[This article was originally written for commenters on the Guardian‘s ‘below the line’ Comment is free facility.]
When posting your comments, do bear in mind the following principles and precepts. You can increase the value of your posts by up to 50% if you do!
Deal with the world as it is, not as you want it to be
Surprisingly many posters seem not to follow this allegedly zen proverb. Yet, it’s really simple. The world is the world. It’s big. Your—or my—impact on it is so small as to be immeasurable. It just is. It cannot be what you personally want it to be. How could something that big be capable of responding to your (but only your) wishes for how it is?
So, when a fellow poster points out that the world is not as you appear to think it is, or want it to be, don’t be abusive. Be thankful that the sum total of your knowledge has been increased.
Just because you don’t believe something someone has said, doesn’t make it wrong.
Of course, what another poster, or even the writer of the piece on which you are commenting, has written may be wrong, and the other poster may have offered scant evidence for his or her assertion, but you could find it more valuable to find out, or work out, for yourself what in fact the true situation is than simply abusing the other person.
In the same vein:
- Just because you don’t agree with something someone has said, doesn’t make it untrue. See above.
- Just because you don’t like something someone has said, doesn’t make it untrue. See above.
- And, indeed, just because you don’t understand something someone has said, doesn’t make it untrue, either. See above.
Many people see the world differently to how you do.
It’s not just that they have inherited different characteristics, have learnt different things—and more importantly interpreted the same things differently. Their experiences, their learning and their comprehension are all different. That does not make them wrong or bad people.
When people express a view with which you disagree, they are not being “judgemental”. They simply disagree with you.
Most people don’t really want the truth, they just want a constant reassurance that what they believe is the truth.
Remember that this applies to you just as much as it applies to “most people” (just to be safe, this includes everyone who posts on Cif, all Guardian journalists, politicians, me and, literally, a lot of other people).
Most people would rather die than think—in fact, they do so
Bertrand Russell wrote this in The ABC of relativity, in 1925. It is, of course, just as true now as it was then.
Again, just remember that this applies not just to “most people”, but to you and me, too. Though those of us who know the quotation are at least trying to transcend it.
About being right
We all want to be right, and we certainly want our politicians, doctors and journalists to be right. There is a difference however in being right and needing to be right. The person who needs to be right, who has a strong attachment to that need, is a danger, because they are incapable of accepting that they are, occasionally, not right. We want our surgeons to be right pretty much all the time and they inhabit a working environment which maximises the likelihood their of being right. However journalists, politicians and many others inhabit an uncertain world in which all the information is rarely available, their interpretative skills are not perfect, and the time is not there to get better at these things.
Politicians are set up by each other and by the media to see a ‘confession’ as being wrong and of changing their mind as somehow a bad thing. Whereas anyone with any sense can see that flexibility is essential. Corbyn or May exhibiting their attachments, their needs, to be right do not justify posters to do the same thing. Unfortunately, a need to be right is a difficult thing to rid oneself of. But do try.
Anger and abuse: Posts which are no more than an angry assertion that “You’re wrong” are really not worth posting. Posts that are simply abusive have already lost. They help noone and reveal your inarticulacy. Please don’t bother, your posts just get in the way.
Age: It is obvious that many of the posters on political threads are in their teens or communicate as if they were in their teens. It is not other people’s job to educate you. If you don’t understand political processes, how government works or how the electoral system works, please find out before commenting. If you know nothing of recent political history, again please find out before commenting.
Do not assume that everyone else is as jejune as you. In many cases the people you are engaging with have decades of experience—often practical, on the ground experience—from which you would learn if you weren’t so intent on being right all the time.
Don’t assume that a doe-eyed infatuation with a particular politician (Jeremy Corbyn springs to mind) is a substitute for hard understanding of the situation, of political history, of policies or, indeed, reality. It isn’t, and you will be very embarrassed by your writings in a few years’ time.
In the words of one of the most beautiful women I have ever known, “Don’t fuck with a gorilla”.
by Jeremy Marchant . image Free images
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