Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Six things to remember

On the last day of my world politics class, I told my class that there were some things that I hoped I would remember and take with them from the class (because I knew they wouldn't remember the specifics of the class). I thought they were some good things to keep in mind when dealing with politics in general and with world politics in particular. So here they are, for what it's worth:

1. Be willing to doubt - that includes the things that your government tells you, other governments say about themselves and others, and especially the things that we are so willing to believe with little or no proof. The things that we want to believe are often the things we should analyze the most closely.

2. Don't let emotion rule your mind - human beings are always going to have emotional responses to stimuli, but we do not always have to act on those emotions. Especially in the realm of politics, it is best if we can take a step back and look at the possible ramifications of our actions before we proceed. In particular, a state has certain responsibilities and core objectives that have to be considered, and emotional responses can often be work against these objectives.

3. There are few absolutes in life - most things in life and all the people you will encounter, either personally or in the political arena, are neither all good nor all bad. Sometimes good people do bad things and sometimes bad people do good things. We can't always disregard something just because it doesn't fit our ready made mold and not everything fits neatly into our preconceived categories.

4. The whole world is not just like your home town (or home country) - it is so easy to develop a provincial attitude. We must always consider that other people in other countries are not always going to see things the way that we do, and that does not necessarily make them wrong, stupid or backwards.

5. It's easy to criticize from an easy chair - an armchair warrior is no different from an armchair quarterback. It's easy to second guess the actions of other people when you are not in their position. I know that it is cliche at this point, but it is still true: you shouldn't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his shoes. And, it is much easier to tell someone what to do than to do it yourself.

6. Justice does not equal revenge - so often when we say we want justice what we really want is revenge, but they are not the same thing.

Now if nobody has any questions, class is dismissed.

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