In light of one of the most unbelievable turns to ever happen to the ruling culture of the United States I feel compelled to add my voice to the clatter. While I am very aware of the need to protect the gains recently made in American society, and the global society as a whole, the way in which they are protected and advanced further needs to be more thoroughly thought out.
Like a lot of people that run in the same circles as me, I get angry when I see people act out and deliberately reduce someone’s sense of dignity based on subjective assumptions about what constitutes the right, or natural, way of being. Furthermore I have a tendency to get angry when these deliberate actors argue that the actions and choices of someone else have negative consequences on their own lives. For example, consider gay marriage, abortion and gender orientation as legal fabric, in no way do these becoming law have a realistic effect on anyone who isn’t a participant in them.
Movements that attempt to help minority groups gain legal recognition and positions of dignity within our society (both of which are often taken for granted by those who have them) have been on the rise recently across the world. While most people with access to the internet have undoubtedly noticed this trend, what most people may not have noticed is the recent surge into ideology that counters it.
In Europe, where Liberal ideology (in the sense of individual determination) has been steadily growing for decades, there has been a recent outburst of conservatism that seeks to reclaim a society from the past. Here’s an example, take it with salt. And with the recent election of Trump in the US and Duterte in the Philippines, among others, these movements seem to be global trend at the moment.
My own beliefs compel me to actively counter these movements, by force if necessary and if not then by a whole lot of arguing and shouting. But while I feel compelled to do this, I know that this would be one of the least useful things to do.
I know that acting out my feelings is counter-productive for one simple reasons, force, whether intellectually or physically, will never convince someone that they are wrong. The act of attacking someone’s beliefs (whether factually or not) will only ever serve to affirm that person of their beliefs.
I didn’t come up with this idea, in psychology it’s called the backfire effect. Essentially, when we are faced with evidence that runs contrary to our beliefs, instead of taking this information into account, we become more convinced of our own beliefs than we were before. Compound this effect a little bit and it’s not so difficult to see how a nation like the states can reach such an unbelievable level of polarization. The backfire effect here and more on polarization can be found here.
Take Trumps immigration plans for example. The mountain of evidence that can prove just how baseless all of his claims are and prove just how terrible of an idea these walls and bans are, were entirely incapable of convincing the people who voted for Trump. This was not a failure of the weight of evidence, but of its communication.
I would argue that how Trump voters were dealt with throughout the campaign only served to further aggravate and balloon his support. Instead of deflating their arguments we emboldened them.
Does this mean I think that we should simply roll over and allow them to reduce years of progress, no. All I’m trying to say is that we need to approach these things from a better angle, because our old ways simply don’t work.
We need to find new ways to have these conversations because simply yelling evidence at people who disagree with us in the end will have the opposite effect we were hoping for. It only serves to inflame their rhetoric. So how do we have these conversations and advance our own agenda?
Recently I’ve made the decision to only participate in these sorts of conversations when the other person also understands the backfire effect. While I constantly feel compelled to blurt out all the reasons I know someone is wrong the moment they spew some stupid bullshit from their mouth, I know that by doing so I only ever allow the beliefs I despise to further engrain themselves.
We have to have conversations on individual and groups rights, they are too important to simply leave up to chance moments of enlightenment. If these truths really are self evident then people who don’t yet see them that way will be better convinced if we let them discover it for themselves. Provide the pool, don’t push them into it.
This is where I make a grand statement about pacifism so that I can relate it back to the title. Instead I’ll just say that I’m willing apply these exact same principles to my own beliefs.