Thursday, 27 July 2017

Avoiding The Echo Chamber

Throughout the latter part of my life, I have found that I have learned an awful lot from people with whom I might disagree. By way of example, when I was an evangelical Christian I made a special effort to engage with atheists, with their most prominent voices, with a view to not only just fine tuning my own arguments, but in order to better understand theirs. You see, I was living in an echo chamber, surrounding myself with voices that agreed with me. This is no way to live. No fast track to growth. The outcome was that I rejected Christianity and set upon a path which resulted in me becoming a passionate critic of all religious ideas. Please note that i specifically use the word “ideas” rather than “people”. And this matters. Yet over the past decade I’ve noticed this really odd thing happening, a kind of entrenchment and protectionism from ideas that might hurt the feelings of others. This to me seems deranged. It seems a near perfect way to insulate one’s self from anything that might disrupt what a person already thinks. How does that equal growth? Another thing I’ve seen is a concerted effort on the part of some on the regressive left to actively seek to silence voices of dissent. Preventing certain persons from speaking at universities and college campuses. Aren’t these places meant to be seats of learning? Isn’t a university the perfect environment in which we can refine our views and test them against alternatives? Why would any fair minded person not want this, or actively seek to curtail certain voices of dissent? This phenomenon is particularly bad in the United States, but we see it here, too. And it worries me. The notion that we want to protect ourselves from having to think another way, to revise our knowledge, to change. God forbid. How does this happen?
Irrespective, we should pull the plug on this nonsense. Just a few short centuries back the great enlightenment thinkers, whom risked their very lives to open up new avenues of discourse, paved the way for great social change, and began what was a great movement in which new thinkers could safely revolutionise whole nations. And our freedoms are built upon their immense sacrifice. It worries me that we seem to be going in a different direction, and I doubt anything good can come from the balkanisation of our thoughts. Dear friends, colleagues, and strangers. Get out there and engage with those whom think a different way. Challenge what you think you know. See how it holds up to hostile voices. And if the evidence requires you to change then change you must. To do otherwise is a bit feeble minded, a bit cowardly. Growth can be painful, and disquieting, and traumatic. But stagnation to me seems worse. Nothing good comes from inertia.