Talking… and Listening

I can’t help but wonder how much of modern conversations about topical subjects (whatever they may be) is less about developing a meaningful dialogue, and more about being right – more about winning. As someone who’s moved in sci-fi debate circles and as someone who’s delved in various social debates, I know I am guilty of pushing to be the ‘winner’, as opposed to actually convincing someone my point of view has fact-based merit.

Equally, I don’t necessarily absorb the information coming at me from my ‘sparring partner’. This isn’t always ‘bad’ – some of that ‘information’ is speculation and in some cases complete fabrication – but sometimes, I fear we are all so determined for our side, our philosophy, to be right, that we lose sight of other, perfectly valid perspectives. If a piece of information turns up that disrupts our narrative or our comfortable beliefs, it’s waved away.

We’ve slipped into bubbles with like-minded people , for protection and security. This isn’t inherently bad, in fact it’s an extension of human nature, but an unwillingness to allow external opinions into that bubble can lead to ignorance. This doesn’t suddenly mean we have to tolerate the intolerable. Bigoted, misogynistic, racist points of view aren’t magically acceptable. However if we are to expect people to listen to us, we should open our ears and listen to people with views different to our own. We shouldn’t seek to press a cancel culture that censors someone for not sharing what’s considered the ‘right’ perspective. All that accomplishes is the impression of enforced conformity.

By the same token, we shouldn’t abandon speaking out or calling out abhorrent points of view. If people want the freedom to say whatever they want (I see this a lot with free speech advocates), they need to accept people can say whatever they want to them. They need to appreciate there can be consequences to blurting out whatever offensive statement you wish to make.

Those who rally against the apparent censorship employed by social media sites like Facebook and Twitter would do well to remember that they’re not actually censored. If they were, they’d not even be able to complain about censorship. They’d never be able to have a social media presence, nor start their own website, or engage in any kind of activity that violated the accepted norm. I see Holocaust deniers, neo-Nazis, openly racist degenerates, misogynistic types, and more, all over Twitter, spouting their reprehensible views and then complaining they’re not being heard. It’s ironic, but that irony is lost on them.

Throwing links at these people in a bid to convince them to reconsider their views will never work. If the goal is to ‘win’, minds will never be opened. It’s time to consider how we talk, and how we listen.

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