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It has been a while since I posted a blog so, and as with most of us, I currently have the time to do so given the virus “crisis” that is affecting the world and the “stay home” orders that have been issued.  I have learned something valuable in the past few weeks that I thought was worthy of sharing and which have implications in resolving conflict.

Specifically, it has to do with tolerance of viewpoints other than one’s own.  Conflict is often driven by personalities and not issues. Conflict is also driven by an unreasonable assessment of another’s point of view.  However, what I have found of late is that conflict is also driven by a refusal to even consider another person’s point of view.  This is the case with the Covid-19 virus currently infecting many people around the world.  Federal, state and local governments, along with a complicit media thirstry for ratings, has so scared the general public that all people can think about is “stopping the virus” at all costs.  This panic induced thinking — more contagious than the virus itself — has led people to engage in what economist Thomas Sowell calls “Stage One Thinking.”  I will provide an example

I administer a facebook page entitled “South Bay – Redondo Beach” and on this page, I have challenged the conventional wisdom about my city closing the local parks and public spaces.  In fact, I have challenged the idea of any closure orders of any kind by any government entity.  I have done so based on at least two reasons.

First, citizens in an ostensibly free country, which hopefully still includes America, enjoy fundamental, constitutional rights.  Among these rights is the right to work, earn a living, pray in a religious community, assemble with like minded people and travel.  These rights cannot be – should not be – taken away so quickly without a showing of just cause by the government entity taking such rights. (This is constitutional law by the way.)  As we all know, no such showing ever occurred.  Rather, unelected officials – health care “experts” – declared that a crisis was in the making and scared government executives into issuing edicts without engaging in any kind of due process to allow all sides of the issue to be heard.

Second, I opposed these government closures because, as the President has rightly said — and by the way, I have several issues with President Trump — “we cannot make the cure worse than the disease.”  In this case, shutting down the entire economy and, necessarily, destroying millions of people’s lives, was in my view not necessary when less draconian steps could have been taken without the negative impact.  I argued, correctly and without any dispute, that there are healthcare consequences to the various governments’ shutdown approach that would also affect our nation’s people and that the impacts of whatever course of action taken needed to be weighed.

Well, as you can imagine, the “wise” people who are members of the page I administer needed to make their voice heard by claiming that I was “being selfish” and “all I wanted to do was go to the beach while people are dying” and I was “vile” and “gross,” etcetera.  These people didn’t want to engage me in debate.  They labeled me. They name called.  They mocked.  The notion that there were other views than the ones these “wise” people had embraced was foreign to them and, in the name of virtue, they would not even tolerate a discussion of the issues let alone a consideration of them.  This, by the way, is referred to as “virtue signaling.”  (One man was so hysterical that he emailed me privately demanding I take down my posts and those of anyone else who suggested a more moderate approach to the virus because these posts were, according to him, the equivalent of yelling “fire” in a crowded theater and therefore posed a risk to society.  I advised him that he was the one yelling “fire” and I was not going to encroach on my speech rights or someone’s speech rights because a third party didn’t like what was being said.)

I even had one man, a retired military man with a highly sohisticated engineering background, ask me – repeatedly – “are you ok with people spreading the virus and causing others to die?”  His point was clear. Unless you agreed with his solution – government shutdowns of everything – you must be for innocent people dying.  And this man was the smart one of my attackers.  Others, to be perfectly frank, were intellectually challenged including a substitute teacher for the local school district.  (I wish I could be more diplomatic but I simply cannot.)

What these people all engaged in was the “Stage One Thinking” I mentioned above.  It is the way a child or a simpleton thinks.  When a problem presents itself, one simply picks the most obvious solution without considering the consequences of that solution.  In other words, these people don’t think about “Stage Two” which is the effect of the “solution” they have chosen.  And why was this the case in the fact pattern I provided above?  Because people are frightened – and when people are frightened, they don’t think rationally and they don’t want “to discuss it,” they just want people to “shut up” and “do it their way.”  It makes people who are already inclined to intolerance to be even more so.  (As an aside, the issue of “do it my way or you’re evil” is not unique to the Covid-19 saituation.  The Covid-19 situation merely magnifies a larger proplem with about one half of our population.  This is because for at least one half of the population — because they believe they are motivated by good intentions– any solution to a societal problem different than theirs must be motivated by evil intentions.  As one political commentator has said, “when I argue with a liberal, I tell him I am right and he is wrong.  When he argues with me, he tells me he is good and I am evil.”  This is how debate is conducted by many people. Simply label your opponent as “evil” and therefore you bypass the need to engage on the merits.)

What does all this mean?  It means that whenever we are in a disagreement with someone — be it on a personal, professional, political, philosophical, theologlcal or other basis — we must look beyond the person disagreeing with us, we must look beyond our conception of this person’s motives and we must actually listen to the substance of what they are saying. We need to meet them on the battlefield of ideas.  If one tries to shut someone down from speaking by labelling or mocking, that person has not won the debate on the issue but, rather, has lost the debate. If a person seeks to resolve his differences, or at least have a meeting of the minds as to where differences actually lie, then we have to be tolerant of other’s views.  By “tolerant,” I do not mean what some mean which is “agree with me or you are intolerant” as we so often see in politics today. Rather, I mean that we have to listen and consider the other person’s point of view

A final point is in order. Unlike many tranied mediators – and Christians – who adopt the idea of “turn the other cheek” when wronged, I do not share that view.  If someone wants to engage in vitriol because he or she thinks they can control the convesation by doing so, I am happy to accomodate them.  I believe in fighting fire with fire as necessary.  No, it doesn’t advance the issue at hand, but it does advance another issue that is also important to me, namely, controlling bullies and doing what little part I can to right the world of such people who employ bad faith tactics to advance their political agenda.  Such tactics are also used in legal disputes.  I don’t tolerate them in whatever forum they are employed.

I wish all of you reading this good health.  As always, if you have questions about alternative dispute resolution, feel free to contact me and thank you for reading my blog.