[symple_box color=”blue” text_align=”left” width=”100%” float=”none”] Maha Tazi is a graduate in International Relations and Middle Eastern Politics from the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD). She is currently working as a Project Consultant in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at APCO Worldwide and teaching part-time as an adjunct instructor in Philosophy at UOWD. Maha has a special interest in world affairs and gender issues. She took a Women Studies course for one year at Sciences Po Paris and worked with several civil society organizations that struggle for the advancement of women’s rights including Association Solidarite Feminine (ASF) in Morocco. [/symple_box]
“Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas”
Dubai, UAE—Mostly since I was able to comprehend it, this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt had been a true inspiration throughout my life.
Firstly because it taught me to always stay as far away as I could from negative people – and by that I mean ‘people who talk about other people’.
Besides being an immoral act, gossiping is unproductive and brings no added-value to the society. The reason for that, I believe, is because gossiping fails to bring about constructive feedback and criticism: Instead of sharing with the concerned people what they dislike or fancy the least about them, small minds tend to talk within closed doors and behind people’s backs, favouring the art of critique for the sake of criticizing, in the total absence of any lessons learnt.
Quite surprisingly also, smalls minds tend to be always surrounded by the same people they speak low about, condemn or criticize. Look around, you would never find an angry person surrounded by happy, positive people. By releasing negative vibes, small minds only attract more of the evil they weep about.
There is also a dangerous implicit in people’s tendency to gossiping: Vanity a feeling of superiority. The psychological implicit behind people secretly criticizing others on point X is because they somehow feel superior to them in X. However, as Ernest Hemingway once said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Instead of seeking satisfaction from looking upon others, people should rather aspire to constantly improve themselves in order to look upon their old self. That is the true meaning of ‘self-satisfaction’.
Somehow, Rooselvelt’s quote brought me to draw the following parallel between the caliber of people’s thoughts and the worthiness of their actions: The lowest worth level of any action would be to do nothing, which is the same as doing something unproductive, ie: discussing and gossiping about people. The mid-level level would be to do something useful, the equivalent of discussing events or happenings. However, the highest level of peoples’ actions would be to actually do something meaningful, which is linked to Rooselvelt’s part about discussing ideas.
It is always useful to know what is happening in the other corner of the world, what’s in the headlines of the news and which countries are going on war against each other while others are forming secret alliances. One could use the knowledge in a school quiz and it would make him pass; he could as well bring the same facts around a family dinner and it would make him look smart- which can always be also useful.
However, how one chooses to utilize this knowledge and make sense of it is what takes it to the next level and makes it meaningful. When you are no longer discussing happenings for their own sake and start reflecting upon them and their implications to the wider society, you get into the essence of the ‘event’ and you start discussing ‘ideas’. In other words, reflecting upon an event takes it from the level of mere ‘fact’ or ‘raw data’ to the level of ‘meaningful information’ or ‘idea’, which can in turn become an ideal.
Let me explain.
If for example, when discussing the latest happenings in the war in Syria, you raise the number of civil casualties which only last week passed the 220 000 death toll to suggest that the war cannot be happening anymore and that it has become the responsibility of not only the international community but of each and every one of us to stand up against the cruelties of the conflict and encourage all the parties involved to reach a common agreement, then you have moved from the level of discussing a mere fact which is the number of casualties to a greater idea which is to put an end to the war.
Let us always keep in mind that the last best way we can contribute to society at all is by doing nothing and staying in a state of inertia. The second best level is to do something useful either by the means our job, family commitments or any kind of ‘chores’ dictated to us by the society. The best level to contribute to society is yet to do something meaningful which aspires to ‘make a difference’ or enhance any kind of progress.
Today, I hope these few lines have been meaningful.