“This pandemic has been more divisive than religion,” said a friend, quoting a third party.
That may or may not be true, but what is clear is that it has reinforced the intolerance that grows when we refuse to listen to one another.
It’s not a whole lot different from the intolerance between religions, or between the devoted and the secular, or between the Republicans and the Democrats, or . . . (you name it!)
In large part it’s a product of our contemporary society that relies so heavily on the internet.
Yes, you read that right. I’m placing a lot of blame on the internet.
Now, don’t get me wrong; the internet has and continues to greatly benefit our lives. I’m not an old fossil who just likes things the way they used to be; after all, I’ve benefited massively from the internet. If it weren’t for the internet, you wouldn’t be reading this.
But sometimes its great benefit also becomes its great bane. There are two sides to every coin.
In other media than this blog I’ve decried the replacement of print media with online media. The problem with online media is that it is so easy and cheap to produce that there is such a proliferation of it that we have to pick and choose what we read. (Again, two sides of a coin: picking-and-choosing has its blessings and its curse). Our choices are heavily influenced by the advertising algorithms of the internet giants. (Check out the movie ‘The Social Dilemma’). They, the search engines of the internet, see what we’re reading and tempt us with ever more similar and self-affirming content. They don’t tempt us with contrary content.
So, we read, or listen to, more and more of what we are already inclined toward believing, and less and less of alternative views and beliefs. Our impressions of reality become increasingly biased because of those spiralling trends.
Meanwhile, other people’s impressions of reality are being reinforced in exactly the opposite direction, with the same spiralling trends.
Before long, two (or more) realities emerge that have almost nothing in common with each other.
Print media, by contrast, is much more expensive to produce and, in this era, more difficult to survive in economically, that it needs to have much broader appeal. This means anyone reading it will get a broader range of opinions, or of slants on the news articles.
That is not to say that print media isn’t biased—it is! But it is forced to be broader is scope.
Network television is somewhere in between. There are enough options that individuals can reinforce their biases, but at least they are aware of the other and can easily check out the other perspectives if they so choose.
Unfortunately, many are too lazy to bother. And they migrate, for example, to watching only CNN or only Fox News.
The fact is, when there are such diverse views, there is almost always some merit to be found in each of the contrasting positions, if not to change our views, then at least to understand the other’s.
Because those on the other side are not stupid. And only a fool, or an ignoramus would judge them so.
I don’t claim neutrality on any of these divisive issues, but I do try to do some reading and listening to both sides of them—to appreciate the valid arguments on each side, or at least to maintain respect for all.
I don’t like it when someone tells me they can’t be friends with me anymore because I don’t accept “the truth.”
What I don’t accept is that the truth is entirely on one side. I would be a fool to do so. What I don’t accept is relying solely on the opinions of any third party, be that a friend, a particular news media, a government mouthpiece, or . . . (you name it!). I would be a fool to do so.
I can’t do all the research myself (who can?), but at least I can sample, and analyze, a variety of sources representing some degree of diversity. Then I can come to my own conclusion without disrespecting everyone else’s.
Discussing such things while riding the Ripper Chair up Mt Revelstoke this weekend, my brother referenced an editorial he’d read in a very small periodical years ago. That editorialist had opined that we should devote about one-third of our reading to “the other side.”
One-third might be a little steep for many of us. But even a quarter, methinks, would go a long way to keeping us more respectful of each other, and make us a friendlier and happier society.
At least, that’s how I see it . . .