Why Are Differences So Contentious?

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November 7th is Election Day in the United States, and represents one of the most contentious events for the nation. My question is, why? Why is it so important to get personal about competition or races? It seems that regardless of the circumstances or the environment of the event, hatred results with personal attacks. Why? Why does the human mind feel so obligated to focus so much rancor against another bias that it doesn't agree with?

The first thing we need to understand is that all persons, regardless of who they are, have a bias of some sort. Anyone that claims they don't have a bias is obviously fooling themselves. This is as true for Politicians as it is for Journalists. It is also true for technology specialists and the OS Wars that are becoming far too common. Everyone's bias can define who they are, as it is generally an extension to the experiences one receives within their environment.

So why is it that we feel such a need to defend our previous experiences? Does mankind feel that any difference of opinion is a direct attack on themselves? Or is it rather that a difference of opinion has the potential to invalidate a portion of that experience, and therefore threaten to remove the cultural pillar that our lives are built upon.

It is natural for an animal to address any perceived threats with the "fight or flight" method, and to react in a number of different ways. Some react with violence, some with hatred and venemous words, and some with arguments. The ability to deal with the stress is indemic within these fight techniques, depending on the comfort level of those that are utilizing them. They are simply methods of dealing with the fight technique.

So why such a divergent range of methods to deal with a conflict in ideas? Those that do not feel comfortable in their ability to defend their own experience in a rational way need to defend in an irrational way. This usually covers the venemous and violent discussions and/or behavior. At least, that as been my experience (and as such, my personal bias). Those that make rational discussions generally feel comfortable within their understanding to make counter arguments that can therefore defend their own position. This means that while a complete change in bias is not possible, at least the bias itself has been adequately defended.

So, now that we know the background, let's get to the meat of the discussion. Politics are perhaps the most public expression of personal beliefs, ranging from positions on abortion to road construction. Because it's so personal, it becomes a part of who we are. We want to be respected for what we know, and for our experience. When someone else flatly dismisses that experience, it damages the ego. That is interpreted into an attack, and envokes a response.

This is the circumstance the allows mankind to differentiate itself from the rest of the animal world. The opportunity allows us to rise above the base need to attack another because of their experience, their personality. But it's also the an opportunity for us to show ourselves what we are made of. How we react defines who we are in any given situation.

So let's look at the Operating System wars. People become insensed when they are confronted with an operating system that is not their own. Windows vs. Macintosh, Windows vs. Linux, RedHat vs. SuSE, and so on. If one platform is found by one group to be useful, they believe that their platform is the only platform that can be used. Keep in mind that the it is a bias based on an experience. Just as those who used AOL couldn't understand the rancor unleashed by those that did not, those that use Windows can't understand why someone wouldn't want to use Windows.

What's important to understand that the completed task is the most important, and not the process taken to complete the task. If someone uses Windows to browse the internet, or Linux, Solaris, Mac OS, or even OS/2 Warp, in the end the task has been completed. The operating is just a tool to get the job done, not the job itself. If someone chooses to use the Macintosh to render 3D animation instead of Linux, or chooses Solaris to run a video streaming server instead of Windows, it's their choice. And as long as it works within acceptable levels, then it's a good choice.

So, what is my point in this post? Simply that experience can be a misleading pillar while dealing with other people. It's the results of those experience, and the ability to acknowledge other biases, that makes a human being truly human. Without that understanding hatred and violence can reign, free to destroy all that makes us "civilized". That is my bias.