you’re trying to say the wrong way. The result is, I end up adding “disclaimers” of one sort or another to just about everything I write. This little piece will be no exception.
Though I’m advocating for judging the actions and words of another on that person’s current perspective, attitudes and actions, the less “proof of change” that exists, the less I see it possible for people to do this. Simply put, I can say I believe one thing today, but just yesterday, my words or deeds may make it clear that at least yesterday, I did not believe that thing.
What makes this worse is that people—particularly “political animals”—will speak one way and act in entirely another. Don’t get me wrong, politicians are far from alone in this. In fact, quite frankly, to the degree that any individual is suffering from “cognitive dissonance,” he or she will likely be prone to such behavior.
For those that are unaware, cognitive dissonance can be defined as, “having beliefs that are in contradiction one with another.” Believe it or not, this is probably a great deal more common than one might initially suspect. I have cited examples in time past, but if I want to get to the “meat of” this article, I haven’t time or space to do so here.
The point is, probably the majority of humans on Planet Earth have issues with cognitive dissonance to some degree or other. I haven’t proof of this statement, only my experience with others to speak from.
But the main point of what I was intending to write about here, is not related to cognitive dissonance. I wanted, rather, to speak to something I have seen becoming more and more prevalent, then to discuss my problems with it.
I shan’t detail examples, though I expect you have seen them if you pay any attention to “the news”—from whichever “direction or directions” you experience it.
The issue can be succinctly expressed as “digging up bones.”
In the recent past, I have watched as people’s characters have been assassinated. This is particularly true for “public figures.” So politicians, “news reporters,” actors, comedians and others of similar ilk have been targeted. And it would be one thing if this was something that happened to folks of one political leaning or other, but it’s not.
There are those that argue people on “one side of the political aisle” or other have been more targeted than others, and maybe it’s even the case. That being said, I would still argue that it’s inappropriate regardless to whom it is done.
Speaking from personal experience, the one “small mercy” of my life, is that most of the stupid things I’ve done in the course of my time on the planet, have not either been recorded anywhere, or left visible signs of having occurred. I have a feeling that almost everybody can make at least this statement.
If a person is a public figure however, it’s more likely than not that his or her actions have been “recorded” in some fashion for much of his or her life. Obviously, the younger a person, the more their life has likely been “entangled with” the Internet. As such, younger folks are less likely to be able to say this.
There are two major—and probably a great many more minor—issues with this.
The first is that things can be taken out of context. I have, for example, seen multiple examples where someone was quoting another individual, only to have something said as a citation attributed to them as “original.”
One way or another though, taking a “sound bite” of someone can result in it appearing that the individual in question said or even did something that he or she didn’t say or do.
What makes this worse is that in the modern day, such attributions make their way around the World in virtually no time at all. This leaves the individual dealing with them to suffer the slings and arrows of the “court of public opinion.”
At times, the end result is the absolute ruin of the individual in question. Keep in mind, this is for a person who is at least questionably in any way incorrect in what they have done or said.
More and more, I have become a person who will say less about others. Even when I do choose to say things, I tend to be very careful in how I do so. Even so, I’m sure I sometimes “get it wrong.”
The next consideration is that people change. The assumption that folks are the same as they were two weeks ago, much less a month, a year, and ten or more years ago, is far from a good one. The older I get, the clearer this is.
The reality is, people who do not change, very likely have horrible existences to show for it.
I can’t speak for others, but I can tell you that, as a younger man—much less as a child—my behavior and the understanding that underlaid it was far from what I would have desired it to be looking back in history. Of course, the expression, “hindsight is 20/20,” comes to mind here. It’s easy to look back on the past, and wish you had done things differently!
Part of the reason it’s possible for me to look back on my past with chagrin or disdain, is that I have changed. Am I alone? I certainly should hope not—in reality, I well know I’m not.
Final thoughts? Words are not actions. Put another way, because someone says something, doesn’t mean they believe or do what it is they have said.
The past actions of a person are not by necessity (in fact, probably not at all), a perfect reflection of who that person is today. People change, both in bad and good ways. Because this is so, the further back a given statement, and more importantly a given action, the greater the chance that they are not representative of the individual you currently meet.
Okay, out of words (in terms of how many I choose to write), and time. As usual, if you have read this, thanks for doing so, and one way or another, may your time be good.