One element that profoundly complicates any discussion is censorship – leaving out relevant data from a discussion. This censorship may be the product of political correctness, of ideological or religious radicalism or of any other identity bias that values its assumptions more than actual events that are taking place. The selection of data can occur consciously, as a way to avoid cognitive dissonance for instance, or as a result of plain egoism. But often it occurs unconsciously as a result of the effect of power structures, group pressures and life events that shape our unconscious interpretation of our experiences in life and translates them into automatic, consistent semantics. As a result, we easily accept patterns in reality that include some data and leave out other data.
Another element that complicates discussions is the use of container concepts, comparisons, metaphors, hyperboles and other constituents of totalitarizing uses of language that add irrelevant data to a discussion. These additions cover data with a blanket of interpretations that are unjustly passing for relevant data.
The essence of having a valuable discussion now is not to leave out relevant data while not adding irrelevant data. Unfortunately, naturally, this sounds easier than it is. Every description of reality starts with a subjective selection of both frame and details. A good first step would therefore be to describe the frame that we use to interpret a situation, or the patterns that seem obvious to us, and thus make transparent how we individually separate relevant from irrelevant data. While stating our selection mechanism we should be aware at the same time that this point of reference is completely subjective and far from flawless. A second step is to refrain from totalitarizing language instruments.
A third step is to consciously allow for inconsistencies and ambiguity. We need to acknowledge that sets of data are hardly ever sufficient to constitute a one-dimensional narration of a situation, let alone of a series of events.
The three steps do not automatically assume that all opinions are equal and that we should embrace an absolute relativity or fatalistically accept our incompetence to understand anything sufficiently. Rather, we should meticulously collect as many data as we can and spend time listening carefully and with respect to individuals – both witnesses and those striving to interpret reality – who transparently state their point of reference, who allow for inconsistencies and strive to not leave out relevant data nor add irrelevant data. We can safely ignore all other individuals.
This is our playing field: we include all relevant data and include all those who are inclusive and we exclude all irrelevant data and exclude all those who are exclusive.
Shall we now talk about Cologne, immigration, racism, sexism? Shall we now establish how to find as much relevant data as we can while avoiding adding irrelevant data? Shall we now try to interpret what happened? Shall we now pass judgment? Shall we now act upon these judgments and decide who to support and who to punish? Shall we now decide how to support and how to punish?