Letters to the Editor

Big mahalo

Susan Kang’s MidWeek cover story about Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Hawaii was thoughtful, accurate and compelling. It captured the essence of what our organization does, and more importantly, of the impact we have on children, their families and the community-at-large. It was a pleasure to work with Susan and photographers Tony Grillo and Nathalie Walker, and an even greater thrill to see the result turn out so well.

On behalf of BBBS Hawaii, our board, staff, volunteers and the children and families we serve, please accept our sincere appreciation for depicting us in such a wonderful manner.

Dennis Brown, President/CEO, Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii

B>Why we believe

Editor Don Chapman’s column “How We Come To Our Opinions” begins with the question: “When was the last time you heard something that made you change your mind on a particular topic?” I suspect most of us came up empty.

Mr. Chapman quoted something I put at the bottom of my emails: “Now that my mind is made up, all I need are some reasons.” It sounds tongue in cheek, but I intend it as serious commentary. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who has devoted his career to studying the origins of morality, maintains that people make moral judgments quickly and emotionally, and then search for reasons to justify their decisions. After a 40-year career in engineering and management, I believe the same is true even in areas that lend themselves to systematic and objective analysis. I once had a boss tell me to conduct an engineering study to “prove” something he had already taken a position on. Of course, this is common in politics where distortion and deception are used to make uninformed statements and illogical positions sound rational after the fact.

Many of the problems we face are complex, and as lay people we have to simplify things just to get our head around them. But once we arrive at a notion that makes even the slightest sense, the human tendency is to stick with it – despite later contradictory evidence. After we make our position known to others, we don’t dare change for fear of being labeled “flip-flopper.”

Once positions are taken, all kinds of psychological gymnastics kick in. One of my favorite (true) stories is about a man who was convinced he was dead. No amount of rational argument with his physicians would convince him otherwise. When asked if dead men bleed, he responded “Of course not!” When cut, he looked at the blood and exclaimed, “My God, dead men do bleed!”

James B. Young, Ph.D. St. Louis Heights