On the surface it seems like a very obvious and innocuous suggestion: people should be polite when discussing divisive issues. Generally speaking, people should be nice, but that’s not something you can force someone to do and do genuinely. I have tried and my cat still hates me. People are the same way—they should have the ability to say and express whatever they feel without the fear of being chastised or exiled if they truly feel strongly about something.
When you don’t interact with people who passionately disagree with you, you create these insular echo chambers that aren’t there to challenge your assumptions or preconceptions. It stops being about the actual ideas and more about what team you identify with.
It’s not an easy cycle to break. It’s hard to step outside of your comfort zone and question these long standing beliefs you’ve had all your life because once you do that, there’s no going back. Everything then becomes a subject for debate, including your identity if the way you identify yourself is through your ideas, and sometimes that can lead to an existential crisis.
What if Edward is actually really bad for Bella? She deserves better than that sparkly jealous creep, but what am I to do with all these team Edward t-shirts? I can’t wear them anymore. Now you have to throw out your whole wardrobe and it hits you—if I can be this wrong about my choice of attire, so who’s to say I won’t be doing this again with my next wardrobe?
This is by no means an easy thing to do and it can be quite painful, but once you get past all the pain and the fear something important happens: you realize just how little you truly know. A perfect example of this is quantum mechanics, something Richard Feynman, a prominent physicist, claimed no one, including him, . It’s one of the most unintuitive scientific disciplines yet the reason we’ve made such progress in it is because of our willingness to dispatch with even the most fundamental aspects of our reality.
Regular people don’t do that. We cling to these ideas because they’re how we define ourselves and that in turn defines our social ecosystem. Here’s the good news: it isn’t our fault. We’re running on hardware that’s 200,000 years old. When humans evolved into the species we are today, we lived in a completely different environment. Our survival wasn’t based around empiricism; it was based around our ability to work together to survive. If your group was unstable then so was your chance of survival since it’s a lot harder to survive on your own than amongst family and friends. So, it’s perfectly natural to want to surround yourself with people you find agreeable since at one point in our evolution having a socially cohesive group was a matter of survival. However, this just isn’t conducive to finding any sort of meaningful answers about the world around us.
You’re never going to get rid of that tribal mentality, just look at how many people fight over Apple vs Android. People will always disagree and sometimes they wont be polite about it, but I don’t believe that’s enough of a reason to completely write them off. To disregard someone like that is to say that you already know what he or she has to offer and it has no value, which is an incredibly arrogant thing to say about anyone. It may not be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Take the time to talk with someone you don’t like, you might be surprised.
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