Not Always Black and White

Not everything is black and white. This is a phrase I find myself repeating a lot in pretty much any discussion. Very often, when we look at things, we see that the things we agree with, the things we like and the things we understand as being white. Good. Honest. True. At the same time, we see the unknown, the wrong, the dissenting opinion, as being black and false and evil. But that’s rarely the case. There are always oddities, caveats exceptions to rules and laws. Nothing is ever clear cut, nothing is ever black or white.

Equinox day form
Picture not related. It’s just black and white and looks nice.

Let’s take gambling for example. Some people might think it’s perfectly fine. Some people might think it’s evil. But there are many forms of gambling. After all, spending $2 on a Mann Co. Key to open a crate might be harmless, but gambling savings away on horses certainly isn’t. Even that Mann Co. Key though might not be considered harmless as it may cause unhealthy habits in children who might not know better.

Even things that are often universally considered evil or black might not be so. Killing someone in cold blood is definitely evil, but what about manslaughter or killing in self-defense? Is it right to condemn a man for the death of another if he was just trying to protect his family? Of course not. It’s not always black and white. In fact, it rarely is.

Many people though will say it is. “Self defense should always be exempt!” and “all murder is wrong!” are common arguments. These arguments though very often end up slipping on the slippery slope fallacy. The number of times I have seen absurdities like “national healthcare will lead to communism!” or “no one should be allowed guns ever because we can’t be trusted!” or whatever is insane. Going to extremes doesn’t help your point unless you can prove it is an actual thing that happens. After all, if national health services lead to communism, then why isn’t Europe full of communist states?

Of course, things can get messy. Abortion is a good example. There are so many different paths and offshoots and dissenting opinions that it’s hard to make your own choices. But the messy and hard-to-discuss problems are the easiest to paint as black and white but also the hardest. You can scream as much as you want that abortion is the same as murder but if you do, you are intentionally blinding yourself. There are so many nuances that you have to look at things on a case by case basis. But even then, most of the time, just letting people have abortions is probably safer, healthier and cheaper in the long run. Still, that’s a discussion for another time.

The thing is, I am 100% guilty of leaning black or white too. Just the other day, I published an article about how self-help is a load of bollocks that preys on unsuspecting people who mean well. That’s not true at all. While there definitely is a huge amount of snake oil and predatory goings on, there is also plenty of genuine help to be had. It was wrong for me to paint all self-help under the same black brush. I should have framed my argument better.

At the same time though, you can’t look at everything as grey. “Both sides are the same” is rarely ever true in a discussion and you can risk being “centrist” in a place that has no room for centrism. In the aforementioned discussion about murder, you either make murder illegal or you don’t. There is nuance, but if you think there is a middle ground on whether killing other humans is right or wrong, then maybe you need to take a step back.

And sometimes there are cases where things are 99% black or white. Like vaccines. Vaccines do not cause autism. There are 1% cases where vaccines might cause other problems, such as illness or allergic reactions, but as with everything, you need to go through things case by case. With vaccines though, there is ample scientific evidence that vaccines are safe. If anything, the whole pro-illnesses-we-nearly-eradicated movement is a prime example of bribery and money getting in the way of science. In this case, it is mostly black and white, but the grey areas are because of unforseen health issues like allergies or genetic illnesses rather than the other side being wrong or having an agenda.

Heck, not even black and white are purely black and white. I mean, I do a lot of design work. There is a huge difference between the black in RGB and the black in CMYK. In fact, there is a huge difference between 100% K and a black made from 100% CMYK. White is a tad more universal but white in RGB is made from 255 red, blue and green, while white with CMYK is made with 0% CMYK.

Design and colour science aside, black and white themselves are never true. There is always an exception. Always some form of dissent. And whether we agree with that or not, we need to keep our minds open. But at the same time, don’t be stupid and assume that, because a thing is mostly black and white, that any grey areas or the opposite opinion is automatically right or wrong.

Even now, this very discussion lacks true black and white. My point is, don’t automatically dismiss something as black or white until you properly inform yourself.


Medic, also known as Phovos (or occasionally Dr Retvik Von Scribblesalot), writes 50% of all the articles on the Daily SPUF since she doesn't have anything better to do. A dedicated Medic main in Team Fortress 2 and an avid speedster in Warframe, Phovos has the unique skill of writing 500 words about very little in a very short space of time.

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