A confession . . .
Nobody really wants to talk about themselves, the truth, as they really are. But the internet itself has created a different take on autobiographical discussion. Online we can hide behind an avatar, behind a character that we invent with strengths we are probably lacking and with a confidence that jars our true sense of self. I will admit to being every bit as guilty of this as many of the other anonymous commentators you stumble across, annoyed (or hopefully slightly interested). My avatar is a reproduction of an 18th century woodcut on the dangers of drinking, a double-meaning vision for me as the pig in question vomits up everything bitter inside of him.
I must reject, however, the charge that I say vicious things because I am protected by this same anonymity. For anyone who actually knows me (and I am so far up to four of them, mostly from a somewhat remote past), they understand that I am not really afraid, that I have been a vocal trouble maker as long as they have known me and that sometimes I might spew out something offensive just to hear the responses.
I do not believe everything I may say (although to start with, thus far, with that get-to-know-me introduction, I have been brutally honest and will further attempt to do this as I waver from depression to manic joy and back again. I want to be truthful. I want to encourage this belief). But I will always convince myself that I do while I am arguing a point. This is one of the most important things you learn–arguing the other side–if you ever participate in a debate.
A Devil’s Advocate has an important job. And maybe I am inventing a sense of importance for myself in order to make this frenzied typing into something worthwhile, as I pound away deep into the night. But, despite my ambitions, my comment remains unchanged.
Without a challenge to a person’s beliefs, how can they ever know what they think is true? If you follow an ideology blindly and don’t even imagine its impact on you, merely do as your parents and their parents before them have done (or the opposite, rejecting everything they once taught you was true), then you lack an awareness of any issue. But if you hear different sides–the many sides that expand well beyond the two desperate extremes at war with each other, then perhaps you can come to some more moderate and realistic understanding. There are a billion shades of gray spanning the prism between full black and full white. And there is no real purity of thought left in the world, just as there are no pure races, no pure religions and no absolute identifications of the individual soul. And once we realize this, once we stop to listen to someone whom we disagree with, we might be able to come to an agreement, to something less destructive than open warfare. But until we do, watch how civilization declines.
I only want what is best for the world, or at least in line with my own biases and prejudices.