Let’s think about this before we start watering the crops with Gatorade.
Everywhere I turn these days; it seems as though my feeds, the television, the newspapers – and everything that can even be vaguely called media – is spewing geysers of vitriol. It’s disheartening at best, generally wholly demoralizing, and soul-sucking at worst. If we aren’t to be afraid of our neighbors, then it’s mutually assured destruction – if you believe everything your feeds are feeding you.
What infuriates me about this situation as we sit in our echo-chambers, is the absolute laziness from which this originates. You see something that reinforces your worldview, point the finger across this manufactured isle, and you let your feathers get all ruffled up.
I don’t know about you, but I was raised with the notion that pointing fingers is rude. Tenuous assertions are made everywhere. Everything is everyone else’s fault – doubly so for those that are different from us.
See, human nature is relatively tribal, and it is effortless to fear that which is different from us. We fear what we don’t understand – at one point this helped keep us alive. Cultures that are different from ours can be difficult to understand and full of nuance. We default to interpreting other people’s actions through the lens of our own experience. But the prescription we are using fundamentally flawed. Aware of our tribal tendencies should it not be shameful that we cling to them like some badge of honor?
As we white-knuckle our way through this age of information overload, we are also defaulting to painting our world with exceptionally broad brushes. We are gorging ourselves on garbage information, stagnant beliefs, and hatred.
It’s a trap, so please stop hopping into it so enthusiastically. So many news cycles are devoting to telling you what to fear next. The entirety of my adult life we’ve been rattling the cage of security and safety. If I were to believe the summary of what has been in the news the last 15 years, I’d have no choice but to conclude absolutely everyone and everything is out to destroy me.
Ever come across the concept of fake it till you make it? Or, life goes in the direction of your thoughts? Or, manifesting destiny? Think about it for a minute.
In the age of information, we are behaving like a bunch of ignorant buffoons.
It needs to stop. The longer this continues, the worse it gets. At times it appears we have reverted to petulant little toddlers stomping because someone looked at our toy. Luckily a possible solution is pretty simple and comes with two tiny steps.
1. Ask some fucking questions. Ask a lot of them. No, not the accusatory “are you an idiot” kind.
Try to understand how they came to the viewpoint you oppose. Don’t try to change it. Seek to understand. Take a deep breath. Yelling has rarely (if ever) influenced someone to change deeply held beliefs.
All you have to lose is a little lack of understanding, and maybe a few minutes of your life.
2. Empathize. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Especially not after you’ve asked some questions.
Bonus round. In this world with so much hatred – what’s to lose from a little compassion?
Stop force feeding your opinions on everyone. Make people feel heard. Ask them questions. Then encourage them to do the same. Maybe just maybe if we do some positive reinforcement for the select few who read past the headlines and ask some well-formed questions the tone of the god-awful conversation might change. Maybe, just maybe, instead we can start to see that even those that differ from us the most, are still infinitely more LIKE us than we thought.
There’s no excuse for not asking questions.
Rome was not built in a day, and one conversation is not going to change the person’s mind. Focus instead on planting a little seed. Show by doing, not telling. Rise above your tribal instinct.
We are all walking around with the entirety of human knowledge and understanding in our pockets – but somehow we aren’t using it for good. Instead preferring videos glorifying the worst in ourselves. Or consuming conversations and headlines that focus on the petty things we have to hate about each other.
And the irony is, the more divisive and radical we become – the more extreme and radical things that are born of it. To paraphrase Bertrand Russell – extremes are born of extremes. So why not change up the conversation a little bit? I mean, at their core, if you strip away the flawed metaphors – every major religion is trying to tell us to treat each other well, and believe that there is something more than our petty squabbles. So many people before us that we like to think we look up to have been telling us this. Gandhi, Malcolm X, infinite philosophers, poets, and storytellers – on and on. So many have warned of the dangers of the path we are on.
Can we please stop screaming with our fingers in our ears and thinking shit is going to change?
Just stop, and hear each other. Ask a question. You might gain something from the answer.
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