I think I am safe in saying that the 2019 Governorship primaries was pretty tough to endure, no matter which aspirant you supported. Part of what made it so upsetting was the growing sense that our party is irrevocably divided- that we can no longer talk with each other, because we have come to believe in different versions of reality. Social media has a lot to do with this. I say this with every awareness that lots of people love social media and find a sense of connection in it. Of course, I realize that social media networks are ultimately just a set of tools and that the larger issue is how we, as individuals, choose to use those tools. Our great leaders of APC, the way we are going, we are not using the social media in building social bridges that can construct an ideological and informational silo around the party.
And I know this because every now and again, people, especially our party leaders, would express dissenting opinions. We need to take responsibility that we all contributed to the rut that APC had fallen into- by action and inaction.
Dear great minds of our party, the time is NOW to began to think about the best way to break out of our bubble. For anyone troubled by these patterns, the first and most basic suggestion is ‘to expose yourself to opinions that challenge your own’. By this, I don’t mean that you should court trolls whose obvious intent is to bait you with invective or propaganda. I meant that you should seek out those sources- articles, forums, books, real live people- who are capable of presenting reasoned, fact based arguments for positions you don’t hold.
It’s simply ridiculous and insulting to suppose that every person who disagrees with you is an idiot with no moral compass.
Back to call for reconciliation in the party, permit me to interrogate our minds with this question: Is this process easy? The honest answer is NO. It’s completely counterintuitive and intellectually inconvenient, but the most interesting aspect of it is, that’s what makes it so valuable. After all, there’s a kind of cowardice to blind loyalty, or what Sociologists call ‘epistemic closure’. Real courage resides in the willingness to challenge your own views, to seek out and accomodate new information and perspectives. Otherwise, you don’t have a belief system. You have a dogma.
Dear great minds in the house, the second rule is to strive for Understanding rather than victory. We have to stop regarding those who hold opposing views as enemies to be vanquished. Instead, we need to regard them as compatriots whose experiences have led them to a different set of conclusions. What this requires, more than anything, is the willingness to quiet over own rhetoric, ask questions,and listen. By “ask questions” l do not mean those leading questions intended to trap the other person. I don’t even mean questions about where someone acquired their statistics or quotes. I mean questions about how and why the person developed his or her beliefs.
The goal should be to understand where someone is coming from. You don’t have to agree with their views, but you should at least have some sense of how they got there. In conclusion of this open letter, I will perhaps present the most annoying suggestion, which is to advice our leaders- either appointed or self-acclaimed to cut down on social media use and get offline.
Why?. Because sitting at a keyboard or using smartphone and typing words at someone simply isn’t the same as talking to that someone in the flesh. To interract with the world through a screen is to initiate a process of abstraction. You didn’t have to reckon with the full measure of someone’s humanity, because they’re just a ghost in a machine.
My dear great minds in the house, especially our leaders, i want you to be tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try talking with one of them in real life- DIALOGUE.
To be clear: l don’t walk around trying to find Political opponents with whom to engage, but I also don’t reflexively retreat from them. The result isn’t that I’ve changed my Political views but my attitude has shifted. It turns out that life outside the bubble is actually calmer and more reasoned. Let’s spend more time with our families, more time reading, and more time expanding our friendship net.
Finally, I request we feel less agitated and righteous, less scornful of those who disagree with us. And maybe more important, less willing to judge others. That’s not perfect, but it’s progress.