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How much are your principles worth ?

Do you keep your head down when you see something that you see something you disagree with?

Further to comments on ‘safe environments’ in a previous article (where I thought that they were artificial and not representative of the real world), without it do you say what you feel or say what you feel.

Kierkegaard commented that sometimes free speech was possible at the expense of free thought. It’s true that many people want a say but either they don’t say what they really want to, or they say what people think they should be saying.

Okay, there are the shock jocks who go for attention simply by saying something they know will upset or contradict the consensus.

However somewhere in the middle is well articulate, reasoned thought that may not be in agreement with the majority but makes good point. Watch Twelve Angry Menand you know calm, well judged argument can and should be able to change opinion and shape the discussion and it’s outcomes.

All discussion and debate has leaders (natural) and managers (leaders on paper) and whilst they hold stay, anyone should feel able to contribute and influence.

My own rule of thumb is:

1. If, based on your own experience, a decision is going to cause harm or raise concerns for someone not directly involved in the debate, then it is your duty to represent them.

2. All arguments must be backed up by ‘truths’ not by assumed facts (There is a great section on Socrates in Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy discussing this). [1]. It doesn’t have to be quantitative but evidenced directly.

3. You can choose to suppress your own personal principles in favour of not upsetting others in the discussion you might disagree with (“the customer is always right” moniker comes to mind) but ultimate if you think you are assisting (and ideally right) then you should think people getting upset is their problem not yours.

4. Ultimately you (and none else) has to live with what you say and do and if you are comfortable and content with your participation then good.

5. If you cannot contribute in a reasoned way then don’t contribute. Saying nothing doesn’t mean you are not participating as you should be listening.

Just as the Knight who looks at his hand in The Seventh Seal, after he realises he’s given away his Chess strategy to the devil in disguise (not a poodle in this case), and sees the blood running through it and realises he is truly alive, then so should you as you travel through a life of possible contribution or rationalisation.

[1]. Let’s say someone has met and got to know Einstein during his life, their opinion would be based directly on their own thought. Anyone making comment about Einstein based on a book about him would be doing so subjectively. If a group of people all listen to an L.P. (let’s say Mike Westbrook’s superb Metropolis album) then all people will have a different view on it’s musical qualities (they will as it’s modern British jazz). If one of them writes a review, the reader of that review will have a completely different interpretation of the album.

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