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Opinion | Don't judge people who choose to exercise their judgement

Kiel's Commentary

By Kiel Hawk
On November 29, 2012

Judge not lest ye be judged. This admonition is one of many popular aphorisms that need to be forgotten.

The late Christopher Hitchens once told his Vanity Fair editor that, as a contingency of accepting a job as a journalist for the magazine, he would write about anything but sports. Christopher wrote for Vanity Fair for nearly two decades, right up until his death nearly a year ago.

It's hardly an overstatement to say that the collection of authorships he produced as a writer, both at Vanity Fair and elsewhere, covered most topics under the sun aside from sports. The most amazing component of his writing, however, is not the breadth of material covered (though it is similarly impressive), but the constant unapologetic expression of well-formed opinion.

There needs to be more of this. It has become unmistakably popular to shy away from criticizing views of others out of fear of offending somebody, especially when it comes to politics or religion.

Be and let be (or live and let live, if you prefer) however, does little in the way of problem solving.

It is a far nobler venture to say what's on your chest and be damned with the consequence.

We all can assuredly identify a friend or relative that just doesn't care what you think, they are going to tell you how they feel anyway.

Not only is there something admirable about this approach, it is the best way to get things done.

Tolerance and reticence are virtuous to the extent that they don't undermine warranted criticism.

There is nothing wrong with judgment.

Judging other people, actions, states of order, the government, etc. is healthy and it should be done with little (without?) restraint.

Even illogical opinions can be useful (Fox News comes to mind) because they force new perceptions and discussion.

Though it can take painfully long for the general public to reach a consensus, facts and reason tend to endure while the vacuous falls by the wayside.

The danger of not attempting to eradicate nonsense from the minds of others is that ideas spread, even the ridiculous ones.

They spread between people as well as to other thoughts and ideas, and ultimately they influence behavior.

Irrational ideas are unproductive at best, and at worst they can be devastating.

Religion is an easy target on this front, as there are numerous examples of poisonous ideology inflicting unnecessary wounds on society throughout history.

When planes get flown into the sides of buildings, suicide bombers kill innocent passers-by or millions of people die for the purpose of ethnic cleansing, the time that people should have stood up and shouted has long since passed.

Yet while some ideas are nonsensical and unsubstantiated, suppressing them is not the answer.

We have to trust ourselves to juxtapose and judge conflicting ideas and choose the best option.

The choice to protect freedom of speech in the first amendment of the constitution was a wise one indeed. There is hardly a justifiable reason to remain silent about important issues, especially those that are ecumenical.

Incidentally, politics and religion both fall under this category as well.

Where tolerance should fit into this equation is not in the extirpation of criticism, but in the addition of pragmatism.

Opinions are not held with the knowledge that they are foundationally unsound. Rather, people think they are right and opposing factions are wrong.

The reason for this may be due to the opposing party's incompetence, but less often than is probably attributed.

More frequently, social and cultural indoctrination are the cause of differing opinions, beliefs, and ideas. And though persuading somebody with a different background that an alternate point of view is more reasonable can be challenging, it can be done.

It must be done. Not only does this require judgment, it requires speaking out in spite of unpopularity or concern about whom it might offend.

It is far more offensive to yourself and others to lack the conviction to stand up for what you believe in.


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