Facebook kindly reminded me that a few years ago, I shared the opening clip to the TV show Newsroom. Here is the important part: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkgJZntgaEc
I was resharing it on Facebook, and realized I could go on for much, much longer about how much this resonates with me, so I cut it short and decided to bring the babbling over here.
I think the part that resonates the most with me this time around is:
“We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it. It didn’t make us feel inferior.”
Shit is complicated. Unless you are an expert or have spent ungodly hours researching something, chances are you don’t know everything there is to know about any one given topic. You may think, “Well I know enough,” but that’s not true, that’s never true. One example, one deviation from the norm, that is not enough. Try to learn, try to understand, try to see things from another perspective.
I think I’ve spoken about this previously, perhaps not on here, but this relatively neatly loops together the backfire effect and the attitude of “educated” people to those who are not.
It’s so, so easy to pull one little fact that supports your belief and say, “Hey, here is proof that I am correct!” and leave it at that. And when someone tries to explain to you why you might be wrong, a couple things happen. One is that hey, they’re sounding kind of condescending, so you’re less inclined to listen to them. Another is that they’re potentially threatening one of your core beliefs, can’t have that! This is very strongly a part of who I am, and I cannot admit to being wrong! So all this combined with any opinions you have about the other person makes it so very difficult to have an actual discussion about anything without it devolving into a fight. (Or someone getting offended and leaving.)
I don’t know if it’s people don’t want to learn, people don’t know how to learn, or what. But there are a fair number of people out there that, even though they may ask “I don’t understand, can someone explain?” are unwilling to hear out the other side.
Take the “Welfare Queen” stereotype, for example. This was some made up concept (by Reagan?) to bias people into thinking that everyone on welfare was just lazy and taking advantage of the system. They don’t want to work if they know they’re going to get free stuff! Nevermind the people that have lost their jobs and need to figure out how to make ends meet for a few weeks or months in the interim. Nevermind the single parents who can only take a low-paying job because they need a flexible schedule. Nevermind the college students who get fucked by their schools and literally don’t have enough hours in the day to work and study. And nevermind the people who had an unexpected medical issue come up and have to choose between hospital bills, food, and rent each month. But goddamn it, one person freaking bought steak and lobster with food stamps, so everybody must be doing that. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuck that.
Intelligence is not something to be shunned. Trying to have a discussion is not something to be shunned. Not everybody is out to prove you wrong, and I’m not trying to say you’re a bad person for your opinions. (Usually.)
Can we all try a little harder to embrace these ideas?