About 'Alpha+Good'

Alpha+Good (sort of a bad wordplay on Orwell and machismo) is a side project that belongs to 'Onklare taal' ('Unclear language'), the umbrella of several of my literary projects in Dutch. This section is almost exclusively in English and comprises my ongoing thoughts on progress, gender, politics and various other social themes. Are you a little lost? This link will take you right back to my home page.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rhetorics of progress (IV): I don't have to listen if you have nothing to say

Every once in a while, I will read someone lamenting how the Internet makes people wall themselves up in their own ideological bubble where few ideas that contradict this ideology seep in - and if they do so, it's through the already filtered reflexes of that very ideology. Never mind that I think people have always been this ideologically insular and prone to seek out peers with similar opinions, there is also something disingenious to this remark.

I mean, who could be against examining your personal convictions critically? It seems like a no-brainer, yet so few people seem to do it. But here's the thing: critical self-examination does not automatically involve inviting ideological opposites to the table. For example, white supremacists are among my ideological antipodes. I know what their arguments are like. I have nothing to gain from exposing myself to their hatred, except, I suppose, to learn what their argument du jour is and how much it is a crock of shit.

I do understand that some people are turned off by philosophical rigidity and the conviction that right- as well as left-wing zealots have that They Are Right, but the truth is not in the middle. Some people believe that the Earth is flat. That doesn't mean that we should all compromise and say the Earth is somewhat flat but also somewhat spherical. I'm all in favour of synthesising philosophical positions and eliminating false opposites wherever possible (e.g. that caring for the environment and a vibrant economy are somehow at odds), but some things cannot be reconciled, and some things are just false.

Invoking moderation and listening to other points of view is often abused as a part of smarm: focusing on the style rather than the arguments, prattling in a condescending tone about how people are too convinced of their points of view, while offering no arguments. It bypasses debate and nullifies it, precisely by insisting that we should listen to people who have nothing to offer. That in itself will draw the ire from self-appointed 'moderates', out of the misguided kumbaya-like belief that everyone can offer something in a debate.

In closing, I believe it is very important to remain self-critical and not become fixated on a particular viewpoint to the exclusion of evidence or logic to the contrary. But I also believe that I don't have to entertain or tolerate viewpoints whose argumentative significance is close to zero and has already been roundly refuted - climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, religious fanatics, MRAs, and so on. I could do well without these points of view polluting debates, and will happily keep excluding them.