The Politically Incorrect Show - 18/10/2000
[Music - Die Fledermaus]
Good afternoon, Kaya Oraaa & welcome to the Politically Incorrect Show on the free speech network, Radio Pacific, for Wednesday October 18, proudly sponsored by Neanderton Nicotine Ltd., the show that says bugger the politicians & bureaucrats & all the other bossyboot busybodies who try to run our lives with our money; that stands tall for free enterprise, achievement, profit, & excellence, against the state-worshippers in our midst; that stands above all for the most sacred thing in the universe, the liberty of the human individual.
[Music up, music down!]
In 1994 I had the pleasure of interviewing one of my idols, tenor Jose Carreras, for TV3. At that point Jose had been in remission from leukaemia for about five years, after gruelling treatment for the disease that no one really expected him to survive. My final question to him was, "Jose, having very nearly lost your life, what's the most important thing you've learned ABOUT life?" He paused for quite a while & then said, "I think the most important thing is to be tolerant, to always try to put yourself in the other person's shoes when engaging in dialogue, before judging them." I thought of that yesterday as I heard Jews & Arabs on the IRN news wallowing in their enmity towards each other, luxuriating in the expectation that the killing would go on. This was hatred for its own sake, & it chilled me. I am not going to try to unravel this millennia-old dispute here, other than to observe that until the people in that region cease to engage in knee-jerk demonising of each other because of accidents of birth, no lasting peace will be possible.
I think of Jose's answer quite often. Note that he didn't say one should not judge another - he said one should make the effort to understand their perspective & context first. The philosophical movement to which I belong, Objectivism, has been rent asunder over how much lee-way one should allow one's adversaries before pronouncing negative judgement on them. I personally have no magic answer to this, especially since I have often been guilty of leaping to premature condemnation of others myself. But one thing I can say with certainty, with a background of many years as a professional interviewer, that there is not enough of, & that is the simple art of listening. Here I refer not just to Objectivists & libertarians, who tend to be an articulate & high-spirited bunch, but the population at large. You can hear it on talk-back, as people routinely talk over each other, each oblivious to what the other is saying. You will most assuredly encounter it in your everyday lives, & in many cases be guilty of it yourselves.
Recently some members of the Libertarianz Party were unwinding in my apartment. The decibel level was deafening, as everyone tried at once to make his point about whatever the matter of contention was. In desperation, I finally passed around my conductor's baton, decreeing that the floor would belong to whoever held it, & no one else. That worked for a couple of minutes, then the tumult & the shouting resumed. It was actually a delightful afternoon, memorable for its very boisterousness, but I was left marvelling anew at people's refusal to listen to each other. If the only voices we wish to hear are our own, why don't we just become hermits performing soliloquies?
When people ask me the secret of being a good interviewer, I say, "listening, listening & listening." Few things pain me more than to watch an interviewer proceed willy-nilly through his set questions, oblivious to the answer he has just been given. Sitting in this chair, even though I have very strong opinions of my own, I try to follow my own advice. If you hear me not doing it, pull me up. Making the effort to step into the other's shoes can actually be very enlightening & rewarding. If, having done so, you are persuaded by the evidence that the other party is evil, then by all means say so. But be sure that the facts support you, & that the other party is not simply innocently mistaken.
That's my little homily for the day - now the baton is in your hands. I shall, of course, reclaim it from time to time!
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