A lot of my friends disagree with me about how the world works. Be it on the difference between men and women, politics, psychology, philosophy, health and fitness etc. This isn’t a problem for me or them because we can accept our differences in opinion and move on. We don’t feel the need to make others agree with us beyond having a rational debate. The reason that these sometimes drastic diferences aren’t a problem is because there is a distinction between ourselves and our beliefs.
Anyone who’s done a bit of meditation will be familiar with the idea that you are not your thoughts, you merely observe and act on them. The same is true of ones opinions. It may seem obvious to say “you are not your beliefs, you merely observe and act upon them”, but in reality most people seem to think the opposite.
This is because what they believe is part of their identity. This means that when you criticise their point, it makes them uncomfortable because to them it feels like a personal attack. The result is that they won’t try and reach a rational conclusion in a debate, they will try only to win. They can’t let it go or agree to disagree because their whole identity is based around their beliefs being “right”, and to invalidate their beliefs is to invalidate them as people.
This problem pervades through all ideologies, from socialism to conservatism, from MRAs to feminists. Any topic over which there can be a disagreement (this is especially common in bodybuilding discussions for some reason) is victim to a certain, usually quite high, percentage of people who attach their beliefs to their identity, and thus take any criticism of their argument as a personal attack.
This is most common on University campuses, where young people rally behind causes left right and centre, and become so passionate about their cause that they become impossible to argue with. So how do you avoid these people?
Simple – if someone gets visibly angry, upset or aggressive in a debate, end the conversation. If they are taking rational argument as a personal attack, they aren’t adding value to the conversation, and neither are you.
More people need to realise this:
Every single one of your beliefs could be entirely wrong. You’re not mature enough to debate an issue until you accept that you could be wholly incorrect and your opponent could be completely right.
Imagine how different the comments on MRA and feminist sites would look if both parties accepted that they could be entirely wrong. That isn’t to say they lack faith in their beliefs, they can still be passionate, but people so arrogant that they can’t entertain the idea of being wrong need to fuck off.
By being aware of the potential invalidity of your beliefs forces you to separate them from your identity. This stops anger clouding your judgement and gives you permission to change your beliefs in light of new evidence.
Some people call U-turning weak and cowardly. I’d call it scientific.
N.B. It’s ironic how much our governments come under fire for U-turning when they are essentially responding to public demand. Apparently democracy is for pussies.