Unbelievable! Donald Sterling’s attempts to polish his image after his damaging remarks, revealed a man seemingly in the throes of dementia, espousing beliefs (and inaccuracies) disconnected from much of reality. Initially, TMZ revealed the private conversation which seemed to be the tipping point of a career of bigoted opinions that were expressed in business practices long before this personal conversation. This recent incident has allowed us to consider beliefs and free speech and the unintended consequences.
In the case of the tarnished Sterling, he does not seem capable of ownership of himself, much less of a team or business. He does not seem capable of understanding reality beyond his beliefs.
We are all guided by beliefs–some personal; some shared. Sometimes we do not realize the distinction between our belief(s) and truth. For some, belief means faith. Belief is also considered akin to an opinion or a chosen theory or principle(s) or creed. We live our lives according to our beliefs, whether they are political, spiritual, philosophical, cultural, or from personal experience. However, our beliefs are subjective– even those that are considered sacred. There is reality beyond our beliefs, and denying reality beyond our own beliefs is the source of disaster.
When individuals whose personal beliefs seem out of sync with our social norms and/or laws, we regard such individuals as problematic or possibly ill. It is the intersection of belief systems with natural and societal laws that allows us to interact and function. In fact, the basis of education is learning to understand beyond our beliefs. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge or information. It is also unawareness. If we live only according to our beliefs, we remain ignorant. And ignorance can be very costly.
We are in the midst of an interesting time in our culture when people’s personal beliefs are being rejected by boards of trustees, colleges, the NBA, and other private enterprises on both the left and the right. To be fair, it is not merely private beliefs that some have found offensive and rejected. The actions taken on behalf of such beliefs are what have offended and generated protests and rejections. The recent spate of protests and rejections of business and political leaders is a reminder to consider beyond belief. What is the real impact of our beliefs?
We look to evidence to confirm our beliefs. Have you ever considered whether or not you believe in evidence? This is what we do when we ask if one “believes” in climate change, as though science were an opinion rather than a systematic study of empirical data. Scientists evaluate data acquired through observation and experimentation. What to do with the evidence is another matter. Science is objective. Beliefs are subjective, even when shared. We are most effective when we are aware of our beliefs and their (our) limits. Then we can actually become educated and have greater capacity to solve problems, rather than merely complain about them or create them.
Our politics and our media have become enamored with beliefs and individuals who are prisoners of limiting beliefs (with limited evidence). It is time to live beyond belief.