The Paradox of Opposites

The paradox in life is that for us to experience the highs in life we must also experience the lows. Opposites form the basis of many philosophies. Ancient Greek philosophers often articulated the needs for opposites. Simple opposites such as good/evil, sweet/sour, happy/sad, fast/slow- these are what allow us to experience and appreciate things. Without evil we would not understand good, without sour we would not comprehend sweet or without sadness we cannot appreciate happiness. Yin and Yang principles are similar – Each experience of life depends on an  opposite to exist. The debates of opposites and why they are essential have been raging for thousands of years. But still our society wants everything to be the same.

Opposites are what create diversity. Diversity is what makes up our society. We have fat and thin, Black and White, Male and female, gay and straight – and of course disabled and non-disabled. For the Deaf who don’t want a bar on disability let us say Deaf and hearing. The complexity and diversity of our society is what makes it interesting. The diversity is what motivates us. We see someone with more than us and we strive to be that way, for better or for worse.  Sometimes, like last night’s Australian Open Grand Final Tennis, we can only sit back and admire just how brilliant and healthy humans can be. We might never reach that level but knowing it is possible can motivate us to strive for that little bit more to make our lives more fulfilling.

Yet even though we know that opposites and diversity are what make us tick we still, as a society, try to create a society where EVERYONE is the same where conformity is the norm. Nowhere is this more obvious than Societies obsession with curing disability.

Perhaps I think too much but this train of thought began with my friend Craig’s Facebook status. Craig provided a link to a petition in the US.  The petition was to call a halt to stem cell experimentation aimed at wiping out deafness. The Deaf Community in America have called on President Obama to ban such experimentation. They believe it is genocide and an attempt to wipe out the Deaf community.

This brings rise to a number of opposites that are in play. Deaf and hearing is an obvious one. Sick and healthy is another (But we are not sick you can see the Deaf community screaming at this one. ) Then there is of course the opposite of desirable and undesirable. Clearly there are many hearing who feel deafness undesirable whilst the Deaf see it as desirable.  The more extreme of the Deaf will see hearing as undesirable and deaf as a state of wellbeing. The paradox of all these extremes is that we need them all. We need them so that we can measure, understand and retain what we value.

Imagine if all people felt that deafness was bad.  We would be going headlong into eradicating deafness. Possibly we would have the extremes like Hitler where there was enough belief in a superior state of being to create a philosophy of one is BEST. Hitler believed in a ONE BEST and in striving for a ONE BEST believed that all those seen as less superior had to be wiped out. The Jews had to go and the disabled were to be killed at birth. Only the so called SUPREMELY white and healthy, unblemished were to survive. Or in Hitler’s words the MASTER RACE – A race of white super beings! The rest were just subversive beings to be eliminated or to serve the needs of the MASTER Race.

And for a while it seemed Hitler might get his way as he marched his merry way to take over the world and eliminated millions of so-called undesirables. BUT it was not to be. WHY? Well because there was an opposite.  The opposite was, of course, the view that we are all equal and no one person is better than the other. And as one the opposites rose to challenge Hitler’s ascendency. Sadly millions died in the process. Perhaps these deaths were necessary if only to show just how abhorrent Hitler and his views were. Imagine if we had all thought like Hitler and the opposing force didn’t rise to challenge him? What sort of world would we be living in? Thank god for opposites even though its mind boggling that there were, and still are, so many that actually agreed with Hitler’s despot views.

And so we have people that want to wipe out deafness. There are people that want to create a society of super healthy unblemished people who fit the norm. The problem is that in this debate the line between good and evil is not as quite clear as it is with Hitler. You see all the people in this debate are right. They are all striving for a better world.

Last year Dimity came in for flack. She enraged the Deaf community with her views that deafness could be eradicated from our lives, “just like polio” But is Dimity an inherently bad person? No she is not. She believes absolutely in the philosophy that she promotes. The paradox here is that Dimity, by coming out and making such extreme statements, aroused the passion of the opposites. So enraged were the Deaf and their associates that they voiced the opposite view using whatever was at their disposal in the media – Websites and blog-posts, TV and Radio, newspaper columns all were alive with the debate. In fact Dimity did the Deaf community a huge favour – she aroused a sleeping giant and allowed society to see that there was another point of view. If Dimity had remained silent what might have happened? Well for a start millions of Australians would never have known that there was, in fact, an opposite view. Opposition to Dimity’s views would have been mute. The Deaf community would have been one step closer to its grave.

And this is the case with the petition to ban stem cell experimentation. It arouses a sleeping giant. It brings other views to the forefront. But what we should not do is see proponents of Stem Cell research as an evil. They can grow limbs for amputees, cure those with spinal injuries from horrific car crashes and eliminate painful diseases and conditions. Of course there are many who will say this is not ethical, that it belittles those with a disability and makes them seem undesirable. But how many Deaf out there would jump at the chance to be cured if they unwillingly found themselves a paraplegic? It is not black and white. We may not agree with the views of others but it is these opposite views that allow us to realise and value what we have.

Where we go wrong is to become extremist.  Like Hitler we become despots. People begin to advocate violence. This happened with Dimity where people began to circulate offensive graphics of Dimity with blood pouring out of her and with a gun at her head. All we need is debate that is calm, civil and passionate. But let us not mistake passionate for violence and extremism. Be thankful for the opposites like Dimity and stem cell researchers because it is through them that we are allowed to exist – But that does not make them wrong and us right – it is just a state of being – the Yin and the Yang!