Thursday, January 31, 2008

Yes, No, and Off? (The Opposite of War is not Peace)

Some people say that the world is “black or white” or that an answer is either “yes or no” but I disagree. Some say that the opposite of war is peace. But I say there is another opposite, which is cold war, which is actually opposed to both war and peace. Let me explain more.

Here is an example. Look at a light bulb. It is either off or on, right? Well, for the most part, yes. But there is another option other than off (off=no) and on (on=yes). This option is, there is not light bulb in the socket to be engaged in the first place.

The same goes for war, peace, and cold war. In war, people are openly engaged and fighting. In peace, people are openly engaged and being peaceful. In cold war, there just isn’t an open engagement, just like a light bulb that isn’t in a socket in the first place. A person might say this is a bad example and give all kinds of points of how in a cold war countries are subvertly engaged and really hurting each other, but that is besides the point, I am just trying to make a general point about life and not the fine subtleties of cold war.

To me, what I am trying to say is that with any issue, with any question, the answer is not ever as simple as just yes or no. Sometimes the answer is one of absence of yes or no. For instance, a person might ask, “Are you a Republican or Democrat?” and then a person can say “Yes or No.” But a third option exists and that is one of non-engagement, or the answer of, “I am not registered to vote,” or maybe “I am Independent.”

Really, when I was younger I use to think that many situations in life were either “yes or no” type of situations. Now I realize that everything is “yes, no, or not engaged.” And if I have not made things confusing already, there is one more thing that needs to be considered, which is “How much?” So for instance with a light bulb that is on, how much or how often is it on? Is it a 45 watt or 90 watt? Is it on everyday all the time, or only an hour a day? These are questions of intensity. If two countries are in peace, how peaceful are they? Do they trade a lot or a little? How long have they been trading? These are important “intensity” questions because they describe just how real and stable the peace really is. The likewise for war, “Are they killing a lot of men?” and/or “Have they been killing for a long time?” The same goes for the Republican or Democrat issue. Maybe a person is a Democrat and always votes. Maybe they vote Republican sometimes. Maybe they don’t ever vote. These are intensity issues and are also very important to consider above and beyond a simple yes or no perspective.

Say another example could be that somebody owes you money.  There are not just two options, but at least three broad options.  The first is of befriending and charming them in hopes of winning them over to pay you back.  There is another of scaring them and threatening violence so they will be forced to pay you back.  The third option is to do neither and just wait hoping they will pay.  While these options listed are not the total list, I gather most options can be labeled as either positive interactions, negative interactions, or non-interactions.  And of course a person might try a combination and mis-match of these too, but at the root, there are really just the three options.

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