A new year may be a chance to start afresh. We do not know what lies ahead (apart from consummating Brexit, at long last) and we tend to look at the past for what the future holds, but we should instead look to do better. The past years have contained ill-will, strife, foolishness. This year I would plead for peace in better understanding of each other.
We do need to look back to see what errors and failures of understanding there have been, what dishonesty in discourse and refusals of reason. If we understand these, then we can move to understand each other, if not to agree.
That paragraph contains a major flaw itself though: “we need to look back”, “If we understand”, “we can move” – but there is no “we”. There are individuals. There is you for one, me for another. I may start to understand more, or you may, but the majority will not and so the strife continues. Worse still, if by application of logic and reason a large number of opinion-formers and commentators reach that stage of understanding as to frame themselves within civilised, respectful discourse, they still face the incoming wave of deaf hatred from those who do not. What then are they to do to win anyone over?
To try to pin down in useful bullet points the reasons for unreason is going to contradict itself. To understand is to perceive patterns, as Isaiah Berlin observed, but he knew that the perception is illusion: we create patterns because it seems to render the chaos into a reasoned entity, but the reality is still chaos. Nevertheless, we make these patterns, and convince ourselves that they have truth behind them, and it is restful to have wrung this order from chaos, so a disagreement, a suggestion that the pattern-making is false, is a deeply personal attack.
Unless the mental barrier can be broken, the false pattern-making disrupted, then mutual understanding and acceptance of diverse opinions and emphases cannot be achieved.
There is a great deal more of this to be examined and mined from the writings of wiser man, not least from Isaiah Berlin and of course from Thomas Hobbes, the greatest of them all. It is late though, on a lovely New Year’s Day, and I can return to the subject later. I hope I can add some little help to the effort of mending a broken society, but even if I cannot, I beg everyone to make that effort and to promote civil peace, which as Thomas Hobbes observed, is by divine writ placed along with righteousness in the eyes of God.
For now though, may I wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.