Stop Fanning yet another Outrage of the Day

The importance of seeing things from different points of view

A few weeks ago, I read about the debate tournament victory of the 3 man team composed of inmates at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility in the United States over another 3 man team of Harvard undergrads.

What struck me the most after reading about it is that the inmates actually had to defend a position they personally didn’t believe in. But debate they did, and they did it very well.

quote from the WSJ article:

[Ironically, the inmates had to promote an argument with which they fiercely disagreed. Resolved: “Public schools in the United States should have the ability to deny enrollment to undocumented students. ]

It got me thinking about how the world is so polarized nowadays into binary positions. You’re either for iOS vs Android. Conservative vs liberal. Socialist vs capitalist. Tupac vs Biggie? Disco vs Rock? That’s nothing compared to the way people stoke outrage online today, breeding real-world violence.

People stake out positions on each corner of a topic and refuse to budge. They feel their position is the right one. This other camp is always wrong, our way is the only ethically right way, the just way, the fair way, the way that lifts up humanity. People immediately bully whoever is on the other side of the ideological debate as being stupid, slow, unthinking, stuck in the past, and wrong, wrong, wrong.

But we don’t live in a vacuum. The lines between what’s “right” and “wrong” are never that cleanly defined. When you aim for an ideologically pure stance that says X is the only possible belief that’s correct, you shut out so much nuance.

You ignore the collective history of other groups who arrived at their own positions and beliefs because of how their past experiences and life situation shaped their worldview.

If you don’t know how to give a little, to listen, to acknowledge why others may find your position and beliefs puzzling, all the more you alienate them. Whereas if you listened to them, compromise, admit that you are also just winging it, and that most of today’s politically correct and acceptable stances are also in flux and malleable, people are more likely to see your point and potentially partially alter their stance.


In everyone’s rush to disrupt, to be hailed as the next great savior, to be this super advanced being who “gets it”, the world ends up being more polarized because NOTHING GETS DONE.

There’s shouting, echo chambers of armchair pundits preaching to their respective choirs but refusing to step across the aisle to listen. No wonder nothing gets done.

Those who say hell to dogma, who don’t define themselves by -isms, those who quietly just DO, plucking ideas from whatever source, not caring if these are unpopular or even contradictory, experimenting to see what works, are the ones who push society forward.

Not rigid loudmouths on their soapboxes (both off- and online).


This following week, open your minds and ears to people whose opinions are different from yours. Understand how they arrived at their positions. When discussing with them, let them win a little. Don’t be a know-it-all. You’ll surprise yourself when a consensus emerges.

Practice what the prison debate team did. Put yourselves in someone else’s shoes and try to see the world from their viewpoint.

You live in a world with billions of people. To get anything worth doing done, to disturb the universe, you cannot be a pompous defender of your political/ ideological position. Learn to listen. Learn when not to fight head-on, but compromise, or find a different path that more people can live with and create something newer and better.

All photographs © Gem.

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