I am going to attempt, here, to describe what I think is probably the biggest problem we face.
This problem fuels the conflict between Israel and Palestine; it drives a wedge between climate scientists and climate sceptics; it gives feminism a bad name and pushes vulnerable men towards the MRA culture.
The problem is ideology. But what the hell is that? Isn’t that just a conveniently vague term to plaster onto anything as a catch-all, in order to incorrectly correlate vastly different issues?
Well, maybe. But to me, ideology is the process of belief which prevents people from seeing or understanding differing (and often contradicting) viewpoints. All humans have a propensity to see things as “us vs them”.
Even in typically holistic Eastern cultures, such as Tibetan culture, we see this ideological thinking - back when His Holiness the Dalai Lama reigned Tibet, there was a highly classist system which blamed the poor and favoured the wealthy.
Today, we either see Palestine as racist, genocidal theocrats and Israel as the peace-loving oppressed, or the reverse. It’s very difficult for anyone to simultaneously recognise the evils and good of both groups and to then objectively form an opinion on the conflict. We tend to take a side, even those who claim to be super scientific and objective.
Likewise, people are far more likely to demonise those on the other end of the political spectrum to them than to sit and honestly try to understand where they’re coming from. Feminists are more likely to see MRAs as dirty scumbags who are irredeemable, and MRAs will refuse to see feminists as they really are - instead they’re all man-hating radicals. Climate sceptics are not simply seen as mistaken - they are seen as stupid - therefore below me, who is their “intellectual superior”.
What does this mean? Why does it matter? It matters because unless we can see our opponents as humans first and foremost, then there is no way to persuade them or change them. Demonising, polarising, antagonising only serves to further alienate those different from us, solidifying their antagonism and distancing them further.
It’s only through understanding how people think, and how they have come to the conclusions they have made, that we can begin to challenge their conclusions and hope to change them. Unfortunately, we do not tend to this. We cause the conflicts by escalating.
As I’ve mentioned before, Gandhi wrote a letter of friendship to Hitler, in the hopes that he would have a change of heart. Of course, it was never read by Hitler, and it seems unlikely it’d persuade him even had he read it. Sadly, the only solution to stop Hitler’s ideology was violence. But surely we do not need to escalate to that level nowadays? Surely we can learn from history, and use empathy (in the sense of understanding how another thinks) to change minds?
This may be naive optimism. But it could change the world, and I will hold fast to it.
"The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry."
- Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (via quotes-shape-us)
"Do not tell everyone your story. You will only end up feeling more rejected. People cannot give you what you long for in your heart. The more you expect from people’s response to your experience of abandonment, the more you will feel exposed to ridicule."
- Henri J. M. Nouwen (via astrangehuman)
"And you think I’m the monster. Love is supposed to dignify us, exalt us. How can it be love, John, if all it does is make you lonely and corrupt?"
- Alice Morgan. 2010.
(Title: Luther, S1E01.)
"Often when I imagine you,
your wholeness cascades into many shapes.
You run like a herd of luminous deer,
and I am dark;
I am forest."
Rainer Maria Rilke,from Rilke’s Book of Hours, I, 45.
"This phenomenon is illustrated in Capgras syndrome. In Capgras syndrome, the individual begins to believe that a close relative of his (such as a parent) is an impostor. Patients have been known to attack and kill parents or spouses who they thought were impostors trying to trick them. This syndrome arises because the neural systems tapped by autonomic and overt indices of recognition are different. The brain damage received by Capgras patients has left intact enough of their face recognition systems so that they can recognize their relatives. However, the systems subserving the emotional connections to these faces have been disturbed. As a result, they recognize the face of their close relative but do not experience the usual emotional response that is associated with that relative. Recognizing the familiar face without appropriate emotional reaction becomes an anomalous experience in need of an explanation by the interpreter. In some individuals with (probably preexisting) attributional biases, reasoning biases, and belief perseverance, the interpreter jumps quickly to an extreme hypothesis (the anomalous experiences represent impostors) and engages in biased processing in order to maintain this hypothesis. Just like Gazzaniga’s split-brain subject in the chicken/snow shovel experiment, the Capgras patient fails to entertain the hypothesis that the information that the analytic system is dealing with is faulty because of brain damage. Both the split-brain patients and Capgras patients persist in the belief that they know what is going on in their own heads, when in fact they do not have access to the TASS subsystems whose functioning has gone awry."
- Keith E. Stanovich, The Robot’s Rebellion, P. 59 (via blackestdespondency)
"One wants to tell a story, like Scheherezade, in order not to die. It’s one of the oldest urges in mankind. It’s a way of stalling death."
- Carlos Fuentes (via booklover)
"Put it this way: I think that Camus was right to reject political and philosophical appeals; I think he was wrong to make nice with the abyss that remains after such appeals have been filed and cert. denied. Mortality salience is key—“your death and mine,” as Jim Goad puts it. It’s just that I am no longer convinced that the inevitability of death endows a life—or “life itself”—with any special significance. The inarguable fact is that every one of us has been dropkicked into a life we didn’t ask for, that leads to death. And the world ends when you die. Not a metaphor. Zeros don’t multiply. The apple isn’t just rotten; it’s shot through with poison. You say this kind of thing and people respond in predictable ways. I will be enjoined to throw myself off the nearest bridge. I will be advised to man up for the struggle. I will be told that I am a coward or that God is the answer. Don’t think for a second that I haven’t thought it through. There are plenty of shiny distractions to keep my interest for the time being. There are animals to be fed, deadlines to be met, and I want to see how Breaking Bad ends. But deep pessimism is where aesthetics breaks down for me. In particular, it’s what impels me to reject appeals to transcendent “survival” that resound in racialist and environmentalist rhetoric. Pace every zombie movie ever made, I don’t think “survival”—in the literal, generational, tribal, or metaphorical sense—is anything to celebrate. It’s just a Darwinian tic."
- Chip Smith (via blackestdespondency)