Guiding Principles for Exploring the Grey Area
An antidote to black-and-white thinking and fundamentalist programming
All ideologies, beliefs and assertions should be questioned, and no exceptions should be made — not for my family, not for my friends, not for my idols, not for the oppressed, not for my culture, not for you, and not for myself.
I avoid assuming that if someone believes differently than I do, then they must know less than I do. Instead, I practice assuming that they know different things. I expect this respect to be reciprocated by whoever I’m engaging in discourse with, or else I disengage.
I won’t dismiss an idea based solely on the identity, history or stances of the person sharing the idea. There are no perfect messengers.
It’s best to have a code of ethics in place separate from one’s beliefs. Ethics should come before ideology, not from ideology. This is to ensure accountability for any harm caused.
I reject the notion that engaging with one side of a debate makes me hateful of the other side. In fact, I believe engagement across ideological divides is a moral imperative.
Efforts must be made in all discourse to encourage knowledge-seeking. This means nobody should be shamed for not-knowing something, nor punished for their attempts to understand something. All questions are fair questions, and everyone has the right to seek information. Let ye who knows everything cast the first stone.
In general, I find that labels have an immobilizing and compartmentalizing effect. Identification with a particular worldview tends to limit one’s ability to appraise other worldviews objectively. For this reason, I do not identify with or represent any particular group or ideology.
In doing this, I am not insinuating that every debate has a “middle ground” or truth on all sides, nor am I implying that I think I’m a fair judge of every belief system in existence. Actively avoiding labels is my personal attempt to remain open to hearing others’ ideas, as much as it is an invitation for others to hear mine (instead of assuming I am their “opposition” and tuning me out).
A good debate should be like good sex:
All parties involved must be fully informed before consenting to participate;
clear communication should be ongoing and foster trust between participants;
power imbalances should be kept in check as much as possible;
“protection” (knowledge of logical fallacies and debating etiquette) should be used to prevent the spread of “diseases” (falsehoods, cognitive distortions, etc.);
the objective should be pleasure, if not also the conception of a new consciousness;
and any participant may disengage at any time and for any reason, without being shamed for doing so.
I must never challenge others in a way I am not willing to be challenged. All external questions must first be asked internally. Double standards have no place in the exchange of knowledge.
Questioning is loving, not hating.