Bear
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Thursday, 31 March 2016

On choosing sides

When I was a kid, everyone supported either Liverpool or Man United, and despite not knowing a thing about football I was encouraged to pick a side. Just the same, whenever there was a falling out between my classmates, someone would run up to me in the playground and say “are you on Tom’s side or Kirsty’s side?” (I’d refuse to pick a side; even then I was a difficult little bugger.)

The same binary thinking is everywhere. Democrat or Republican, Gamergate or SJW, Red or Blue. You have to be all one thing or the other; no middle ground, no grey areas, no compromise. The internet has exacerbated this problem by providing us with more people to agree with us than we could ever need.

This thinking is insidious, which is why I recently had to check myself (prior to any potential wrecking) when I saw a tweet I disagreed with by someone I respect. I still disagree with her, and I still respect her, because I don't want to fall into the trap of designating her "problematic" and putting her in the bin, nor of ignoring her flaws and setting myself up for disappointment. It's okay to have problematic faves.

We’re too ready to regard other people as inferior copies of ourselves. I think that’s why we get angry when they won’t agree with us, and I think that’s why we draw these battle lines. John and Hank Green (known as the Vlogbrothers by their thousands of fans) often entreat their following to “imagine others complexly,” which is the most succinct way possible of expressing this idea. I’ve probably even quoted it on here before.

This is not a callout post. I deleted about three paragraphs of specifics, but ultimately I don't want to go into the details. I left my comments where she may see them, may ignore them, may still disagree with them. The part I want to remember, is this:

We have to learn to be comfortable in the middle ground, even if it means leaving contradictions unresolved. It's a far, far better way of being.

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
Walt Whitman

3 comments:

  1. I often think I don't know enough to make an opinion, and I'm ok with that too. You don't always have to do all the homework, sometimes you can say 'I don't know' and that's an end to it

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  2. I've taken to muting people on the Facebooks if I disagree with them enough to violently dislike them because of their posts. Kept things civil at work but felt like the coward's way out. Feel like I should be standing up for what I believe in, but I only have so much energy.

    (2nd time of writing. I swear every other website won't let you navigate away from a half-written post. Grrr)

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  3. I'm reminded of Treebeard's declaration "I'm not altogether on anybody's side; because nobody is entirely on my side." (or something like that)

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