I got into a small twitter-spat last night on similar lines; that from one perspective another's viewpoint will be biased. In this case I was 'chatting' to a lawyer, in my opinion a profession with no more sense of right and wrong than many of the villains it often represents. (Nothing personal, Jane.) It came down to a simple choice - given a vote would you put to the sword all the tradesmen (such as electricians) or could you suffer to live without lawyers?
Survey: Given a choice, who would you put up against the wall?
A) Bent, scum-sucking, parasitic lawyers, or
B) Good, honest, down to earth tradesmen
Do you see what I did there? I deftly employed a certain amount of barely discernible spin to influence your vote, just like the politicos do. (Although in this case there was no need; the lawyers every time, right?)
In the movie, Colonel Jessup said "You can't handle the truth!" But what IS the truth? I know what I think - and so do you - but there is always more than one way of looking at any issue, to wit:
- Did the government just generously increase pensions or viciously slash them?
- Did they cut their wealthy chums a nice tax break, or will the 45% rate actually increase the overall tax take, which is far more important for the country? (The reaction of wealthy Français to proposals to increase theirs to 45% suggests the latter but only time will tell.)
- Have we actually had any real cuts in public spending yet, or is everybody just reacting the way The Guardian and the BBC tells them they should?
- Living standards falling is not the same thing as true, harsh austerity - many people live beyond their real means anyway. For the greater majority, life continues pretty much the same with a bit of added thrift. Sounds sensible to me, but to some it's like stamping on the heads of babies.
Both sides let their political affiliations affect their judgement, which makes rational discussion and debate almost impossible. To the left any reductions in public spending are a calculated assault on the very poor. To the right, those in work cannot be expected to forever pay for more and more poor - they breed, you know.
But worse than that, it makes it nigh-on impossible to even know what the truth is because those who deliver this important information may often be biased themselves. (Take a bow, the popular news media.) Then it all comes down to perception and acceptability. While the last government were spending every penny they could to buy acceptance, riding the wave of worldwide fiscal madness and impropriety, nobody cared because the world looked like they thought it ought to look.
I have a feeling that what we are experiencing right now is nothing more or less than naked reality. And while the truth doesn't have to be ugly, it often falls short of what you might want to be told. But, as Paloma Faith asks, "Do you want the truth or something beautiful?"
Please feel free to vote on the lawyer thing by casting your vote in comments, below.