Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Practising the state of being impartial

Brave New World (The Star)
23 February 2012

Impartiality is a simple word and many of our problems can be solved by just appreciating and practising this term.


IMPARTIALITY is defined as being not biased for or against any party; free from favouritism or self interest.
It is a fairly simple concept, one which I think most people would be able to understand.
Of course, there are times when one is incapable of being impartial.
If you support a particular team, you will consider your team as the greatest, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Once I saw a banner at some dinky little football game with the words “Brighton Hove Albion: The Best Football Team in the World”. Really? Better than Barcelona? And where is Brighton Hove Albion anyway?
It sounds like a brand of bread. “A loaf of Brighton Hove Albion please”.
Having said that, I understand the impartiality of BHA fans, in fact I am equally guilty of being totally biased and prejudiced when it comes to supporting my football team.
But at the end of the day, this sort of blinkered attitude does no harm apart from the derisive laughter and taunting we get from far more successful clubs.
The same can’t be said about other situations however.
Impartiality, and perhaps even more important, the perception of impartiality is vital in some circumstances. Sometimes it just makes for a better end product.
A political debate for example must have an impartial moderator and preferable questions to the debaters ought to come from that moderator. Even questions from the floor should be directed through the moderator who can then choose the best ones.
That is why he is called the moderator. He moderates.
In academia, we are expected to be impartial. This is in order for a better quality of research to be produced and following from this better teaching.
Often I have been asked why I am critical of the Government especially since I work in a so-called government university.
Well, I think I work in a public university paid for by tax payers’ money and one of my responsibilities is to be critical of laws which I think are unjust; with academic reasoning, naturally.
If I don’t do that, then I will be perpetuating a wrong and I won’t be doing my job properly.
Those who work in the civil service however, have different responsibilities because they are directly answerable to the elected government and their job is to implement the policies.
In that sense, they have less freedom in their jobs compared to academics.
However, they still have to be impartial because their duties are to basically carry out the decisions of those who are currently their bosses. They are expected to be impartial regardless of their own political leanings.
If they think the policies are poor, they should have the right to voice their concerns but ultimately they have to do what is required of them. Besides, if their bosses are rubbish, they can be voted out, civil servants can’t.
In my last example, impartiality is absolutely imperative for without it, there can be no law and order. I am speaking of course of the police.
In the past few weeks there have been uncomfortable stories of thugs attacking people because they are saying things which they disagree with.
For some this is grist for the mill in their argument that public displays of political expressions must be controlled.
That is a spurious argument. The wrongdoers are those who disrupt the freedom of expression, not those who are simply practising their right. Any trouble will only be made worse if the police are not seen as impartial in their dealing with the situation.
Their job is to enforce the law equally, and not only for those who are deemed a threat to the current political masters.
This applies whoever the political masters may be. It is only where bias or prejudice is perceived, does real trouble erupt.
Impartiality is a simple concept. Perhaps our problems in this nation are not so intractable. Many can be solved by just appreciating and practising this simple little term.
It is only when we have lost faith that such a basic idea can be ignored, then we know that things are truly bad.

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