Home > The Monday Musings Column > perception versus reality revisited

perception versus reality revisited

Perception is belief. How you see things is the truth as far as you are concerned and it will stay that way until something comes along that might change your mind. It is a trait that we humans will probably always have.

It is fine as long as we are open to new ideas and are prepared to be proved wrong. If we are not then we are bigots and that is one of the problems with society today; there are too many people who are not willing to have their beliefs challenged.

I grew up through a world of change, not just in what was happening in the post WW2 period, but also because we moved house every couple of years or so. By the time I left school in 1969 it was my fifth school in 12 years. That revolving cast of teachers and other adults that helped form me fell broadly into two groups. One group lectured me in their beliefs whilst the others gave me their opinion, but pushed me to think for myself.

That carried on into my working life where there were many people who were dogmatic about how things were or should be done, the “My way or the highway” type, but there were also the rarer people who would ask “Why” or “What happens if…” and these people were also open to allowing me to challenge their thinking.

I learnt that to be certain was a dangerous thing. Weigh up the available evidence and make your decision, but be prepared to explain why you had come to it and never be afraid to allow others, especially subordinates, to offer their thoughts.

Today in society it seems that informed debate is dead. Social media appears to dominate people’s thinking and if you do not line up with the way others see things you are wrong. In a time when people’s rights are trumpeted everywhere the fundamental right to free speech has been lost. Offence is taken freely, but the way that we react to something that we hear or read is our own choice; we do not have to take offence at anything and personally I don’t, no matter how abhorrent what has been written or said is to my beliefs.

Hatred is everywhere as opinions become more polarised and topics are dealt with at a purely superficial level and, sadly, it is at that slim veneer that people’s perceptions become fixed. What people today seem to believe is not critically thought out, it is based around sound bites on social media which is the last place to be looking for informed debate. Because people gravitate towards sources that support their way of thinking and so shut themselves off from anything that might balance their opinions.

There is no short term fix to this and eventually there will be a swing the other way. It may not be in my lifetime, but it will come. I hope that there is not too much damage done before it happens. There is an old adage that The Truth Will Out and one day we will get back to a place where there is more congruence between perception and reality than there is now.

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