As the Daily Prompt suggests, we seem to think of a stubborn person in the way that we think of a stubborn stain; both of which refuse to be ignored or to disappear quietly. Stubborn people hold onto their opinions steadfastly and with conviction. Whereas we tend to think of the easy-going person as a gentler soul whose statements are like breezes that lightly ruffle our hair. But is being a stubborn mule a good thing to be?
Connecting stubbornness with strength while connecting easy-going natures with being light might lead us to form the opinion that we should be trying to connect with our inner Stubborn Mule. Mules are strong, admirable creatures that can carry heavy loads. I’d imagine that the opposite of a stubborn mule would be an Easy-Going-Duck. Ducks are pretty chilled out. They don’t have to carry anything. They have a lot of fun splashing and ducking about. So, should we embrace our Stubborn Mule, and shun our Easy-Going-Duck?
History is full of people who have been steadfast in their beliefs. Martin Luther King dreamed of equality between black and white people. Emmeline Pankhust believed that women should be able to vote too. Margaret Thatcher was a lady who was not for turning. Vladimir Putin outlawed “homosexual propaganda” in Russia – a ban on the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors – in 2013.
Here is an example of a belief that is stubbornly held by many parents and teachers in modern-day Britain:
Corporeal punishment of children in schools should not happen because it may cause mental or physical harm to the child.
However, this is an example of a belief that would have been stubbornly held by many parents and teachers several decades ago.
Corporeal punishment of children in schools is an effective means by which to discipline a child. Children need to learn what constitutes good and bad conduct and appropriate use of a whip, cane, belt or hand instills in the child a respect for the rules.
For all the stubbornly held beliefs that are supported by strong evidence, there are many stubbornly held beliefs that are backed by little or no evidence. Many stubbornly held beliefs are prejudices by another name. For while the Stubborn Mule inside us will not be shaken in his or her convictions, and this strength of character can be incredibly admirable, the Stubborn Mule is not to be admired if their convictions have no ground in fact, and are there to support prejudices or lazily researched opinions.
Thankfully, people can be Stubborn Mules when it comes to fighting for the rights and protection of those suffering from depression, whereas, unfortunately there are those who can be Stubborn Mules in their conviction that people with depression are lazy, weak people who really need to pull their socks up, stop navel gazing, and get back to work. The first example of stubbornness is of a considered conviction to help vulnerable people who are suffering in silence, while the other is a lazy prejudice that does not take into consideration anything from the growing body of research into depression.
When it comes to Easy-Going Ducks, the same picture emerges. While an easy-going nature can seem like a coward’s way of not facing up to the injustices in the world, or of not bothering to form a judgement, this is as skewed a picture of things as the view that Stubborn Mules should always fight until they get their way. It is not always the case that a Stubborn Mule is a strong warrior fighting against injustice, while an Easy-Going-Duck is a cowardly push-over who refuses to face up to things.
Contrary to popular belief, the Easy-Going-Duck can be a diffuser of tensions and arguments, and can serve to make the world a calmer place. The Easy-Going Duck is usually a good listener too. The Easy-Going-Duck might be the mode that we go into when we are considering all angles of a debate before settling on a position. Furthermore, it is not the case that one is either an Easy-Going Duck or a Stubborn Mule; both of these characters reside in everyone. A world full of exclusively Stubborn Mules would be a perpetual war-zone. A world full of Easy-Going Ducks would be a very strange place too, as it would be full of people who don’t really have an opinion on anything.
The point I’m trying to make is that being stubborn, in and of itself, is not necessarily an admirable quality. Stubbornly held opinions are like stains in that they can be hard to remove, but they are also like stains in that they can be a blight on the intellectual landscape, hindering progress and causing harm.
The degree of admiration that we have for Stubborn Mules should be proportionate to the degree of support and evidence that can be garnered in support of the stubbornly held conviction that is on the table.
So, if we examine our belief about something and find that we don’t have a good reason for holding onto it, we should tell our Stubborn Mules to take a rest for a bit, and embrace our Easy-Going Ducks, so we can examine all angles of a debate.
This post was written in response to this Daily Prompt
Are you stubborn as a grass stain or as easy going as a light breeze on a warm day? Tell us about the ways in which you’re stubborn — which issues make you dig your heels in and refuse to budge?
Photographers, artists, poets: show us STEADFAST.