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People in general don’t bother with serious conversations – most of the time it’s the quack-quack-quacking of gossip one hears at home and in social circles. But there’s a new reality underway; one in which every day conversation will slowly converge from the superficial to the profound. Partly due to the increasing availability of higher education (tied in with a more conscientious society), the broader access to information and the current wave of open-mindedness that’s taken the world by storm in the past decades – now, more than ever, a larger number of people are engaging in social criticism. Rudimentary and mundane life is being set aside. The superficial is being recognized as just that – superficial. Today’s “Me” generation is all about being heard, and no one is interested in vapid topics – it’s the deep that gets to people. That being said, one must point out that people’s opinions on most matters (social or not) are rarely unbiased, and more so than not, are forged out of capricious whims and ignorance. An example of people’s tendency to misinterpret other people and situations – because of ignorance - is demonstrated in how some develop unhealthy emotional attachments with political radicals. Take a Venezuelan villager, who’s been caught in Hugo Chavez’s web of deceit, over-hyped by his political savior-status: In comes the villager: “I like Hugo Chavez. He fed me and I was starving. The capitalist pigs are evil. Jesus Christ and Hugo Chavez are champions for Socialism – he said so. He must be right”. (Hugo Chavez did in fact use Jesus to distort his political intentions – by stating that Jesus Christ was, in his time, a socialist and a revolutionary just like him.) I won’t even try to explain how Jesus Christ may very well be a socialist and a revolutionary, but in a completely different context. Note that discussions, which comment on social issues of relevance, have always proven to be a haven for the promoted use of historic personalities to make a point. The aforementioned “historic people”, refers to those who have made known their
greatness in their respective lifetimes, and whom, through the years, have increased exponentially in number, having been collected by society and placed in a wideranging social gamut, which includes the likes of philosophers, scientists, religious leaders, monarchs, war leaders, politicians, pacifists, spiritualists, activists, geniuses, entertainers, and even heirs to family fortunes. Now, whether the point to be proven in an argument is “Religious Intolerance in the Modern Age” or “Promoting a cleaner Environment in an Oil-dependent World” – seldom do people lack a whole bevy of historical figures as choices for argument support. People of superior intelligence, power, and social reach, have, through the years, impacted societies (and I say societies – because every nation has its own set of heroes) to the point where everyday conversation includes a reference – be it direct or indirect – to these people’s work, lives and opinions. Engage in an animated conversation with an individual foreign to your own country, and soon enough, you’ll find that a reference or two, to some national hero, will come forth. Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) is still very much alive in Turkey – a country who praises his secular ideals, which laid the foundation for the founding of the Turkish republic, and are still being issued and upheld by those that oppose an Islam-based government. Benito Juarez - Mexico’s sole Indian president - is still viewed as a political mastermind and as an example to follow, by many Mexicans. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream speech” is discussed every which way in American class rooms every year – and his hero and martyr status have probably made him one of the most iconic African-Americans to date. Einstein’s surname has become synonymous with intelligence – worldwide. Quotes on Churchill and Nietzsche’s aphorisms have paved the road for many politicians, academics and social activists – as well as common folk. What’s dangerous here – is the development of biasness, stereotypes and distorted
views, which can easily be conjured up by any ill-intentioned individual with an agenda. It’s no surprise that people have a tendency to shift their views and alter other’s for their own convenience. Has the Catholic Church truly represented Jesus Christ’s words and teachings on this Earth? Many books have been written on the subject. If we amass the different points of view, they basically send the message: “No, not completely.” Was George Washington as honest and pure as American History books depict him? One can’t say for sure. What is certain is that that sort of extremism is always doubtful. So, to call an American revolutionary (who was probably responsible for sending many crafty men to spy on the English) a “100% honest person”, is delving on the outskirts of that which we denote as credible. Extremes are never, or will ever be – credible. Which is why people accurately denote said faulty belief, as a “myth”. When figures of power (such as emperors, kings, dictators, presidents) have such a strong influence on the public, so much so, that their words and actions are interpreted as either well or mal-intentioned, based purely on their public persona – we have an open invitation for bias. It’s hard for George Bush to be seen as a leader worthy of ending terrorism anymore. It’s almost impossible for Gandhi’s image to be tarnished now – ever. Whether it is a message of love, hate, hope or affection that’s being transmitted – the public can subjectively alter anything, as has been done for centuries. Marie-Antoinette – at the height of the French Revolution, was accused of having no compassion for the French and living a frivolous and carefree life, right about when the press got the word that she uttered “Let them eat cake.” While never proven as fact, the hungry peasants were still very much outraged. She was also an Austrian, which didn’t help matters much. She did not survive France’s Reign of Terror. Are the current European Monarchs any less deserving of having been deposed by their people, as were some of their counterparts (Louis XVI, The French King and the Nicolas, Russian Tsar were seen as traitors to the state at the time of their
execution – were they? – or were the monarchs that were spared, so innocent?)? Could any of them – have said the right thing at the right time, to the right people? Had they done so – there would certainly be a surviving royal family or two. It’s all too easy to develop a favorable or unfavorable standing when the majority of your people either love your or hate you. Saddam Hussein at one time was in friendly terms with the U.S. It’s too bad he took a wrong turn and stopped pleasing them. A once hated enemy could easily become an ally and friend – depending on what each faction can gain from the other. It’s like a balancing act. Churchill said: “History is written by the victors”. This begs to ask the question: “Can a historic event or person, change as the years go by?” Nietzsche and his work did change in the course of the past century. He was wrongly viewed as a major supporter of Nazism during the WW2 era (mostly due to the introduction of his term – Übermensch, which the Nazis considered had much in common with their ideology). That quickly changed after the Germans were defeated, and his true intentions were brought to light. Had the Germans won the war – Nietzsche’s name could have been synonymous with two words – philosopher and Nazi. He would have been transformed into a bona fide Nazi Philosopher. He would have been rolling around in his grave if not for the people that later contributed in clearing his name. It was actually Nietzsche’s sister who was responsible for the publication of his book “The Will to Power”. Much speculation came forth when it was discovered that she was the one responsible for compiling his notes to ensure its publication. Having married an anti-Semite, Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche was already heavily influence by her husband’s prejudice and was most likely responsible for having linked Nietzsche’s prominent concept of man’s “will to power” with an intent for interpretation other than his own. The examples have now been many, and all of them send the same message: We interpret what we want, when we want, however we want.
It is unrealistic to think that one can be completely unbiased. People will always have opinions, and as such, try to influence family, loved ones, friends, and in the case of politicians and public personas – the masses – into thinking just as they do, because it’s the “right way”. And sometimes it is. While ensuring harmony and satisfaction (it’s easiest to live with people that think like one), up to a certain point – defending a certain belief or upholding a way of life can give way to bias, prejudice and discrimination. I was once told, by a History professor, "that it was a shame that most people never appreciated the value of History". He said that if one looks close enough, a sense of history could provide a quick solution to anything. In a way, we’re all living history, and in living it we find that our faults have made us who we’ve become. After all, there’s no value in being perfect – but there is in trying to be.
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