The richness of the diversity of opinions, if tapped adequately, can generate invaluable insights which contribute to the advancement of the well-being of humanity. One example of this is chronicled in the book “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”. Author Doris Kearns Goodwin describes how President Lincoln chose to work alongside his opponents, which made his cabinet an unusual one as well as an unusually efficient one. I would venture to suggest that modern day questions only seem impossible to resolve because we haven’t figured out how to bank on the diversity of opinions. Ironically enough, this diversity of opinions is what appears to create the seemingly impossible-to-resolve questions in the first place.
You might wonder what American President Lincoln has to do with Canadian crooner Michael Bublé. Well, as with any other controversial situation, what if we could put together the varying opinions on the infamous “bum picture” so as to see a more complete version of reality? Much like Lincoln did with his team of rivals, this might allow us to understand better our reality. Imagine how that could help build strong communities in which each member is nurtured despite our unique views about life…
So this post and its predecessor are not as much about passing judgment but rather about an attempt to put together the various opinions surrounding the many aspects of the situation at hand—Bublé and the picture of a young lady the hem of whose short shorts offered a glimpse of her bum (the original has been since then taken off Instagram but Bublé’s apology is still up).
This post does not seek to determine if the desire for privacy is justified or not; the assumption here is that privacy is a personal choice. We don’t know if this young woman wanted her picture to be published online to a wide audience. Short of asking her, there was no way Bublé would have known, either.
Posting pictures of others without their consent is a breach of privacy, especially since, in the age of the internet, an image posted online can potentially be made available to millions within a very short span of time. What can a just relationship between the very private and the very open look like in such a situation? Asking for the consent of all those whose image we unintentionally captures in the pictures we take in public places seems like a pretty absurd solution to the idea of respecting everyone’s privacy. Similarly, imposing a ban on all pictures featuring strangers is just as absurd.
Ironically enough, one potential solution lies in the very app hosting the picture fuelling this conversation. By blurring identifying features of those who unintentionally appear in pictures, the rights of both those who like online sharing as well as those who do not are respected.
The Outfit—Part 2
In the first post of this series, I discussed how the young woman’s outfit is her choice and that she should not be judged for it. But this individual right should be balanced with the individual rights of those around her. The rights of one population should not be given at the expense of the rights of another. However unintentional, this is oppression. Someone who wants the freedom to dress modestly does not have the right to impose their views of what is acceptable on others—and vice versa. As with the question of privacy, this post does not seek to pass judgment on the outfit of the young woman in the picture Michael Bublé took. Rather, it is an attempt to explore how the rights of people with varying sensitivities with regards to dress code can be upheld.
It seems to me that if we know an outfit of ours will be offensive to a large portion of those around us, we should consider dressing differently. Some argue that this impedes on our individual freedom; I would suggest that, rather, this is adapting our outerwear in a mature, respectful way that allows all of us to enjoy true freedom, rather than restricting it to only a select few. Furthermore, we all already do this in some form or another. For example, when we attend a wedding, we will wear something more formal, even if we spend most of our time in shorts and a T-shirt. Similarly, when seasoned travellers visit another country, they check out acceptable dress codes and take it into account when packing. It is only a matter of respectful consultation before we figure out how to do this in our increasingly multi-cultural hometowns.
Acceptance versus Agreement
As one of my favourite FBI agents likes to say, the truth is out there. But the truth is much larger than any one person can imagine. Rather, we each hold a piece of it. This makes acceptance of differing opinions vital to figuring out questions such as how to live in unity amidst the richness of our diversity.
Omnipresent negative social forces encourage a wise degree of caution when it comes to new beliefs or different behaviours. But caution seems to be at a historical (and unhealthy) high; this is probably due to the volume of new beliefs and behaviours we are exposed to as well as the speed with which we are exposed to them. Nowadays, thanks to advances in transportation and communication technology, wildly differing opinions collide in ways they never have before at a speed we couldn’t have imagined possible a mere couple of decades ago.
It is all the more important, then, to remain open to new ideas and behaviours while maintaining a healthy dose of caution without slipping into outright rejection of anything that does not conform to our personal beliefs. Out of fear, we might confuse or be worried that accepting a different idea or behaviour is the same as approving of it. But it’s important to remember that there is a difference between accepting a different opinion and agreeing with it. If those individuals that say the young woman in the picture “clearly wanted attention” took the time to understand why she chose said outfit, or if those who accuse Bublé of shaming the young woman took the time to understand the reasoning behind it, their conversation surrounding the picture would be quite different from what it is now—for the one, it would be a lot healthier.
Making the effort to feel safe while listening to other opinions rids us of negative emotions such as defensiveness, allowing us to engage in a mutually informative conversation that would open the minds of all those engaged in it. It would leave in its wake a clear mind that can focus on figuring out how we can live together in harmony despite our differences.
Shaming as a Defense Mechanism
When defensiveness runs rampant, it can makes us think or say things some pretty extreme things. For one, it breeds shaming; by bringing other opinions down, we feel safer about our own. But isn’t it a little ironic that people upset with Bublé shaming a young woman are, well, doing the same to him? To create a culture where women are not objectified, we have to be able to have frank conversations. But if we are not respected despite our opinions, then we cannot hope to ever be able to place them before others for an honest, loving, and uplifting analysis.
This post does not seek to determine if Bublé body shamed the young woman or note it only seeks to underline the fact that those who believe that Bublé did shame her are undermining their own arguments by doing the same to him.
As demonstrated by the complexity of each of the layers mentioned in this post and its predecessor, we have reached a point in our collective evolution where we have to recast our relationships in a completely new light. We have to figure out how to build a global society in which each person can do whatever they want while keep the well-being of their brethren at heart. To do so, we have to learn to listen to one another without judgment nor assumptions. We also have to understand that we are note the only ones that can do what they want; we have to create a society in which each one of us can live to our fullest, which requires some wise restrictions and considerations on each of our behalves. It’s an exciting development in our collective development and I look forward to seeing the fruits of our labour.
Image credit: Chad Mauger.