This blog was posted to be read in December. The system failed to distribute it. Sorry. I hope everyone had great holidays and your new decade is off to a good start.
Wisdom. In my little book “Being a Proverbial Student” I encourage students to seek knowledge, pursue understanding and hopefully gain wisdom. I have the same encouragement for myself. We should all be life-long learners.
In my experience, wisdom can come from reminders about knowledge already gained as well as new learning.
The rapidly changing times make it important for me to keep learning and being open to reminders. One of the critically important reminders for me is what I call scope (or perspective.)
The ability of social media to have a single event go viral makes remembering scope critical to wisdom in the modern world. Often, I find remembering scope to be difficult and I need constant reminders of the idea to have any hope of understanding, much less wisdom.
Existing Beliefs. The problem is particularly difficult if the event involves preexisting beliefs because of what psychologists call confirmation bias. For example, viral pictures of a single example of welfare fraud, brings outcries in those who are against welfare. The care given to millions of children and elderly of all races is overshadowed by a single bad example.
When one person misuses a gun, antigun activists overlook the millions who own and respectfully use guns
A stupid statement by someone on the left or the right and the other side quickly shares the statement with the inference all other people on that side hold that view.
One Christian or one church does something stupid and people generalize to all Christianity. The same generalizations occur for other religions.
Tragedies. We, (me included), have difficulty seeing the bigger picture, the scope of an event, when the single example is very troublesome tragedy and widely shown. The viral pictures of mistakes by policemen, is a good example. Scope (perspective) is particularly important with regard to the misperceptions of police.
In our local media the police chief and sheriff reported difficulty hiring and keeping staff. One factor is safety. Another factor they cited was the media portrayal of law enforcement.
Recently I had a very thoughtful discussion with friend who is a policeman. He shared some of the struggles of being a policeman in today’s world of political correctness. Because of the overcrowding in the jails in his community and disproportion of race in drug arrests, his department is no longer making drug arrests.
He talked about the increased risks to police men and women as well as the homeless and those who work in missions. He lives and works on the streets. He does not write about it in an ivory tower or behind a newspaper desk. His facts are the hard facts of the street. He has been shot at. He knows first-hand the fear involved in even a simple traffic stop, much less a domestic abuse complaint.
Police work in perspective. Over the holidays, police officers in Mobile posted a picture of what they called a homeless quilt—very insensitive and wrong. A deputy in my home state of Kansas made up a story of being called a pig at a McDonalds—very stupid and wrong. Not in the category of mistakenly shooting an unarmed person but still wrong.
When police mistakes occur, we can be outraged, but we must take the time to put them in perspective: With one million law enforcement officers in America, if they each only have one incident with which to deal each day—that would make each incident a one in a million situation. That gives a very different perspective to a single event. It does not reduce the tragedy or pain resulting from an incident. It does limit the generalizations we should make from it.
I am not addressing any issues of police profiling or brutality, I am trying to show how difficult maintaining a perspective is and the importance of scope of an incident is for understanding and wisdom. First responders of all types see a world most of us have never viewed. At the same time we decry any tragedy and work toward social justice, let us remember the difficult task of police work and keep it in perspective.
My final thought is to keep perspective about the season. Christians celebrated a birth, not presents. Hanukkah was a time of rededication. Especially in these times of heightened anti-Semitic activities, let us work to see the peace, hope and joy of the advent season fulfilled in how we worship and treat each other this next year.