Absolute

Latest news edition, Karlsruhe, Germany.

Latest news edition, Karlsruhe, Germany.

With all the claims about fake news these days, I stopped think a little more about fake news, and what it really is. My thoughts led me to an interesting conclusion, at least interesting to me.

My first observation is that when news or information does not fit to a specific world view or perspective, it is labelled as fake news by some. It is rejected in absolute terms as false, untrue, wrong. But let's think about this a little more. Fake implies there is also true. True or fake. Right or wrong. Good or bad. Two extremes on an absolute scale. Nothing in between. However, can our complex world with all its nuances really be described in absolute terms? Only one absolute state exists without exception? I don't think so.

On extrapolating this thought a little more, I realised that fake and true are categories. Ways of simplifying complex situations. By applying simple, absolute categorisation, we are trying to redefine the world in terms we can understand and relate to. However, in doing so, we are likely to miss the richness of situations and perspectives. We may overlook many factors, fail to see options to respond, miss opportunities, make poor decisions, take inappropriate actions. or even damage our own lives or the lives of others. This is what we do when we put people, things, and situations into simple, absolute categories. He is a Nationalist, she is intelligent, that is the best make of car, global warming is a hoax.

So what can I conclude from these thoughts about absolute categories and simplification? I find they can lead to disadvantage, conflict, or can even be dangerous. When a world view (a categorisation) becomes simplified, unquestioned, absolute, all new information is tested against that view. No matter how valid the information may be, if it does not fit the category, or questions the category, it is labelled as fake. Simple categorisation becomes dangerous when people in power view the world in such simple ways, rejecting everything that may challenge their world view. Assumptions are not tested, no effort is invested to understand other perspectives, wrong decisions are made. Rejection, isolation, conflict arises. People in power can do great damage when trying to force a simple (or even extreme) world view onto a complex world.

Is there a better way? Yes, I believe there is. I think it is better to stop categorising and simplifying, accept complexity, actively test and challenge own views, value the views of others, and finally, create own perspectives and opinions in terms of maybeperhapsprobably. In other words, don't write views and perspectives in stone. As an example, the majority say global warming is occurring, while others global warming as a hoax. Both are absolute positions. Yes or no. In my view, global warming probably is occurring but I don't know with absolute certainty. How can I? Nobody has absolute wisdom or knowledge.

Thinking in terms of probable, perhaps, maybe avoids thinking in terms of absolutes. This way of thinking lies on a sliding scale, leaves room for modification, and can shift as more information is acquired. For the moment, global warming is very probable based on all I have read, heard, observed, and what my own understanding tells me. Based on this probability, I am making my contribution to reduce global warming, while accepting I don't know absolutely.

The above may read like a lack of commitment to a certain position or perspective. "Keeping my options open". Well, yes and no. I argue my position reflects a strong commitment NOT to mindlessly take up one simple, absolute viewpoint, actively question and test my current understanding on a continual basis, and be prepared to change perspective (rather than "digging in") when new evidence justifies that change. My eyes are open.

Viewing situations in terms of maybeperhapsprobably, reminds me that I need to work hard to ensure I am not being misled by assumptions, misinformation, or lies. I hope I am iterating towards a better perspective, one that is not limited by absolute categorisation. I believe the rejection of absolute categorisation (true-false, good-bad, Nationalist, Socialist, Fake, Hoax, etc) in any context can lead to a healthier world view, more opportunity in life, and a calmer, more relaxed state of mind.