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James Bream: Perspective changes everything

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When I read the P&J columnists, their backgrounds and  job titles I always feel like a bit of imposter as I start tapping away at my PC for my latest edition.

I see myself as a normal loon who just writes about random stuff and tries to make it interesting.

James Bream

I reckon the other columnists have big bookcases and wear tweed a lot and are basically a fair bit more impressive than me. I suspect they had better educations, read books and are generally more learned.

In all seriousness that is the perspective I have, it doesn’t bother me, I think I am pretty awesome in other ways so I’m not totally humble. I mean I am devilishly handsome.

There are a few very cool things about doing a column which have changed my views on people’s perspectives on things. The first experience was getting a complaint because someone has a massively different view from me.

That really surprised me but of course it shouldn’t have. That has happened a couple of times, the biggest one being a difference of opinion on the benefits of tattie picking.

A complaint is actually a real piece of praise in this context.

The second thing that is cool is folk writing to agree with you, that mostly happens when you pick up on observational stuff.

It’s remarkable how ashamed we all are about our idiosyncrasies or the things we think until someone else says they are like that too.

Others help change your view

At that point we feel emboldened enough to say ‘Yeah I also forget to clean my teeth until 11am too when I work from home’… Someone else being like you can change your own perspective.

It’s funny how really listening to people who agree or disagree with you can make you think differently.

The final thing which is cool is when people tell you what you should write about. This helps me form ideas and see or understand people’s opinions. I’ll give an example.

I’m going to call this contributor ‘Meldrum’, I don’t know why it just amuses me to think of this person with a posh name. Meldrum is convinced we are in the midst of an Orwellian attempt to control our lives. I grant that not being allowed to leave your house, being forced to wear masks, and being told which businesses can operate seems odd.

However, Meldrum seems to have forgotten another perspective. I’d say he might want to walk a day in the shoes of someone from the NHS to see if they see these controls as unnecessary.

Covid and our next steps are all about perspective there is no right way, only opinions so don’t become too entrenched! Finally, I think Meldrum looks like all action star Jason Statham whereas he sees himself as Harry Hill, perspective young man.

Jason Statham and Harry Hill.

Social media pitfalls

Social media is a horrific place for people shoving their perspective in your face without being willing to listen or understand other positions.

I recently got blocked by an old football colleague because I suggested the nature of his post was inappropriate, in my mind I’d still say I was right. He didn’t agree. We didn’t have the chance to discuss.

It’s important we all feel able to give our perspective but more important that we at least try to understand others. It is starting to feel like listening to other perspectives is a lost skill.

A further lost skill in this context is just ignoring stuff you don’t like. This guy didn’t like the fact that I challenged him so he blocked me, I don’t have an issue with that but he could have just ignored that comment or considered there was merit in my comment.

I don’t think our respective lives will be worse off for a lack of online contact to be honest, life goes on.

In an economics module I was reminded that Russia may seem like a bonkers place to us but typically we are taught about their actions with a Western mindset.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

We should remember their views are shaped by the fact that they are stuck right in the middle of the USA and China, that might make you think a little differently too.

I’m guilty of putting everything in the context of economics. Economic regulators try to create perfect operating environments (markets) which require perfect information and information asymmetry (which means everyone knows what each other knows).

This is unachievable but economists try to get there. So the moral of the story is that everyone should be more like economists like me… there is a disturbing perspective to leave you with.


James Bream was research and policy director at Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce and is now general manager of Aberdeen-based Katoni Engineering.

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