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Saturday, March 1, 2014

BEING NEUTRAL, BEING PRINCIPLED AND TAKING SIDES


There’s nothing wrong with being neutral unless one pretends to be neutral when one is not. And by the way, being neutral is to favor neither side in a given conflict or situation.

There are people, who assume that being neutral is to remain silent and not blame any side or to blame all sides with equal measure. That’s wrong in my opinion.

Given two belligerent sides A and B, one is neutral when one doesn’t  ascribe to A or B. To be neutral is to avoid being part of either B or A given their principles, creeds and what they stand for. Being part of a given group makes one normatively compromised when it comes to the protection of a given entity, say, A.
What takes primacy is the integrity of A. Truth is accepted only if it furthers the interest of the members of A. Any truth that goes against the principles generally accepted by A is either rejected or decontextualized. Being part of A therefore holds one hostage in regard to what one has to say.

Being neutral, in principle, should free one from such constraints. One is therefore free to point out all the mistakes committed by both sides. This is not about balancing the blame. It’s about being clear-conscienced when it comes to mistakes of the two parties. While the two sides want to win over one another, a neutral body has no such interest and has no reason to withhold the general truth as perceived.

A neutral person can blame A more than B given some instances, or blame B more than A given some instances. And more importantly, a neutral person acknowledges when B is right and also acknowledges when A is right.
BEING HELPFULLY PRINCIPLED

However, if one doesn’t have grounded principles, then it becomes very difficult or even impossible for one to be neutral. In such instances, one’s claim to being neutral is only a ploy to win favors or to hide one’s true intent.
And being principled is not something you just pick up once and drop at will. If true, it becomes part and parcel of one’s normative outlook and approach to issues. It manifests itself in consistency or inconsistency.

Being impartially principled means being able to withhold one’s emotional state. One is able to deny oneself the chance to be publicly emotional for the sake of the principles one holds dear. This sounds like an idealism many people will find difficult or impossible to envision or accept. A good example of a principled position is to blame those who make mistakes regardless of who they are. Such a person can even blame family members when they make mistakes. Another principled position is to criticize those who kill civilians whether those killing civilians feel justified or not. The position is: “Killing civilians is wrong regardless of one’s motivation.”
An unprincipled person says: “I can’t blame my relatives” or “x is justified in killing y.” Someone might say the latter two statements are also principles and a person maintaining them is also principled. The question then becomes what sort of principles are they and to what extent do they lead to societal or communal harmony?

TAKING SIDES
I don’t see any problem with people taking sides, A or B. However, it’s naïve to approach issues with all-or-nothing attitude. A given person, x, can identify with A in opposition to B. However, x can still acknowledge when y in B is right. x in A can still oppose y in B because the overall policy position of B is something x doesn’t agree with. Acknowledging some facts y in B maintains would not compromise x membership in A.

However, there is a situation in which one identifies with a given party and classifies what the other party does as wrong regardless of whatever anyone says.
So y in B dismisses everything x in A says even when y knows x is right. The same thing applies when x in A dismisses what y in B says even when B is right.

The later situation can never engender a cohesive society. We can see therefore that taking sides is not the problem. It’s how x and y apply facts and their truth values that becomes potentially bad.
The risks with taking sides; however, is the emotive attachment to a given party, which compromises one’s value judgment and ethical outlook. One becomes desensitized to the suffering of others and one uses one’s pain to justify the harm one inflicts on others. The enormity of one’s pain becomes the meter through which one measures situations that relates to the said pain.

It therefore takes real character and strong humanity for x to completely self-identify with A but still acknowledge when y and other members of B speak some truth. X ascribes completely to the principles of A but still open minimally to what members of B have to offer. X in this case makes a visionary citizen.