Black and White Thinking

From my perspective, one of the most destructive forces in creative processes is thinking in blacks and whites. Everywhere in America, there are examples of black and white thinking surrounding and confusing a huge amount of issues.

For example, gun rights.

Generally speaking, on the far left, the view is that gun rights should be restricted. People should be prohibited from owning guns.  No guns should be allowed due to their inherent danger.

On the far right, the thoughts are that as many people should be armed as humanely possible. Arm the teacher, arm the kids, arm employees, and, obviously, have multiple guns at every home.

In the media, it often seems as if these are the only two options available to the American public. Often, in conversations, people seem unable to differentiate between the above two positions and anything else in the middle.

This process stifles creative thought.

Instead, issues should be seen as such:

Arm Everyone ------------------------------------------------------------------- No Guns

All that area between the two issues is up for grabs. Oftentimes, politicians and thinkers are in fact arguing for somewhere in the middle. However, they are attacked and their arguments are reframed such that they appear to fall on one end of the extreme spectrum.

For example, President Obama might argue for tighter gun regulations to prohibit citizens with mental illness from owning guns. The conservative media might reframe this argument and say “Obama wants to disarm everyone”. When presented with the facts of what Obama actually said, they respond with “This is the first step! Obviously his final plan is total disarmament and this is the first step towards that end state”.

There are obvious logical fallacies with this line of reasoning, but people fall for this every day!

All over the world, there are issues in every aspect of society that fall prey to the black/white thinking practiced by humans everywhere.

Examples include the Police (police are either racist criminals or holy saints), drugs (drugs are either harmless or terrifyingly dangerous), war (inherently evil or completely heroic), and conspiracy theories (never true or always true).

What about all the middle ground? All the complexities that lie in between arguments? Polarizing different issues causes many of these complexities to be lost.

Oftentimes, the solution to a problem is probably somewhere in the middle. Going back to gun rights: the solution is probably not total disarmament or a higher influx of guns. Perhaps a good solution would be government controlled distribution of weapons through federally issued gun licenses. This process could resemble drivers education. Citizens could enroll in a lengthy course where they learn about shooting, gun safety, weapon maintenance, and engage in discussions about the ethics of gun use. Once they graduate the course, citizens receive their license to own a gun.

This process runs fairly smoothly when it comes to receiving a driving license. Why can’t the same process be used to reduce gun violence?

All of this is to illustrate that a good answer could be found in between both sides of the argument.