There are two things better not to touch in a conversation with relatives and friends: religion and politics. However, these topics are among most widely discussed 🙂 Whatever political views you have, you cannot prove you live out of state/corporate propaganda grid and here is why…
When you express your opinion that is remotely connected to politics people with different political position start assuming that you are misguided by some propaganda. If you support the status quo, you’re definitely have been brainwashed by the government, if you don’t support it, you have been brainwashed by some foreign government or conspiracy theorist or domestic ‘5th column’ or some other type of propaganda. Either way you’re wrong and misguided 🙂
So… I wanted to claim here that I am not a part of brainwashed mob, but I am not going to do so. Instead I would just say that I try to be as adequately informed as I possibly can. How I do this?
I believe that the real shield against being distracted by propaganda is not listening to a ‘right opinion’ but having your own opinion. After all, it is quite difficult to tell what opinion is ‘right’. That’s why you don’t want opinions, you need facts. Blatantly false facts are quickly challenged by alternative media outlets (if you have access to them), facts supporting one side of story are quite easily completed by facts supporting other side. Reading things in at least two different languages helps getting a better picture of what is happening. If you don’t have access to alternative media, you at least have access to actual people who are able to tell something about things directly impacting you in your life. Important facts are finding their way to you, you just need to be open enough to grasp them and analyze.
Biased opinions are more difficult to dismantle publicly because they are quite often based on emotions or misrepresentations, not facts. If you want to engage yourself in an argument, you should understand one thing: presenting ‘right’ facts doesn’t always work. Facts that require a careful thinking don’t work in a heated conversation. Facts that require questioning personal beliefs also hardly helping to back your case. You should fire some disarmingly simple arguments everyone knows to be correct.
I recall one successful argument I had a couple of months ago. It was an argument with a father of my wife about what happened with Soviet industry, factories that were working ‘fine’ in Soviet Union, but were ‘fleeced and bankrupted’ shortly after the collapse of Soviet Union. Quite a common belief among older people in Russia and it is pushed by socialists and communists. I made the case that it was to a large extent the other way around. Everyone in Russia who lived in Soviet Union knows that even basic goods were harder and harder to buy because of deficit of everything. At the same time every 5 year plan was over-accomplished. The ruling party reported record harvests, record industrial production, yet shop shelves got emptier and emptier over time. How that was possible? Where did it all the output go? We haven’t discovered any large deposits or milk, meat, butter, clothing, cars and other stuff Soviet industry was supposedly producing in ever larger quantities right before it collapsed.
I gave the only possible explanation: these advancements and records were largely on paper. To a large extent the ‘fleecing’, theft, fraud and big time misrepresentations took place long before the collapse. The system collapsed only when a whole economy almost completely stopped producing any of goods people needed and switched to a big business of asking government for big fat subsidies. What happened next was recycling of land labour and capital. Yes, many assets were taken over by outright criminals, but if everything in Soviet Union was just according to an official newspaper the country would never collapse. And this was a successful argument that I fired and no one was able to challenge. And I fired it on someone who lived a half of his life in Soviet Union while I lived there first six years of my life. The thing was so clear even 6 years old boy could figure it out.
However, many other arguments got me nowhere. People don’t change their position, they just get irritated, confused or angry about what I have to say. And as my arguments get more sophisticated and creative they work less and less to back my case.
What I learned is the following: ‘waking people up’ is a shitty business. Your efforts are likely to remain unappreciated at the very best. It gets worse also because predicting exact consequences of bad policies is a difficult business. If you’re right that some bridge is unsound it can take years before it collapses. And every day you make your argument about unsoundness of its structure you are going to be mocked and ridiculed by others who read ‘Pravda’ newspaper and ‘knows’ that everything is going to be just fine. But when the bridge finally collapses you’re going to be told something like this: ‘you were telling us this for years, at some point any bridge collapses and any broken clock shows correct time at least once a day’… So people don’t appreciate your efforts even after you were proven right. The only sure possibility is to tell that something will collapse in a few moments, drag people out right before it actually blows up in their faces, but predicting the time of blowup with so much precision is often impossible.
Given all this misery, you don’t want to confront mainstream verbally, but what you can do is to convert your understandings into right personal decisions. You can’t make everyone to agree with unsoundness of a bridge, but you can stay away from this bridge so you don’t get hurt or die when it finally falls apart. There are not so many bridges you need to examine before you go thru your life:
- Your profession and career
- A place where you live
- Your retirement plan
- Significant investments / capital allocations
- Institutions you rely on
Instead of trying hard to push ‘right’ opinion into people you can still do some good to them by expressing your worries.
“I am worried about this bridge because its construction doesn’t look trustworthy. The last time such type of bridge collapsed a few years ago at some other place”.
You don’t need to prove anything to a mob, you’re just facilitating their brain to work a little. Everything else is left up to them to decide.
Finally let everyone get hurt who is ignorant enough to deserve it. Let them be warnings to others.