Despite trying to be careful with my argument, and despite trying hard to find a common ground and reducing my argument to a very basic, hopefully agreeable level, some of my closest friends will still call me a conspiracist. It hurts. It’s the feeling that you share so many common things with your friend, you have many good laughs together. But when it comes to a heated topic like the second lockdown, your friends will fall back to commonplaces that they heard elsewhere, noting that they spent a lot of time of their own reading about the topic. Your friends and family have made an investment. But that investment of time was bad. Now they’re too embarrassed to say that they may have been wrong. And they will rather cling to that commonplace and decide to not listen to you. Even call you a conspiracist. Which is probably a painful position for them to be in, but also not so painful because it’s a seemingly shared position with people out there.
I get angry when my friends say that I’m on Facebook too much. They are the first ones in the argument to talk about my possibly personal psychological deficiencies. I’m too easily influenced by the lunatics. I hang out in the wrong online communities. The fact of the matter is though that my own sources may not be theirs, but that they’re diverse. And I rarely hang out on Facebook, and never to read about politics or the pandemic. What I do read occasionally is news about these topics and others from sources like RT or tweets from people like Michael Tracey. But I also read a lot of Guardian, and NYT. Every time trying to stay skeptical and aware of the agendas that each one of these sources may have.
But this blog shouldn’t be about my disappointment with my friends or family. I have come to make peace with this. They’re still my friends and I love them. They’re just misguided, and to be fair, they will most of the time be happy to listen to me, as long as I approach them with a good mood. It just can be frustrating at times and I’m not resistant to emotions either, and sometimes I do get upset and angry during our arguments. I am trying to work on this, and it’s okay. I love my friends and family. And again, there’s luckily many that will listen to me with an open mind, and without much prejudice.
Of course some people actually fall for the malicious kind of conspiracy theories. And they may not be few. When talking about topics such as the lockdown, in everyday situations, with people, be it in the office or during transport, I believe I’m broadly recognizing three kinds of positions: 1) Those that generally believe in the good of human and believe that everyone’s doing their best including politicians and newspapers. 2) Those that believe that generally most politicians are against them or against their group, and that there’s likely a conspiracy going on against them. 3) Those that are trying to find a middle ground.
I believe that most people will fall in the first two categories, not listening to each other, which is a problem. Both group 1 and 2 will tend to be stubborn in their opinion, which is why group 3 will sometimes be struggling. Being in a larger group of people in terms of beliefs or opinions tends to be a mentally easier position to be in. And human nature has a tendency to stay aligned with their peers. Which is a natural force against having a good old argument and being open to it. Furthermore, groups 1 and 2 will have a concept of the opposite group and they will tend to not believe that there’s a group 3, instead putting people from group 3 into the opposite group. Such that the maybe conservative group 1 will say that people who oppose their position are conspiracists or too radical. And people from the group 2 will tend to say that opposing opinions are reactionary.
Here's the main point I want to make: Let’s all try to be open to argument, even if you’ve heard it before, even if you feel exhausted. It’s always worthwhile listening to other people, even if you have a strong hunch that they’re wrong. Keep listening to them, keep talking. It’s good for you and it’s good for everyone else. We’re all friends. We’re all in the same boat. No one benefits from silos.
The best way to get out of this mess is to seek our ties to friends and families, despite the social distancing and because days are getting shorter. And if those ties are emotional, the better. In these times, people are more isolated than usual, and yet it’s so important the we stay in touch and we keep talking to each other.
PS: You may be interested in reading this article: It’s time for an alternative to lockdown.