Hailing the banning of unwelcome and disturbing (to you) thoughts and opinions, or joining a resurrected Parler or otherwise retreating to the warm embrace of sites and apps where you feel comfortable and unchallenged is the opposite of what we all need. The basic choice is between: 1. Further separating ourselves into silos or 2. Changing ourselves and our political and conversational environments to encourage and embrace an active marketplace of ideas. Choose the marketplace of ideas.
That is the subject of today’s 10 minute episode.
The last thing that we need is to further bury ourselves into think-alike silos. Wrapping ourselves up in the warm embrace of everyone-thinks-like-I-do, or at least every person of goodwill with a room temperature I.Q. thinks like I do, is lazy, self-congratulatory and destructive. And this way is seductively easy.
We–all of us–must dig into the inconvenient, often unrewarding, and difficult task of sharing what we believe, especially with people who believe very differently. And “sharing what we believe” starts with caring deeply for the other person and their convictions, and listening. Yes, listening. Before we can expect to be heard, we must earn the right to be heard, and that comes from making it clear that you care about their opinions and best interests, and listening to them. Ask open ended questions like, how did you come to that belief, and what makes you think that will work. Then, and only then, can you begin to introduce your beliefs and well supported reasons, for why you believe that way. Gently lead them to understanding your beliefs and your reasoning. It may be tempting to answer a cliche with a cliche, and a broad claim with a broad claim, but that is simply a shortcut to an argument. An argument that will leave both of you more dug in than ever.
Listening, understanding, learning and leading is much harder than simply insisting on being right. And it is clearly what we all must do; it is what we are all called to do. Retreating into and reinforcing our silos must and will lead to a further disintegration and disorder. That’s the path to more Seattles and Capitol Hills. Let’s remember that first and foremost we are all Americans. Reject intersectional politics, learn from each other, and focus on the common goals that we all share. They do indeed exist.
Is it an accident that states like California and New York are predominantly progressive, and states like Texas and Oklahoma are not? Take a look at this electoral map; with few exceptions, all of the states in the contiguous 48 that voted one way or the other are in connected blocks.
Question: Did everyone of a like mind move to the same places, or is something else going on?
Answer: Something else. In the absence of differing opinions from a variety of sources, people will rely on the opinions of family and friends, co-workers and their selected news sources and social media. Outside of family, all the sources will be selected more for comfort and absence of frustration than political reasoning and diversity of thought. Not surprisingly, they will pretty much share the same opinions. Similar opinions from a variety of sources that reinforce each other and can easily be seen as not only a valid consensus, but the by golly truth. And with some notable exceptions (Uncles and Brothers-in Law?), families tend to lean one way or the other on significant issues, adding to the sameness.
Remember the story about the blind men learning about their first elephant by feeling different parts of the animal? Those feeling the trunk thought it was a snake. Others feeling a leg thought it was a tree. Each group based their opinions on a partial experience, and each one of them got it wrong. The same thing is happening when we rely on people and sources who are focused on the same parts of our political, social and economic “elephant” to the exclusion of the other parts. Like the blind men analysing the elephant, they do not give any credence to the other parts. The difference is that the blind men were completely satisfied that the part they had represented the whole, while the vast majority of political, financial and social commentators are aware of the other parts, the other positions and arguments–they simply dismiss them as inferior or hateful. In other words, the blind men were not curious enough to feel for other parts to determine if another view of what they were feeling might be valid. People with political views are aware of other views, they simply dismiss them, often with nothing more than an insult, as being wrong or hateful.
And this will snowball. The nucleus of same opinions will attract others with the same views, and, over time, discourage those with other thoughts from speaking up. Like the snowball which when rolled attracts more of the same snow, opinions on a roll attract more people with the same opinions. Pretty soon it will begin to appear to those in the expanding nucleus that the correct opinions and answers–on even the most controversial subjects–abortion, school choice, foreign involvement, healthcare, etc., are obvious and unanimous to every “correct thinking” person. Once again building and reinforcing the silos that we must be destructing, not constructing.
Let’s close with two quotes:
- “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau
- “The mass of men lead lives of loud separation.” William Henry Luden
Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.