|Alone in a Crowd, a photo by vnduan on Flickr.|
Amid the celebration and consternation, one professional, whose core values and occupation are wrapped up in providing accessibility to health care for all, said yesterday that he was exhausted. He has fought the fight for a long time, and he said he has been working for a number of years in a setting where the movers and shakers in the community seem unable or unwilling to see the same value that he does. His motives are altruistic. They have nothing to do with usurping personal autonomy or installing the government as nanny to the masses. Yet he feels like he's constantly swimming upstream against prevailing opinion in his community.
It's not easy to be alone in a crowd, and it's especially difficult when the issue - it could be health care, religion, the role of the arts in schools or even who's the best football team - is near enough to the bone that emotions become inflamed by it.
Is discretion truly the better part of valor?
Part of the issue for this person is that although there are others around him who share his perspective, they are also tired of hearing the opposing view. So they have adapted to the situation of feeling outnumbered by keeping their mouths shut and thereby avoiding arguments.
Certainly there is a time and place where discussing controversial and potentially emotionally inflaming topics is not wise. But are these people inadvertently helping to strengthen the very perspectives that they oppose by not speaking out? There might be other people in the vicinity who are also reluctant to feel alone in a crowd, not knowing that they are not, in fact, alone. If the individuals had the courage to make themselves known they might find heretofore hidden compatriots who would join them in the sharing of their views, and potentially influence those individuals who don't really know the facts, but who are jumping onto the loudest bandwagon.
Black, white, and shades of gray
Too much certainty ("I know everything about it and you won't change my mind") creates aloneness. Certainty about one's values and standing up for them is a sign of character, but in the complex world in which we live the facts are always filtered through our attitudinal goggles. "Truth" in the mind of one person can be complete fiction in the eyes of another. Black is rarely black, and white rarely completely white.
When you have too much certainty you are not open to information that conflicts with your presumptions. If you lean left you search for information that supports your views, and if you lean right you find pundits and authors who support that perspective. All of the commitment to a current way of thinking without the benefit of discussion digs bunkers of partisanship. Then the warriors shoot at one another, with the citizenry caught in the crossfire.
Taking their word for it
Who is making the determination about how you are going to think? Who are your sources? In court heresay is not acceptable evidence, yet in the public discourse second-and third-hand information, deftly spun for consumption (see the above section) is swallowed hook, line and sinker by a public that's too busy or too something else to do its homework. Who are you really representing when you're representing? Do you know what you're really saying, or are you simply repeating something that sounded good at the time you heard somebody else say it?
Being alone in a crowd because you stand for something can be an admirable position. Being part of a crowd for no good reason - not so admirable.