Lately I have been getting into trouble with several people on discussion boards. I start-out thinking it is a logical, fact-based discussion. I try to use scientific information and studies and findings based on other people’s research or personal knowledge based on my own study. Before the discussion is over, it moves from discussing an issue to a personal attack, name calling analysis of my “immovable position”. People seem to become offended when I question their information and logic. In a discussion, I expect more than feelings and inclinations. In a discussion, I will ask about facts and dispute information or simply point out the flaw in people’s argument. However, when it deteriorates into the personal realm, I retreat, as I realize there is nothing more to discuss.
I was having a conversation last week with someone who said that Belizeans do not accept studies and information when it is presented to them from a fellow Belizean; however, if a foreigner would present the same information, they would be more open to it and more willing to accept it. I am inclined to believe such is true. Prior to elections, Belizeans saw an onslaught of overnight “expert” pollsters who were actively conducting unscientific polls. When I offered my opinion, or asked for scientific data to make a determination, it became a source of contention for some people. I think that Belizeans are not fact loving people. Many people argue points clouded with feelings and emotions, even if good scientific research suggests otherwise. Belizeans dismiss good scientific or expert information as biased, agenda based, unreliable or just unacceptable because it offends their belief system. Instead of examining their own failed logic, they dismiss experts in the field of study and conclude the study is faulty with no supporting evidence. I have seen people dispute information based on the heading of an article without actually reading the article. However, if you dare question positions and information source; and if the person is unable to defend their position, they will attack you as a trouble maker and assert personality defects as opposed to addressing the said subject. It is a phenomenon I have been noticing in many discussion forums.
The information age created a crisis for Libraries everywhere. Suddenly people were no longer conducting research using libraries and as such the information superhighway initially caused libraries to close and book stores to close. Now guess what? Libraries are now making a comeback as the information superhighway is now a cesspool of bad, confusing, and misleading information; creating a generation of pseudo experts reinforced by Wikipedia. This is the age of information and with so much information out there, people are unable to filter out the good from the bad information. As a result, people begin accepting information that supports their position regardless of source or credibility. Imagine spending thousands of dollars to study a subject, to have someone Google search a topic and use Wikipedia to dispute information.
Wikipedia can be a good source to help start a search for information, but it is NOT a reliable information source and just about any Tom, Dick or Harry can update Wikipedia. Case in point, last week I was having a discussion with someone who decided to weigh in on the Trayvon Martin case and update Wikipedia. At no point did the person ever review the basic 911 tapes to form an opinion. His entire opinion was based on opinion pieces that he read from other people, rendering his opinion useless in the matter. However, he updated Wikipedia and many people are likely using his opinions as fact. When searching the internet, there is plethora of opinion based, biased based and non-scientific based information available through Google, Bing or any search engine. When searching a subject, the results will not tell you whether you are getting back reliable information, it is merely giving you back information based on words you put in your search.
Belize has a wealth of intelligent people, but as Belizeans we need to learn to respect people’s expertise. We as Belizeans need to understand that someone who is an attorney, doctor, engineer, Ph.D. and Master’s degree holders are not experts in every subject; however, they are experts in their fields of studies. An attorney with a LLB or JD should have the basic understanding of the laws of the country or state they studied in; a doctor is an expert in medicine etc. We need to start appreciating that people who study for years to gain degrees, knowledge cannot be undone by one internet search. And we need to learn to disagree without becoming disagreeable or personal. Just because someone is an expert doesn’t mean that they are always right. However, when disputing information, use reliable information to support your argument. Which brings be to my next point. We don’t know to effectively argue in Belize.
We engage in debates to get our points across without appreciation for the other side point of view. When our points are failing, we act offended, reduce the argument to derogatory and personal comments. We refuse to examine our weakness in our argument, instead it is just easier to be rude and disparaging with our comments yet we sit and speculate why young people cannot work out their differences! Our society is a reflection of us! We are petty people! Yes I said it!
We seem to be at a stalemate in our development in Belize. Never before have we had so many experts and yet it seems that maybe jealously, immaturity, pettiness, and negativity have hampered our growth. We need to read some more, we need to spend time researching information, open our minds to experts in the field, accept we don’t know it all, respect differences and encourage healthy debate. We need to grow up Belizeans and get over the tender egos that inflict us.
Finally, my last advice is that politicians are never a good source of information; like Wikipedia, you should use the information as a start and not as a conclusion to form an opinion. My hope is that Belizeans can behave with civility and decorum in discussing our future, because we are creating the framework for our children and right now, the future is not looking good when adults are still behaving like a bunch of bickering, temper tantrum throwing 5 year olds!