The Messy Middle

The middle of the road is not the obvious destination for most people. Figuratively it conjures up an image of being neither here nor there. We live in an increasingly polarised world where we are often asked to “pick a side”.

In a lot of circumstances I actually think “picking a side” or being fully convicted of one’s beliefs is an admirable trait. An individual’s values represent their basic convictions of what is right, good or desirable. These values often form an enduring conviction and form the moral foundation for how that individual lives or interacts with the society they live in.

It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had the individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions.

Robert Green Ingersoll

I am all for having convictions. It can be an anchor in a continually evolving world where it is becoming increasingly difficult to discern between what is fact or truth. And we all have a basis for how we arrive at the value systems that govern how we see the world. We determine the values we live by through inculcating beliefs,cultural assimilations and social conditioning passed down from parents, schools, peers, religious institutions, the media, society etc.

As much as we like to believe that we “choose” our values or beliefs, they are never totally formed in a vacuum. It’s the reason why in certain societies an economically successful woman would consider not being married a huge personal failure. This example is not to highlight the correctness(or not) of this belief but to highlight that while values can be individual there are elements of them that we arrived at based on social conditioning.

Most people would agree with the core idea that hurting another human by murdering or stealing from them is wrong .This is because values are at the core of most of our decision making. And for straightforward scenarios like murder or theft, we can (ok not all but most people)can decide not to hurt others in that way.

Unfortunately, not all decisions that we have to make are as straightforward as the above. Which is why I think it at some point or for some issues it is important that we resist binary thinking .

We increasingly faced with making or taking decisions that are so complex which means we cannot afford to view ALL issues from a versus/either or lens or perspective.

One thing that is largely missing in most of our public discourse today is the ability to think about issues in a nuanced way. Don’t even get me started on how this plays in out in the dumpster fire world that is social media .It appears that we are at a point where we struggle with the ability to wrestle with two conflicting ideas and come to a “middle of the road” viewpoint that doesn’t totally dismiss or demonise the other side of the debate.

Picture credit – Pinterest

It’s either everyone who works in a 9 to 5 job is an idiot without any ambition or every wealthy person in business is a greedy capitalist overlord. It’s either you voted for Brexit because you are patriotic/racist or voted leave because you are a liberal softie who loves giving away your rights. You can’t be pro vaccination without questioning vaccine mandates or believe in protecting others or the vulnerable around you by wearing a mask without being a sheep who is being misled by the mainstream media or Bill gates (I went there).

You can’t believe in women’s rights without being a man hating feminist or believe that men are not the enemy in every discussion that pertains to gender equality. You can’t believe that certain elements of capitalism unduly privileges certain parts of the society while also believing in innovation/industry. You can’t be ambitious without thinking all poor people are lazy and deserve to be poor. You can’t believe in living a healthy lifestyle without fat shaming others. It’s always either/or!

There is no middle ground!

Nuanced thinking can be defined as resisting binary stances on important, complex topics. I named this post “the messy middle” because it takes effort to operate or think in this sphere. And that effort can be messy. Our brains, too often see things in binary terms. It’s much easier for it to simplify the world into true or false, good or bad, is or is not. This dichotomizing tendency works well for simpler decisions like I outlined earlier.

It takes alot of mental effort to choose to sometimes dwell in the uncertainty of considering the merits or demerits of the other viewpoint. It’s much easier to dismiss those other views and exist within our own echo chambers with people who agree with and think like us. To take a conscious effort to at least consider what the other side is saying can be difficult. And it is why it is the road less travelled.

I am not advocating taking permanent residence in the middle of the road. That in itself can be dangerous because no one truly likes lukewarm tea or people (I find it hard to believe anyone does). Be passionate about your beliefs and convictions. Your views might not always be considered acceptable by others and that is ok.

What I am advocating is the ability to sometimes consider the other viewpoint.

Even if you don’t understand it.

Even if you don’t agree with it.

Photo credit -Pinterest

And you might never agree or understand that viewpoint or belief. What the middle ground does especially if you take the time to listen to the other person is that it humanises their position. And it opens you up to the fact that not everyone sees the world through your lenses. Sometimes they are wrong. Sometimes they aren’t. And that’s ok too!

This is something that we can all do better at and I am hoping that I can do too.

As usual thank you so much for reading and have a lovely day

Oyindamola

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