In this season of good will to all men, I think a discussion about open-mindedness is appropriate. Open-mindedness is a wonderful thing, I'm sure most of you will agree. I think exactly *what* is so good about it though, and sometimes even what it is, can sometimes be lost sight of. There certainly seems to be a willingness amongst people to equate it with political correctness, and as far as I'm concerned at least, that just isn't correct. No particular set of beliefs, in fact, could accurately be renamed 'open-mindedness'.
Open-mindedness isn't about *what* you think but *how* you think, and while being open-minded about issues might lead to particular conclusions, for example that race or sexuality have no bearing on the morality or general quality of a person, one shouldn't necessarily assume that a person is open-minded because they believe those things, or even that they believe those things *because* they're open-minded. They may well only believe them because they were brought up to do so, and when given the opportunity to question them, for example in a discussion or debate, refuse. (Note - to question a belief is not to change it, but merely to rationally assess it. A man who decides to be racist having lived a life to the contrary is not automatically more open-minded than a man who continues to not be racist. But he might be.)
To be open-minded is exactly what its name suggests - to open your mind to other ideas, thoughts and beliefs, and never reject them out of hand, no matter how strongly you hold yours or how offensive or ludicrous these others might initially seem to be. It's to be humble; to assume nothing you believe to be fact (except in the most trivial of situations, like the grass is green and 2 + 2 = 5, or you'll just end up... well, dying probably) and everything to be opinion, because if you take something to be a fact, you have no reason to question it.
As far as I can see, open-mindedness in this sense has two very important roles: to shape better the world around us and - if it can be considered a separate role - to aid any search for the truth. The first of these is of course very general, so I'll leave it to the imaginations of anyone who's still reading to consider. It's the latter which concerns me most anyway. In part, I think it's already been covered, or at least alluded to. For example, a man who very strongly believed that the Earth was flat would never have accepted that the Earth is round had he been narrow-minded. Even worse, if everyone had been similar in that way (or at least the majority), it never would have come to be accepted as fact, and other, more important facts would never have been ascertained.
There's another reason open-mindedness is important in this regard, which I think has more relevance to this forum and was indeed the inspiration for this thread; that is the matter of insults. If all of our debates degenerate into slanging matches, because the participants *do* hold their beliefs as fact (and as such consider anyone who opposes them to be an idiot), then debates will cease. No one wants to be insulted, and if they feel that every time they express an opinion, that's what will happen - they'll cease to express their opinions. Even worse, if they feel that thinking an issue over inevitably leads to them expressing their conclusion, they may stop thinking things over altogether. That might sound ridiculous, but I often feel like just giving up considering issues of any importance, for fear that if I do, I'll express a view on the matter and everyone will hate me for it. My views might not be of any significance at all, but others' might be, and they might feel exactly the same way as I do.
And since we're talking about me, let's talk about some of my threads. In the past, I've been accused by people on here of being sexist, racist, homophobic, immoral, anti-vegetarian (actually, I'll accept that one), stupid and probably all manner of other things. Apart from the already noted exception, I don't think I am any of those. That doesn't mean I misrepresent myself on here either. I very rarely do, and even more rarely do I do it in anything other than passing. If I start a thread on here making some sort of moral claim, then I believe what I'm saying, and while I know that a lot of what I say will be inflammatory (and on all of those occasions immediately regret saying it), I only ever do it in the naive hope of initiating debate. 'All black men are lazy' is more likely to start a debate than 'Men of all race are equal'. Actually, no it's not - it's just going to lead to a thread of 200 insults, but in an ideal world (one far more ideal than I'd ask for from either you or myself, don't worry), it would.
So this is a plea: Let's all be more open-minded, not just on here but everywhere we go in our lives. (And if it turns out someone is actually racist, let's kick them in the nuts. Because everyone knows only men can be racist.) Let's not insult each other and call each other stupid (except when talking about music), but instead analyse and try to understand exactly *why* our opponents think the way they do. And most of all, let none of us ever be afraid to express an opinion. That's what I'm doing. That's what I'm trying to do, anyway. I'm just trying to be the best person I can. Sorry if I've caused any offence along the way.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas and continues that into the new year.