The first step to getting along with someone with an opposing opinion (and possibly changing their mind and creating peace), is acceptance and understanding. Even if that means accepting you can’t change their mind or understand their view. This can be difficult if the topic in question is sensitive such as racism, sexism, religion, Brexit or Donald Trump. I myself was called a fascist this week, which made me laugh myself to tears. I’ve also been called diplomatic but it was meant as an insult…yes seriously. Am I supposed to scream and shout and carry a weapon instead? Apologies for treating humans as humans, my bad. Unfortunately, those who label others don’t realise they feed the right-wing mindsets of this world and ultimately assist in promoting fascism, racism, religious intolerance and all manner of other evils. The bottom line is, any group that is organised is hierarchical and to truly understand the mechanics of the world we must step outside it and look at the wider context.
Perhaps being a historian allows me to do this a little easier, as I am forever required to put myself in different historical shoes; men, women, devout religious followers, politicians, soldiers, indigenous peoples and so on. The notion that you cannot possibly understand something until it has happened to you is a bit too extreme (in my opinion, please don’t cry). Humans have compassion and empathy built into their DNA, although using it is by choice. If you claim someone does not ‘understand’ without knowing anything about them, then it makes you the ignorant bigot. And this is the problem with our society in the twenty first century, we’re all social media keyboarding bigots.
Keyboard warriors just cannot help themselves. They type without thinking. I have been there myself when feeling passionate and instantly regretted it. This approach just does not work. If you cannot have a debate without it turning into a heated argument, then you’re probably better just logging off for your own wellbeing. Those who continue relentlessly usually aren’t well read and most likely eat up the headline of every article they did not read. Finding the truth or getting to a place of understanding (understanding something doesn’t mean you agree!) takes research and a degree of cross referencing. Being unable to entertain a thought you don’t agree with means you’re being close minded. This approach will make it difficult for you to place people and events in a wider context. It also results in a lack of personal growth. Sadly, many individuals go with majority opinions without researching topics themselves because they either-
- Don’t know their own opinion or how to form it.
- Are brainwashed
- Are attention seeking
- Bored of their existence
Those who are adamantly opposed to any opinion but their own will always focus on the negatives. They will find numerous problems with your solutions and anything you verbalise will fall on deaf ears, even if it makes sense. It is admirable and strong to stand alone in your opinion, although speaking to be right only wastes time and energy and does not bring any form of peace or understanding. You’ll know if someone knows their stuff because they will debate, not argue with you. Anyone who evokes their anger does so due to feeling uninformed and backed into a corner, as they do not really know enough to keep the debate going peacefully. Anyone with a well-informed opinion will stay humble and hit you with facts. Don’t be too proud to admit it if you have come around to their way of thinking either. This is how society should operate!
In closing, there is no shame in changing your opinion or sticking with it, providing you are willing to consider and examine the views of others. Those who respond with anger by labelling you or getting upset are the ones that create mass panic in this world. Only brainless people will be keen to jump on that band wagon. Unfortunately, social media is full of people like this so 99% of the time you will face persecution if your opinion differs from the majority. Don’t let this get you down though, things could be worse…you could be living like them… with your eyes wide shut.
So, remember, knowing is being well read, taking time to read between the lines and coming to your own conclusions, not taking a headline and running with it. Do this and at least your opinion will have understanding from all perspectives, rather than the agenda of someone else.