Recently, a lot of things circulating through social media and my podcast feeds have been enraging me. I try to mitigate these things through a number of strategies – limiting my time on social media, intentionally targeting positive messages, not reading comments, not engaging, reminding myself that it is ok to disagree about things, etc. The hardest things for me to let go are cases where my thought-processes seem to wildly diverge from others about the framing of the same set of facts.
Initially, I wanted this blog post to be my master rebuttal. I wanted to lay out my case for why the conclusions others are drawing from this or that event are wrong and why. I wanted to emphasize what the important, salient points are that we should keep in mind.
But I know in my heart that would be an exercise in futility. A blog post is easy to skip; easy to ignore. I won’t change hearts and minds by arguing against a strawman average of the viewpoints expressed in my network of known-people. It would be antagonistic, hostile, and unproductive towards my goals. In all likelihood, it would backfire and entrench or alienate friends.
Instead, I will offer a different approach that I want to continuously remind myself of. When I feel compelled to dig in my heels for an argument, I should remind myself of the following.
First, remember what Aristotle (via Will Durant) tells us about virtue and excellence. It doesn’t matter what others say or share/post online; we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
Second, turning to fiction, remember why The Doctor helps people.
“Winning; is that what you think it’s about? I’m not trying to win. I’m not doing this because I want to beat someone or ‘cause I hate someone, or because I want to blame someone. It’s not because it’s fun. God knows it’s not because it’s easy. It’s not even because it works because it hardly ever does. I do what I do because it’s right! Because it’s decent. And above all, it’s kind. It’s just that. Just kind.”
Series 10, Episode 12: “The Doctor Falls”
Ultimately, it’s not about what I will say, or argue. Arguing with other people doesn’t make me a decent person; picking fights online doesn’t put me on the high road. If I want to bring about change in people I care about, it’s important to remember to be kind. Always be kind and help people, because it’s the right thing to do.
I recognize that being kind doesn’t give a lot of direction and can seem cowardly when meeting the systems that do real harm to the vulnerable and oppressed. In fact, espousing kindness can easily slip into inaction or forced neutrality. It’s hard to be prescriptive in this case at a granular level.
However, if I start with the core values of kindness and action, that what is important is doing things that are kind to others, then you can use your values as a filter for determining what you will choose to do.
Instead of arguing online, I choose to try and lead by being kind.