I’ve noticed an ironic thing lately. I usually don’t like reading other people’s blogs. I don’t mean the ones where my friends write about something that happened today, but more the ones where people talk about some issue that they feel strongly about. Essentially pages and pages of letters to the editor. I don’t much like reading those either.

The time I really do like to read letters to the editor is when somebody has replied to a letter that appeared the week before. Then I fish out the appropriate issue from the pile of McGill Dailys on floor in the corner of my bedroom, read the original letter, then the reply, and consider both viewpoints.

Whenever I have a discussion with somebody about anything that seems to matter at all — politics, sociology, ethics, religion, that sort of thing… i.e. most of my conversations with Jamie :p — I always tend to play Devil’s Advocate. Sure, sometimes, I really end up defending a position I believe in, but that’s not necessarily the case. I’m just a firm believer that things need to be considered from every possible angle. The problem with blogs, then, is that the person writting them tends to just rattle off their opinion and leave it at that.

I saw this happening a bit recently with the election of Pope Benedict XVI. In the day or two following the announcement, the local CTV news ran a few spots showcasing how Montrealers were reacting to the new guy in the Holy See. Overwhelmingly, people seemed to be disappointed that he ended up being such a conservative guy. One person said “It’s not who I would have chosen.”

Well yes, true, there was that young feminist woman who was all eager to encourage condom use and promote same-sex marriage that was looking like one of the front runners, but apparently she missed her flight and didn’t make it to the conclave in time. “Pope Joan the first” has a nice ring to it, I think. Really, what were you you expecting for the next Pope!?

I suppose that’s not really the same thing, but my point was going to be that every one was voicing pretty much one opinion without thinking too much about it. Not that they’re wrong, or that people writing all these opinion blogs are wrong, but it’s good to have a bit of disagreement (or try to anticipate what disagreement might be and give it proper consideration) just in case you’ve missed something. One particular guy I was reading a second ago was incredibly cynical which just annoyed me to no end.

All opinion pieces or anything written about issues should take the form of a dialogue between two people, I think. They can each argue for their own side and nobody wins in the end except the reader in their own head. Or, even better, even the reader can’t decide who wins. That’s why I like Robert J Sawyer books so much. They’re very much driven by social issues, and there’s almost never a clear answer about what the solution might be. I emailed him once and asked him about this (as part of a school project of mine). He had this to say:

“I usually don’t have strong opinions about the moral issues I’m writing about before I start my books. Or, perhaps a better way to put it, is that I’m ambivalent. For instance, I do believe any human being — woman or man — has the right to control what is going on in his or her body. We’ll, that’s clearly a pro-choice stance. But I also think abortion is a barbarous activity, and that the line between human and potential-human is not clear. That’s a pro-life stance. So, where do I stand? I don’t know. I didn’t when I started writing THE TERMINAL EXPERIMENT (my novel that is metaphorically about the abortion issue), and I don’t know now. Indeed, I’m usually more confused after I write a book than I am before I do.”

So don’t get too mad at me if I start arguing with you about something you believe strongly, and especially don’t think I’m a bad person for believe something you don’t, because it’s quite possible that I don’t believe it myself!

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  1. [...] I feel I’ve been playing Devil’s Advocate quite a bit. I just hope nobody’s been offended. I have a habit of disagreeing with almost [...]

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