You can’t both-sides everything. You can’t live your life that way.
Yes it’s possible to see both sides of every contentious issue. You’re supposed to be able to do that; it’s a sign of intellectual maturity. If you can’t see both sides of an issue your relationship with abstract concepts is too rigid, and you’re probably lacking in empathy. It’s just a basic part of growing up to learn how to stand in other people’s shoes and see where they’re coming from.
But just because you can see both sides doesn’t mean you should live your life as though they’re both equally true, or as though they both have equal merit. If you want to have a truth-based relationship with reality it’s not enough to see both sides; you’ve got to grapple with it and figure out which side is more truthful, which side has more merit. You’re neglecting a whole dimensionality of understanding if you just leave it at “well I can see both sides so I have no responsibility to pick one”.
There’s a type of personality that has a strong attraction to feeling like it’s above the fray; like it’s detached from the disputes and dichotomies of the common riff raff, looking down at it all from a lofty place of transcendent understanding. Such people are, without exception, insufferable wankers.
If you want to be an authentic human being, you’ve got to get down in the muck where the humanness is happening. It’s good to understand that all concepts are relative and that none contain absolute truth, but this necessarily means that some concepts are more relatively truthful than others. And we need to be real with ourselves about that.
And if we’re honest with ourselves, none of us live our lives as though all things are the same and all concepts are equally true. We don’t get up in the morning and pour ourselves a cup of bleach, we pour ourselves some coffee every time. When we want to go to the store we take a specific route to get there, we don’t just head out in some random direction and hope for the best. We all make abundant use of relative truths in our day to day lives.
So why should issues like Israel-Palestine be any different? There are a lot of people who’ve heard both sides of the argument and are content to just leave it there with a shrug, either because they don’t want the social backlash that comes from from picking a side, or because they don’t want to experience the cognitive discomfort of facing difficult truths and re-orienting their worldview, or because they just enjoy feeling smugly above it all. None of those positions are worthy of respect, in my opinion.
People are dying. Our western governments are helping Israel kill them. This threatens to expand into a much larger war in the middle east, which could end up affecting us and people we know very directly. If you’re working hard and raising kids or whatever and have no time to grapple with issues of foreign policy that’s one thing, but if you’re just psychologically compartmentalizing away from this issue for your own comfort that’s quite another. That’s just living the life of a coward.
This isn’t even that hard. Israel-Palestine is easily the simplest and most straightforward conflict I’ve had to cover in the time I’ve been at this commentary gig, and the Gaza massacre in particular is even easier to understand. It doesn’t take long to get lucid about this thing.
If you’ve got the time and the psychological wherewithal to engage this subject then you should do so, and you should do so until you have figured out who is more right and who is more wrong, because this is very important. Get down off that fence and come join the rest of us here in the muck. Come and be an authentic human being.
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