I find it hard to talk about politics with strangers. Especially online. You never know what to expect in terms of political leanings and more importantly temperament.
I am more timid than the average person but I suppose most people are similar. We make small talk with new acquaintances for a good reason. After we have gotten more familiar with someone, it becomes harder for us to paint them whole by what they believe.
For a while though, things work differently. Many people are routinely outraged by whatever disaster is the latest news. We are in a constant state of gloom.
Not to say there is nothing to be outraged about. But we are often doing it in a way that only increases the distance with people we disagree with. We don’t give people the space to change their minds. If our message is that “you are a fool to believe X”, we just give people incentive to prove that they are not fools.
We also don’t give ourselves to change our minds. It is good to have convictions but to believe and act as if that we can only be in the right, is a recipe for a flame war, not healthy debate. And that is exactly what has been happening. We are a lot like supporters of sports clubs. Any judgment we make is being colored by what team we are fans of.
The result is that we are so caught up in defending our teams from naysayers that we don’t sincerely criticize them and often bend the truth in their favor.
Most news sources are not helping either. What facts we are getting is wildly different, depending on our preexisting beliefs. We consider sources that agrees with our preexisting beliefs, to be accurate. It is more profitable and safe for media to preach to the choir. Governments and other authorities encourage this as well by supporting those who agree with them and suppressing their dissenters.
And so the polarization marches on.
I have to add that not every word uttered is worthy of debate. There are people who claim the irrational, due to ignorance or malice. This makes it even harder to stay on topic and sift the truth. I sincerely don’t know how to dismiss utter nonsense and be diplomatic about it.
I feel that this is not really a brand new development. Society probably has this cycle of weaving between extremes of intolerance and apathy. I just wish that we could arrive at a better place soon without learning our lesson the hard way.
Wishing doesn’t solve anything though. For now, I’ll start by putting forth my convictions without alienating others. This post has been an attempt at this.