Friday, April 5, 2013

This piece is related to the one I posted a few days ago. I’ve been thinking more about the way we regard things and how they are presented to us.

I remember an instance that, in an odd way, illustrates the point. A number of years ago I was visiting in the state of Virginia and the county I was in was “dry” but had a referendum on its ballot as to whether it should remain dry or legalize the sale of alcoholic beverages. I was told that there were two forces in the county that were very much involved in the issue on the side of wanting to keep the county dry. One was the county’s churches; the other was its bootleggers. Each faction had its own agenda but the purpose of each was satisfied by the same result.

People with different points of view can have a common purpose—or they can be persuaded that that is the case. The tool that’s used to persuade them these days is known as “spin” and its effective use is in great demand. It is used by the government, industry, business, the military and other groups. Probably it is most used in politics. Usually it is employed to focus on something that people fear, or to cause them to fear something. That’s an effective way to do things because fear is a very powerful emotion. It can quickly focus a person’s attention on a problem and get quick results. But those results are most likely to be limited, partisan and selfish.

That’s not so good if you’re trying to get positive progress in a society. Fear is negative and when it is used extensively as it is in our society it causes division, suspicion and other negative emotions that are harmful to the society. That is where Mother Teresa’s approach of always putting the emphasis on the positive makes sense. If our attention were always focused on the positive, we would be much more likely to make progress that is positive and for the good of all.

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