Sunday, April 27, 2014

Let's just clear the air

I keep seeing the arguments online going the same way they always do, and while I seriously doubt anybody who needs to hear this ever will, I'm going to say it anyway, just on the off chance one of them might be listening. Sorry if it gets too long-winded.

I just want to say this, to anybody who may disagree with me on anything I say, political or otherwise, online or in person, whether it's about gun rights, abortion, religion, social welfare, climate change, vaccinations, boxers versus briefs, or whatever. To everybody who wants to tell me I'm wrong:

Good. I welcome it. Hearing differing viewpoints helps me to inform my own.

Just do me one favor. Talk to me like you have the slightest iota of respect for me as a human being. Don't call me a sheep. Don't call me a drone. Don't tell me to wake up. Don't tell me to check my privilege. Don't tell me I'm living in ignorance and blindly accepting whatever lies are being fed to me by whatever evil conglomeration you think controls the distribution of ideas. Don't talk to me like I have to be some drooling human-shaped slug with no capacity for complex thought or observation to possibly disagree with you on some point that you're so incensed about.

This may come as a great shock to some of you, but I'm a person. Yes, a real actual person, just like you. It's true! The world is full of us! We live in the world all around you, going about our lives, and there's usually a lot more to us than meets the eye. We have our own thoughts and feelings, virtues and vices, hopes and regrets, just like you do. And just like you, the way we look at the world is shaped by what we have experienced, and what we see in the world is shaped by the way we look at it. Yes, really!

As so many people exist all over the world, each living their own lives that are uniquely their own, experiencing things that other people may not, it should come as no great surprise that people will often form unique opinions of things they see in the world, informed by their own observations and life experiences.

Information is not uniformly distributed across all people all of the time, and so different points of view are inevitable. The fact that someone else doesn't see an issue exactly the same way you do does not mean they're a barely-functioning clump of flesh with eyeballs that only possesses just enough intellect to post on reddit and perform their day job without walking into traffic or drowning in the shower because they were facing the shower head with their mouth open.

The irony is that people I hear accusing others of being mindless sheeple generally want those people to accept whatever argument they have to offer without question, which would in fact be a mindless thing to do. It's almost as if criticism and disbelief are the marks of ignorance among people they don't agree with, but should you then criticize and disbelieve the people they disagree with, suddenly it's the mark of brilliance. It's like they define "thinking" as "believing what I do."

There is this troubling notion that if two people didn't reach the same conclusion, only one of them could be thinking logically. It's rarely that simple. Logic is a digital system that we try to apply to an analog world. There are too many variables, too many unverifiable premises, and generally too much missing or false information for most real-world problems to be broken down in perfect logical terms. We can all agree that if A is True, and B equals A, then B is True. We can't all agree that murder is never justified, or what the federal income tax rates should be.

From time to time, I may say something that flies in the face of your viewpoint, and it may well be something you believe in very strongly. If that very act of disagreement upsets you, I'm sorry to have made you unhappy, but all I can say is too fucking bad. No matter how cherished an idea may be, it's still an idea, and ideas are meant to be shared and challenged. They're worthless otherwise.

If a belief is so important that hearing an opposing belief incites anger, then we should be making an effort to convince the other person that our belief is better. You know what never convinces someone that they're wrong? Yelling. Insults. Violent hyperbolic rhetoric. In my entire life, I have never had my mind changed by someone who told me I was stupid for thinking the things I think. It just doesn't happen.

Why do we lash out so vehemently when we feel that people are wrong? Because it makes us feel good. Because we have a fight-or-flight instinct telling us to get mad, and because our culture romanticizes the idea of battling to defend our ideas, our values, our honor, our pride.

Fuck pride. Pride makes us treat other people like enemies to be destroyed instead of peers to be convinced. Pride tells us to compete instead of cooperate. Pride makes us shun whatever is different, creating a division between Us and Them. Pride separates, weakens and deludes us all. Pride kills.

So once again, I'm calling for everyone to let cooler heads prevail. If someone says something that upsets you, that you think is wrong, understand that they're still a person, and reached that conclusion much the same way you reached yours. Find out why they believe what they believe, and see if sharing your ideas can't change their mind. In the end, they might even change yours, and that's a good thing. Every day you find out you were wrong is a day you get a little wiser.

Okay? Can we please be decent to each other now? I don't want to have to write another one of these. This one's too long and boring as it is. Another one would just be worse.

I'm going to bed now. Peace and love, my dear friends. Be civil, but never stop arguing.

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