Man, between ISIS, Syrian refugees, the attack on Paris, and the presidential campaigns, social media is a hotbed for heated dialogs, debates, arguments, and the ad hominem poo flinging that basically states I’ve got no rebuttal, so that makes you an asshole.
I will be honest, I do find myself being lured into some of these debates due to my predilection for challenging topical discussions. During one of these I was labeled as a postmodern philosopher, pejoratively if I might add. He told me I was dangerously blind to the truth of our society, a sociological given that I was a fool for not conceding to, that his choices were based on the quantifiable and predictable results of repeated historical behavior in our culture.
I told him as a postmodern philosopher I had to concede that he was right. I followed with “…then again, so am I.” with the obligatory winky emoji. If there were an eyeroll emoji I’m sure he would have sent it back my way.
The allure of championing ideological perspectives against an opposing view on social media is a chunk of pyrite on fly paper. We get drawn into the inescapable trap of wording our position cleverly, forcefully, or demeaning enough that we are convinced of our inviolate ability to verbally thwart our opponents into head-nodding submission, leaving us to collect their bobblehead effigies to mount upon the mantle of our own social righteousness. Then when we become disillusioned by their tenacity to hold their perspectives against our excellently delivered salvos we escalate our counter attack, continuing the melee until we get hungry or tired or distracted by a cat video and simply walk away.
If we are so resolute in our conviction, why do we seem so adamant in taking charge against the infidels in the comment threads? If we could convince that person that is just plain wrong and massively deluded to repent, do we get extra chits which we can carry into heaven to exchange for giant stuffed teddy bears or a DVD player or a golf cart stocked with a mini bar? Why the hell is it so all-fired important for us to be right?
This morning I shared this article by Lydia Wilson from The Nation regarding what she had discovered while interviewing imprisoned ISIS fighters. In sharing the article I had said:
It is said that in order to defeat your enemy you have to understand your enemy. Ironically, once you truly understand your enemy you find at the core they are no different from you.
Our greatest enemy is the enemy of ourselves within ourselves.
This article shows the value in actually taking time to understand the validity our “opponents” find in their position. We often forget or even ignore during our bantering and ballyhoo that the opposing position to ours taken was not chosen arbitrarily. The position espoused by those across the aisle or the street or the Thanksgiving table or the ocean or the DMZ was chosen because it reflects the human condition under which they live, it underscores their personal narrative formed from their collective experience. To tell them their views are invalid is to tell them their lives have been invalid since the day they were born.
When we seek to refute an idea, belief, opinion, or ideology that opposes our own we actually create a psychological and spiritual vulnerability within ourselves. I know there’s the romanticized notion of having a John Wayne level of unshakeable conviction that makes the pectorals of the toughest tough guy perform feats of granite. Yet the inability to see beyond one’s own sliver slice of the human experience leaves one’s foundation constructed of playing cards and wet toilet paper and the plot of Con Air.
Being unwilling to or incapable of seeing the validity of another’s truths for themselves prevents us from seeing our own shortcomings under the shadow of our chauvinism. When we see our perspective as inalienably irrefutable we can no longer see which aspects no longer serve us, or worse yet, are to our detriment to continue to uphold. When we stretch ourselves to look through the eyes of the adversary we can lift the blinders that conceal our own weaknesses and conquer the aspects of ourselves that encumber us from moving toward our own personal and spiritual growth.