Why you should question everything.

In the last few weeks I’ve written about how poorly the Conservative government is treating our veterans, what politics and forest fires have in common, and a bit about the subsidizing of private schools.

What all of these issues bring up is they highlight what people believe. I had some great Twitter and Facebook conversations with folks about all of these issues (particularly about private schools). A common theme from these conversations is that people are really good at articulating what they believe. The objective of this post is to help you consider why you believe whatever it is you believe. Join me in a thought experiment about a societal topic or two, and hopefully we can shed some light on our long-held opinions and beliefs.

Let’s consider crime & punishment. I’m going to play the role* of a firm conservative and suggest that I believe criminals should be punished to the full extent of the law, and that we should be pursuing a “tough on crime” agenda. That’s what I believe.

Now why might I believe that? Because my version of the world is one in which people are free to decide their fate, free to make choices. Obviously criminals are choosing a life of crime. My world is an individual one, where people make it or don’t based on their merit, grit and determination. I identify strongly with the notion of rugged individualism, and back in the day probably smoked Marlboro’s.

OK. Great, we’re a little bit closer to why my stance on crime is a tough one.

But why am I a staunch individualist? Maybe I’ve bought into the underlying premise of capitalism. Maybe I believe that people are inherently selfish. Maybe I believe whatever my parents/church/school taught me to believe. Maybe I have no clue as to why, it’s just the end result of my experiences in life. Maybe it’s something I’ve never really thought about.

I’m lucky enough to work in an industry (addiction treatment) where I get to constantly reflect on not only my values (what I believe), but also the roots of my values, the things that inform my beliefs. I have to question the things that I think I know on a daily basis, in order to help me see the world and the people in it as they truly are, not coloured by my perceptions of who or what they should be.

OK Jeff. Why does this matter? It matters because if all we do is hold onto our beliefs (whatever they are), and never question why they exist and what informs them, we run the real risk of not being able to adapt to changing realities, both as individuals and as societies at large. This is especially pertinent this week as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission wraps up 4-years of bearing witness to the effects of Canada’s dark past, the legacy of Residential Schools. Remember, at one point in our not-so-distant past, societies’ view was that taking children from their parents and eradicating their cultural (through all kinds of traumatic experiences) was not only a fine thing to do, but it was the right thing to do.

I’m glad someone started to question that belief. Makes me wonder what else we might want to shed some light on.

*If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you probably know that I wouldn’t identify strongly with a lot of conservative values and beliefs.

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