Perspectives have power. How you see the world will shape your opinion and galvanise you into action or subdue you into apathy. How you see the world will depend on your family, friends, your culture, your diet, your upbringing, your biology and especially what period in history you were born into. Two people can have entirely different perspectives and die for their beliefs. But which, if either, is right? And can they be wrong at the time but right when viewed from a new angle during another decade? Yes, of course they can. For a while anyway.
At the moment we have a few large shocks rippling through our planet. The Covid-19 pandemic can be seen by some as a global cleansing. By others, a divine retribution, by yet others as the worst thing to have ever happened to the human race. To some we need to do more, to some much less. It's just humans being human. Having and sharing their individual perspectives on the world. We're just being us.
In general, when we have formed a strong opinion we stick with it, no matter what. We are subject to 'confirmation bias' - we look for others who agree with us and for facts that fit our views. Being brave enough to look at something from another viewpoint and to weight a counter argument on its merits is quite rare. That's because we often become identified with our opinions and changing them would mean admitting we were wrong or distancing ourselves from people we care about or the group we find affinity with. Ultimately we risk undermining our sense of self. But it is possible to change your opinion, if you cultivate an open mind and challenge yourself and your thoughts.
Trying to take in every sides of any argument, taking in the broadest angle and working out my own viewpoint means that often I don't have a strong opinion. It's not that I don't care, it's just that I see so many sides. This sometimes makes me quiet in a group of people who are getting heated over something or other. I just can't become that person, the one who you feel you can't actually engage in because they'll take it too far. You know the ones :-)
To an extent, we've been trained this way since birth by everything and everyone we come into contact with. Many benignly, some not so much. Corporates have used emotions to sell products through advertising since marketing became a 'thing'. They realised this at the turn of the last century, a chap called Ed Bernays wrote a very influential book called 'Propaganda', it showed how psychological manipulation was being carried out through public communication. It's very relevant a hundred years later because we humans are still the same.
But the science has gone further. We are digging into people's brains, not just looking at their behaviour. Lots of money and research has been invested into 'Neuromarketing'. People have been put in MRI scanners and shown things to judge the brain's reaction to them, to see how much pleasure they actually cause to arise in our minds or how much we're influenced by them. Not much is left to chance any more.
The media too relies on emotional responses, because they lead to eyes on screens, clicks on advertising and ultimately money. It's not all the media's and marketing executives fault though. As a species we're hardwired to find likeminded people to huddle with and share our values. It makes us feel safer. So from an evolutionary view, we will always find difference in each other, accepting it and celebrating it is some way off unfortunately. Maybe it'll never happen, the way we are has been a super successful strategy, it'll take something drastic to change us from the aggressive species we are to a more placid, easygoing one. And of course, there's governments using all sorts of tactics to persuade people to behave or believe one thing or another. To mould your perspectives to match the objectives of the day. Note I'm not saying these things are right or wrong, but they are realities.
I've taken my perspective into space this week. There's pretty much universal agreement that we're making this planet unhospitable for ourselves and other species. We're looking at that from the perspective of being human and living on earth. But from the perspective of the universe, the Milky Way is being way more annoying at the moment. It's movement is destroying a smaller galaxy nearby, the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy, by pulling it towards it and tearing it apart. Who knows how many planets will be rendered lifeless by that? I know I know, it's not something we can do anything about, it's way out there right? But can we do things about our planet?? We'd have to change so much about ourselves and that seems just as out of reach to me.
I suppose one of the reasons I'm quite chilled about all things is that my perspective from a young age has been one of acceptance. From loving astronomy and looking up into the sky with a sense of wonder all my life I've long realised how small and insignificant we are in the greatest scheme of things. How on the cosmological scale we are only here for a very short time. That is as it should be and I love that I was ever here at all.
All things change, all things have their moment in the sun. All things are transient. The earth, the stars and yes, our perspectives would too. Given time.