A week or two ago, I nonchalantly waded through some Facebook posts one evening and came across several versions of an article featuring a homosexual female couple who are simultaneously pregnant. Unsurprisingly, the photographs of the two generated some shock from our so oft-declared post-discriminatory society. Astonishing as it were to some, I still did not expect the vulgarity and utter incredulity I witnessed in roughly one-fourth of the comments I read.
“One man and one woman, that’s the only way I see it.”
Despite my vexation, I continued reading comments — comments fashioned by people from all over the country and the world. Naturally, there were defenders of the couple appearing en masse to attempt reason with the critics.
“That’s not a nice thing to say.”
“Wow! You’re an asshole!”
“How could you discriminate against this couple?”
I witnessed these and similar transactions to these in a variety of threads. While I admit my expectation of discovering a virtual alcove of intellectualism was low, I was staggered by the unmitigated stupidity I observed in my forum eavesdropping.
After the rebuttals flew in, the initial commenters would become defensive.
“Wow, you don’t need to make it personal!”
“Way to take this too far.”
“I’m just saying what I believe, which, may I remind you, I am entitled to do!”
Let me analyze this for a second: it is perfectly acceptable for a person to express hateful speech, but calling someone out on such speech is prohibited?
The inclusion of hate speech in free speech is another matter for another day, but my purpose here is to illuminate a quintessential example of poor conversation.
It would certainly appear that people can dish out opinions, but whether or not they can handle criticism is up for debate. Why make an outright comment if not to hear what others have to offer in response? If I had to guess, I would suppose it is because people enjoy hearing themselves speak and would prefer to lodge themselves safely in an echo chamber as opposed to gaining perspective.
This lesson in human behavior is crucial in understanding how to properly operate in society: those who scarcely allow opinions beyond the inceptive to proverbially “sink in” often neglect many other opportunities for scrutiny, and so one can easily navigate around them.
If one goes in for the attack directly, say, with an angry rebuttal, these people will project their own aggression onto that person, acting as though the aggression is one-sided. It is rarely effective. Instead, one can avoid the frustration entirely through active discussion with a passive approach.
Bear in mind that people hate humiliation. The majority of people would prefer to feign confidence during times of uncertainty over admitting ignorance to a situation. In instances where these people are incorrect, they will often pretend as though they are still certain, acting as if something must have gone awry without their prior knowledge. It is that burdensome for some to confess inexperience.
The misfortune in all of this is that these people rarely expand beyond their present selves.
Upon recognizing these types of people, one should take caution in heeding their advice. One may do well to avoid contradicting them, at least in a confrontational manner, though it is gratifying to teach, to enlighten, heck, to prove someone wrong. There are many methods of addressing inaccuracies, not all of which will beget agitation. Awareness is first and foremost; rejecting the impulse to emulate is second.
We will all meet these people in our lives. This mindset does not discriminate between class, race, gender, or creed; it does not exist solely in the west, but permeates each culture throughout the globe like interwoven vines in a labyrinth of thoughts.
Of course, we cannot remove shallow thinking, but we can increase meaningful thinking by committing to it. This is the way our brains expand.
I allowed myself a rare bit of praise that evening, not because I labored through myriad nonsensical arguments and rebuttals, but because I am not afraid to be wrong, to hear criticism, to stand corrected. Inside, I know I will end up better for it, and indeed, so shall we all.