Sitting in a room with people who often do not share the same opinions as I do on the world, politics, religion, the conversation turned to ideas of right and wrong. One person, with a very serious look on his face said, “The world wants us to believe there is not only right and wrong, but gray areas, but gray is not a shade of white, gray is a shade of black.” Many others nodded their heads, the implications turning in their minds.
Rather than allow for one moment, that the universe was not broken down into clean dichotomies, that sometimes, what is right and wrong are not even the core issue, one sentence allowed everything to be placed back into tight little bubbles, an impermeable line cutting the two hemispheres.
Forgetting for a moment that the entire premise of that sentence is wrong (gray is an intermediate color, between white and black on the spectrum, a neutral color), the implications are frightening enough. If certain things are always right, always wrong, then most of our belief systems crumble.
Stealing is always wrong. Any killing is murder. Any deception is a wrong.
But none of us live that way, and few of us (certainly, there are some), believe that way. It doesn’t take more than a second to imagine exceptions to those statements, as over the top and outrageous as they are.
I’m not implying that human beings do not rationalize poor behavior or justify actions based on a fabricated sense of neutrality. I am saying that there are few things, if any in our world that are clear cut. When the topic is one we agree with, when the person talking is preaching to the faithful, it is easy to ignore things we know, through our own experiences, to be accurate. What one group of us finds offensive and immoral, another of equally good and honest people does not.
The worst part of the conversation, for me at least, was this feeling of justification in the room. We all could agree with what this person was saying, that the straw man they had created, this world view that there is nothing right or wrong, an ‘eat, drink, and be merry’ philosophy, was full of so much fallacy, and only a fools would attach themselves to it.
Or maybe, the worst part is that I remained silent, sitting there, stewing in my thoughts.
One sentence kept running through my head-
You always win, when you argue with the straw man in front of the faithful.
I like to think I made the better decision, keeping my mouth closed, avoiding an argument that I could not win, that would be nothing but a pointless disruption. Anger and frustration would not have been the best tools in this situation. I would not have changed minds, only made people angry. I’ve done that enough in my life.