Sunday, March 9, 2014

Is It Really Ignorance?

Do you want to know something that drives me really, really crazy?  When people automatically assume that those who disagree with their opinions on hot-button social and political issues are ignorant and just need to "educate" themselves. Some typical examples are people who are absolutely convinced that anyone who disagrees with their political views, for any reason at all, not matter how deeply reasoned, is ignorant, and also people who believe that anyone who supports the death penalty just needs to "educate themselves on the realities" of capital punishment instead of "just blindly supporting it." Other examples are people who believe that anyone who thinks climate change is a real thing/ is not a real thing is "crazy" or those who send you endless links to websites or throw articles at you before a big election because you don't agree with their political views, and of course we know that all cases of disagreement are easily solved with a little education.

This post is not about these hot-button issues, and I believe people have the right to have their own opinions on these things, whatever they may be. But here's my thing. It is wrong to assume that because someone disagrees with your opinion on something that they disagree just because they haven't thought about the issues, or don't know about the issues, or don't know how to reason it out, or just need to get educated. I can't think of much in life that is more conceited than to believe that everyone who disagrees with you ONLY disagrees with you because they're ignorant, uneducated, or unable to reason--instead of considering the possibilities that they disagree with you because you're wrong, or because there are two or more very valid ways to look at the issue, or because they've thought about it even more than you have and still come down on the other side of the line because you don't have a monopoly on the "right" opinion. This is literally like saying to the world that everything you think is perfect and correct, and the only reason the whole world doesn't think so too is because they're not as smart as you or their analytical abilities aren't as good as yours. I mean, I know it's incredibly convenient to believe that the only thing standing between you and an entire world of people who see things exactly the way you do is a little education, a little more literature, and a few more debates--but it's flat-out wrong. And when phrased that way, doesn't it seem utterly ridiculous to act like education alone will do the trick, to act like everyone who doesn't see eye-to-eye with you is just ignorant (a politically correct term for stupid)? If it seems ridiculous, it's because it is. And I frankly don't want to debate with someone who thinks I'm stupid or who is too haughty to accept that my different opinion maybe--just maybe--is just as well-thought-out as their opinion.

We live in a culture that celebrates diversity more than we ever have before, and that is awesome, because people of all walks of life, races, and backgrounds are valuable and can teach us more about the world. But why is it that we can so easily celebrate diversity in people themselves, but not in their opinions? Wouldn't a true celebration of diversity necessarily include a celebration of diversity of opinion? But no, the more politically correct our world gets, the more we aggressively push out any opinions that differ from what we believe is the accepted majority and the so-called "right" opinion. And I, for one, am over it.

Here's my simple request. Quit hiding your opinion behind the guise of educational superiority, start assuming that there's a level playing field (because there almost always is), and dare to let your opinion out in the world on its own merits and not resting solely on your presumed superiority of reasoning. If it gets struck down, then it gets struck down. But I automatically distrust your opinion if you have to hide it behind claims that anyone who doesn't adhere to it just needs to study up on the issues and, well, stop being stupid. I mean, are you afraid to throw your opinion out in the ring with another well-thought-out opinion because you know it's going to lose? If so, maybe you need to re-think your viewpoint anyway. But that's not even the real problem I have. The real problem I have is that it seems like most people today believe that "another well-thought-out opinion" is something that, by definition, cannot exist--because, if it were well-reasoned and informed, it would be the same as theirs. Or so they think.

And while we're at it, maybe we should stop being so politically correct about this. If people really think that poor reasoning and ignorance lies behind anyone's disagreement with them, maybe they should just start calling a spade a spade and see how well that goes over. "I'm so conceited that I automatically assume that you don't agree with me just because you're stupid. Here's an article to read that might help." I would imagine that this sort of transparency might start eliminating this problem.

There's nothing wrong with thinking other people's opinions are wrong (or even with telling them so, if you can back it up and are polite about it). This is the essence of healthy debate. But give other people some CREDIT, y'all. They read too. They watch the news too. They know about the issues too. And maybe--gasp!--they still disagree with you. And the solution to that isn't education. It's respect.

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