Objectivity is a difficult thing. I am particularly bad at being objective as because I am a very rational person, I often delude myself into believing I am being objective when of course my rationality is as subjective as any emotional or instinctive approach. Just because my political, religious and other beliefs are things I have reasoned through as part of my refusal to take anything at face value does not give them any greater objectivity than unreasoned beliefs. The reality is that none of us have a better grasp on reality than our fears, desires, experiences and hopes allow.

While I have an opinion on just about every topic under the sun, I am careful to try and see the other side of the story. As a result I am able to appreciate that there is infinite complexity about the world. In simple terms, I greatly admire the work of Oliver James while disagreeing with his politics. For those unfamiliar with him, James is a Child Psychologist turned writer, journalist and television documentary producer. James has a conviction about the role of parenting and is unpopular in his refusal to soften the facts to allow for working mother sensitivities. However, James is pretty left wing. Thinking he is both brilliant and feeling icky (ok so not all of my beliefs are rational) at his wider society views is not some act of doublethink but rather an appreciation that I haven’t got it all figured out just yet.

I think what is important is to be ok with that. Where people go wrong is when they are threatened by shades of grey and contradictions in their views. The fiancé jokes that I am not a people person. I like my own space and am at my happiest when sat in front of my laptop, books and notes spread about me and inspired by an idea. And yet I choose to work in a customer facing role. Perhaps I like to be challenged, perhaps I crave a creative job over one that fits my introverted character, I don’t honestly know but it is working out ok.

I’ll put my hands up and confess I know relatively little about Julian Assange; mainly because I am not comfortable with Wikileaks. This is not to say I don’t think important work is being done but rather that I see a time and a place for revelation.

Context is a key issue here and lest I begin to sound like I’m turning fascist I’d like to relay a conversation I had with a friend this week. I’m not sure how it happened but we moved from work chat to crimes of unspeakable scale. She has been to Auschwitz; I have been to the Killing Fields in Cambodia. I said that my travelling companion had been a new friend and that there was an intensity to the experience that meant I couldn’t share it with him. We went about the site mostly apart and never discussed it afterwards. My friend said she had travelled with an old friend but that her experience was similar. There’s a part of your soul that is exposed at such a time and it is beyond many of us to be able to share that kind of intimacy.

For the record, I have no time for those that deny the Holocaust or suggest the actions of the Khmer Rouge were exaggerated. Sick crimes were committed and such actions need exposing and punishing.

So what is my problem with Wikileaks? In the nicest way possible, it is the stupidity of the masses. Before you bite my head off look at the numbers of people that voted in the general election as compared to Xfactor. Call me elitist but most people lack the necessary understanding to comprehend the actions of large businesses and governments. In my column Don’t hate the player, hate the game I questioned the problem many take with wealth without appreciating their views were based upon their own level of contentment. Similarly there is a frightening lack of thinking through.

My ex husband once dropped into conversation that he disagreed with people being paid to work for a charity. I asked him to expand and he explained that it was terrible that people who donated money were funding wages and not helping the charity. Whilst reeling I pointed out that money required managing and that where a lack of knowledge had been problematic in the past was when aid groups had delivered purchased grain that people consumed raw and tore their stomach lining; there was a place for not only managing delivery but promoting charities through marketing to build funds and the sad fact was that we all need money to live and to suggest that only the independently wealthy could work towards an important cause was absurd! Today I’m proud to work for a charity but the bottom line is that I have rent to pay and if a charity can’t pay me a salary, I cannot work for it.

To translate this to Wikileaks, my time studying politics has taught me how little I know. There are infinite layers of relationships between states and organisations and each has a multitude of etiquettes. Much as I have grumbled about the Malaysian government (my specialist area is the political economy of Southeast Asia and my PhD looked at development strategy in Malaysia), I appreciate that until you know Malaysia it is deeply unfair to criticise. I only lived in Kuala Lumpur for a year; one city in a diverse nation, largely existing within expat society. I am woefully under qualified to pass judgement on the complexity of the dual legal system (there is both secular and Sharia law) and while this doesn’t stop me voicing opinions (not least in my thesis) realising my limitations is sufficient that there is a lot I know that I see little value in sharing with the masses (although my most recent academic paper was a touch dramatic, running as it did with the title ‘Islam Hadhari; A Policy for Domestic Terror’).

Julian Assange strikes me as egotistical and paranoid. I think he sees adulation over truth and will take that at any cost. Of course I have no idea whether the claims against him for sexual assault hold any truth but a power hungry ego who dismisses the convention of law and order strikes me as being the kind of character that would not only assault women but see so little of it that he could deny it even to himself.

Am I objective? Certainly not, but I hope those in support of Assange at least consider the possibility that he isn’t a humanitarian. Nobody is all good or all bad, he could be just as great as they believe and also guilty of sexual assault. That’s the way it goes.

A favourite song of mine: Rosy and Grey by The Lowest of the Low.
12/18/2010 05:47:31 pm

Hm. I posted the comment to the wrong article. Please see the one in the "what makes a good column".

12/21/2010 12:49:46 am

In which case I shall reply there.

12/23/2010 02:55:56 am

I'll try commenting on the right post this time!

While I agree that his world view is perhaps a bit "James Bond" it isn't entirely unjustified. The world is a dangerous place littered with secrets, lies and misdirection (not exactly breaking news though).

As for his (perceived lack of) objectivity that is problematic. Not that he lacks it, but that you expect it. What do you expect him to be objective about? In my subjective view there is no such thing as an objective view as no-one is able to put away their personality and dispassionately view a topic from "above" as it were. There are levels of subjectivity and people's views will be narrowed/limited to varying degrees, but at best we can hope to reduce our subjective "glasses". Objectivity is only valid as a theoretical concept as far as I understand it.

12/23/2010 02:57:57 am

I just reread the post. We apparently agree on the whole subjective/objective thing. Teaches me to not post while tired!


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