OPINION – Human beings tend to seek less proof for things we want to believe and to insist upon more strict proof for things we hope aren’t true.
For this reason, it’s wise to be more wary of those who tell us what we want to hear since they are in the better position to manipulate us.
This is particularly true regarding the use of stereotypes to disparage or marginalize others.
The great semanticist S.I. Hayakawa warned:
The danger of stereotypes lies not in their existence but in the fact that they become for all people some of the time and for some people all of the time substitutes for observation.
This past week, I had a prime opportunity to put the power of personal observation to work as I attended and broadcast from the World Congress of Families IX event held in Salt Lake City.
The gathering drew nearly 3,000 participants from more than 50 different countries with over 150 different speakers and presenters. Its focus was simple and straightforward: affirm, celebrate and encourage the natural family.
Each day featured a different theme that was centered in family. The first day’s theme was the value of life in all its stages and conditions. Day two explored the value of the natural family.
The theme of day three was overcoming family dysfunction and cultural disintegration. The final day’s theme was looking to the future.
Interspersed throughout the week were speakers and discussions that touched on the racial undertones of abortion, the beneficial and harmful influences of feminism, bioethics, cloning and euthanasia, and the economic and social costs of family breakdown.
Other topics included the distinctive roles of mothers and fathers, the role of moral and ethical values in education, the power of mothers and understanding how the sexual and cultural revolution undermines life and family.
None of these are light subjects but they were presented and discussed by parents, youth, lawmakers, religious leaders, scholars and advocates from a wide variety of cultural, religious and national backgrounds.
Stereotypes became meaningless as men and women sought common ground to address real problems that are affecting humanity worldwide. This is what happens when people are more focused on what they stand for than on what or who they’re against.
The gathering in Salt Lake City provided a strong emphasis on the necessity of working to change hearts and minds through a combination of courage, civility and genuine love.
Parents were encouraged to become more intentional in their parenting. They were urged to embrace the hard work and sacrifice necessary to have strong marriages and to raise confident, productive and secure children.
The challenges to realizing a successful marriage and family go far beyond the latest social imperatives and fads that are making headlines. Attendees were made keenly aware that the biggest challenges arise from learning to conquer our own selfish desires and to prioritize our highest values.
These are the foundational values that have been the bedrock of humanity’s finest achievements for thousands of years.
Conventional wisdom would have us believe that all who came before us were ignorant, superstitious and wrong and that we can safely discard their hard-won counsel without consequence.
Considering that we now live in a culture where the only thing regarded as sinful is the belief that right and wrong still exist, opposition was to be expected.
For weeks prior to the event, the World Congress of Families was accused of spreading “hate”–that magical unspecified predicate in which a mere accusation is treated as definitive proof of wrongdoing.
By labeling the World Congress of Families IX a “hate group,” opponents had hoped to frighten away anyone who might be receptive to its message. What exactly is meant by “hate” was left up to the emotional association of the audience.
This is a perfect example of what Hayakawa referred to as “word magic.”
People who believe in the superstition of word magic have a tendency to confuse words for things. Their goal is to get people to react to the frightening label and not to the reality.
In this case, the reality of the WCF9 was that many complex social, spiritual and economic issues regarding the natural family were visited by a highly diverse collection of leaders from around the world.
Their observable actions demonstrated that disagreement is not synonymous with hate.
Problems are not solved by those who arrogantly presume that they alone have all the answers. They’re not solved by simply applying stereotypical labels without having to demonstrate the validity of one’s assertions.
Problems are solved by people who are willing to face reality and to engage with those with whom they may have differences.
Bryan Hyde is a radio commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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