The story goes that a student of philosophy was asked in an exam to prove a chair which had been placed where everyone could see it at the front of the exam hall did not exist. Students were expected to discuss the twentieth-century philosophers who posited ideas about subjective human existence and questioned our relationship with reality. But a two-word response – “What chair?” — if the urban legend is to be believed, received top marks for its reflection of the possibility the chair was an illusion of the examiner’s mind.
If you’re a person who tends to vote right of centre you’re probably no stranger to feelings of bemusement which sometimes approach sheer bewilderment at the way your counterparts on the left label themselves and perceive the world around us. It’s fair to predict the feeling may be mutual.
People who believe marriage should be undefined, gender deconstructed, masculinity softened, freedom regulated and debate censored have the temerity to call themselves “progressive”.
Other examples of bizarre flights of fantasy include Doula UK, a service supporting women through labour and birth, who forced their spokeswoman to step down because she said only women can have babies. Surely this is like saying two plus two equals four, but some people see the world differently.
Some people see the world very differently.
Take Extinction Rebellion, those willfully uncivilised people who repeatedly propagandise the physical imposition of their outrage on law-abiding citizens as “peaceful protests”. They refuse to cooperate with police, trespass on private property, deny people’s right to free movement, obstruct public roads for thousands of commuters and financially injure any small businesses in their proximity. “Peaceful”?
Many of the people attending those protests and employing reality-denying euphemisms are simply ignorant, albeit with varying levels of education. They may really think they’re actually supporting the environment or justice for oppressed minorities and not a socialist agenda to redistribute wealth and power, but that’s why Lenin described such lemmings as useful idiots.
Likewise “Antifa” are impossible to take seriously. They claim to be “anti-fascist” by opposing small government, big freedom, low regulation, free enterprise, private property and social liberty – conservatism. Their objectives and methods are frighteningly similar to the uniformed heavies which violently assaulted organised political opposition to the authoritarian regimes of the nineteen-thirties and forties. Far from a liberal, pluralistic democracy, they dream of a society where unapproved opinions are punished ruthlessly and criticism of the totalitarian politics they promote is altogether illegal.
That now-infamous Q&A episode featured a panel of radical feminists who unblinkingly advocated violence when experiencing political frustration. One rhetorically asked, “How many men do we have to kill before they stop raping us?” Not one person there thought that was an objectionable view of the world.
Animal rights activists are increasingly attacking blind people for the grave moral transgression of having a guide dog.
One writer for the UK’s Independent news site published an article titled, “The Prophet Mohammed had British values – so the only way to combat extremism is to teach more Islam in schools.” I kid you not.
A high-profile abortionist recently claimed the fight over abortion is “really” the fight to grant pregnant people personhood, to acknowledge them as deserving basic human rights and to respect their autonomy. Really. Such a mind-boggling display of inverted reality perception must be recognised as a serious handicap to productive dialogue and debate about an important issue.
Western law clearly acknowledges women as people deserving of basic human rights with autonomy (once they’re born). The fight over abortion is, in fact, the fight to limit autonomy at homicide and to acknowledge every member of the human family as equally deserving of the fundamental, human right to life. After every abortion, only one person has been denied basic human rights.
There are many, many more examples of utter absurdity presented as indisputable fact I’m sure you can think of, but this article will be unbearably long if we continue listing them. How have they talked themselves into actually believing the lies they’re repeating and blinding each other to reality? The point is, these folks are serious. They seem to really believe what they’re saying.
Understanding your counterpart’s arguments better than they do is key to not only understanding your own but to sharing it effectively. Recognising that you may sometimes converse or debate with someone who truly thinks black is white and wrong is right is the first step in that journey.
Heavy reliance on absurd euphemisms and Orwellian newspeak pervades left-of-centre rhetoric in journalism, elected and activist politics, academia and even entertainment. A regular visit to Twitter will be instructive in just how divided the camps are, shouting at each other across an impassable ravine of incompatible language choices.
The omnipresent challenge for a right-thinking person is how to make yourself heard; and even before that, how to distinguish between counterparts who are sincere and those who simply do not want to hear. It would be a mistake to presume everyone sees the world with any allegiance to objective reality the same way you do.
In some cases, the ideological adversary is being deliberately mischievous by misrepresenting reality in an attempt to support their flawed position. In some cases, such as those who are violent or advocate violence, it may be malice. In these cases it is almost futile to try to be heard, although the arguments against absurdity may be instructive for those who are observing the debate and unsure of how to weigh their assertions.
However, sometimes (if not often) the person insisting black is white and seeing the world in a completely different way is simply the result of a national curriculum and socialised education, and is ill-equipped to discern between intellectual foolishness and reality. In cases such as the animal rights activists who think guide dogs would prefer to be playing in a meadow, it may be fairer to remember Hanlon’s Razor, “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
We can either continue uselessly shouting across the ravine at the sufferers of blackiswhiteitis (an inflammation of the emotions when exposed to reality, subsequently impairing perception and reasoning faculties), or we can look for a better way.
My advice for engaging with people on the opposite side of an issue to you is firstly to allow they probably see the world entirely differently to you. Responding to them in traditional English will be useless if they’ve redefined every word to suit their vision of how the world ought to be. Before being able to debate the issue you need to find a common language. I don’t mean to suggest condescension, but it really is too much to presume they know or value the biological definition of life or gender let alone the contents of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Secondly, don’t expect a lightbulb moment for them just because you illuminated the subject for them. It may take many gentle encounters with an advocate of truth before it starts to dawn on them that wishful thinking never changed reality. The tone with which you engage them may speak louder than the logic you employ. It really does require patience and perseverance as well as a gracious aversion to reflexively presuming malice of your counterpart. Instead, patiently tease out reality. Remember the most famous hymn known is centuries old and written by a former slave trader who trafficked in human misery. Nevertheless, ‘Amazing Grace’ was written by John Newton, who repented from the exploitation and oppression of others and went on to inspired a young William Wilberforce to serve God in politics. He was, in turn, instrumental in ending the industry which in that century also treated living humans as disposable, private property.
Finally, learn to distinguish when someone is truly repellant to reality. Blackiswhiteitis is known to obscure the sufferer’s ability to rationally interact with honest disagreement and often results in sufferers aggressively attacking people who disagree with them. It’s prudent to maintain a safe distance and only exchange ideas with people who are not displaying these symptoms.
Some people really don’t see the chair, and disturbingly, “progress” to hating the chair and everyone who rests on it.
Dave Pellowe is a speaker, writer and political commentator and blogs at PelloweTalk.com.
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