Are We Ready for Diversity in Opinons?

Posted by M ws On Monday, January 21, 2013 0 comments
Take a look around you. Soak yourself in the beauty of nature and the diversity of life. There can never be two snow flakes that look alike. In fact, did you know that snowflakes are always six-sided? Their form and shape depend on temperature and moisture.

Image from here.

Neither can there be identical twins who display similarities in every facet of their personalities or opinions. It's the same with opinions.

Till today, I cannot understand why it is so difficult for some to accept the fact that diversity of opinions can exist without a situation where one party determines how the other should see the world. Last year, I had a few unnerving encounters when others reacted quite vehemently to my opinion which contrasted greatly from theirs. Those fateful events transformed the way I viewed life, activism, friendship and people, even my own writing style.

From my personal experience, maturity of thought is vital in life. That is the main thrust of my lectures in accordance to the University of Cambridge guidelines for the General Paper (A-Levels).

I have learnt that it is vital that our perspective must reflect a breadth and diversity of opinion. There IS beauty in diversity. Each of us is entitled to our own opinion but I believe we have to be careful when, where and to whom we express it. Otherwise, one may have to pay the price of foolish idealism.

When forming an opinion, fairness and open-mindedness are needed when scrutinizing whatever evidence we may have before us and when weighing material facts. More often than not, there are those who block out opinions that may be contrary to theirs and then bulldoze their opinions as the gospel truth.

There are bound to be differences between urban and rural citizens, older and younger people, poorer and wealthier citizens, the creative/radical and the status quo, etc.  Regardless, we have to explore the differences in perspectives and appreciate diversity that exists due to many factors such as culture, education, expectations, religion.

According to Wikipedia:

Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subject to limitations, as with libel, slander, obscenity, sedition (including, for example inciting ethnic hatred), copyright violation, revelation of information that is classified or otherwise. 

The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that "[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference" and "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice". 
Article 19 goes on to say that the exercise of these rights carries "special duties and responsibilities" and may "therefore be subject to certain restrictions" when necessary "[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others" or "[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals". 

Freedom of speech may be legally curtailed in some religious legal systems and in secular jurisdictions where it is found to cause religious offense, such as the British Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006. More HERE.

Hence, sometimes it is better to keep silent lest one stirs a can or worms or releases Pandora's box. I used to think otherwise but now, I prefer to keep my opinions to myself and listen to the opinions of others.

At the same time, I admire those who dare to speak out based on firm facts and hard evidence and then to maintain an unwavering stand even when getting flak from all quarters, even if it means paying a high price for their courage such as in a recent case (Azrul Azwar).

This land has been a nation for coming to 56 years. Are we getting any wiser and more accommodating in our views?

It almost seems as though one can become a hero/heroine overnight by being critical of others or issues or of the status quo. We must remember that in the history of man, wars were fought because of different political/religious/social beliefs.

Surely there has to be a positive way to put forward negative criticism without sounding racist or bigoted. Hence, I believe both parties have their individual responsibilities. For one, the sender of the message must be on guard to craft the correct message to elicit the desired response and the receiver must be open-minded without being ready to jump at every single opposing opinion.

Diversity in opinions can be good if given and taken in the right way. It is up to us how we choose to react to the information we receive. We can either choose to accept or reject that information. If it challenges our perspectives/morals/values, then we need to reassess our attitudes/thought processes and actions. By doing so, we can change our reaction to the information received without being manipulated by any form of dogma or blind idealism apeing another person's behaviour/thought patterns. With all the mispropaganda before us, I firmly believe we need discernment to prevent our mind from being taken over or influenced insidiously.

This, is it so painful or difficult to hear the opinions of others? Why?

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