Monday, April 25, 2016

sometimes you can take some of these positions too far

When I was about 18 and started to think for myself, I realized that we are way too far in one direction in this country and I should basically always vote/argue the other way.

Our country and especially our cities are made for cars, and we're seeing that become unsustainable in many ways. Anything that brings us fewer cars and more walkers, bikers, and public transit takers, is a good thing.
We as a country are (to borrow some words) racist as hell, we're only slightly less sexist than we are racist, we've got a lot of generations of both "isms" (and many more) to start undoing.
We flex our military muscle too much and end up creating as many problems as we started with (at huge cost to veterans on our side, and civilians on theirs, and at huge monetary cost to our country).
We really ought to do as much as possible to help the world as a whole, environmentally - and not just save spotted owls, but think about the environment holistically and do things in the direction of helping it.
Inequality's a big issue. Our world would be better with way higher taxes, especially on the rich.
(probably more similar things too.)

And like, I still feel like these views are 95% correct. Just... sometimes they're not. Hearing about an anthropologist who studied with a tribe in the Amazon and wrote some pretty unflattering things, I'd have been inclined to say, yeah, probably the unthinking eye of colonialism talking. But maybe it wasn't! Similarly, sometimes we should do a military thing, or build car infrastructure. Remembering that I'm operating with simplifying rules that are only 95% correct (and that percentage may even shift over time) is maybe one way to avoid being smug.

(Not even getting to things like "gentrification" where it's unclear if we're even looking at the right side of the problem, let alone whether it's gone too far. Digging into zoning laws and city hall and taxes is way harder than writing a snarky thinkpiece about an Apple store.)

5 comments:

Christopher said...

Still, im with you. I think you should be smug.

Dan Tasse said...

Nah, that's the point! Avoid being smug. Avoid turning your heuristics into absolutes.

I think about when Scott Aaronson wrote something about how he'd have been better off in the old days, in a shtetl, a village where kinda everything was planned including who you'd marry, and lots of people turned on him in a minute: "you think we should have arranged marriages!" "you think you should be given the gift of a wife just because you're a man!" "this proves your underlying sexist biases!" and everyone kinda patted each other on the back and stomped on Scott.

And like, yeah, in maybe 95% of cases, when we see a sexist thing someone posts, it's right to point it out and say "stop it!" But 5% of the time it's not. And keeping that in mind helps you temper your reaction.

An example: I've got a family member who's Republican on most things and so we disagree on most things. We were talking about tennis, and he goes "why do women tennis players get the same prize money as men? their matches are less popular, they should get less money." My knee-jerk reaction was to argue, and in retrospect, I still think I'm right: women should get the same prize money as men. But he also said "And women should play 5-set matches too, like men, instead of 3." And my knee-jerk was to argue, but I held it in, because my heuristic of "when he's talking about women, he's wrong" is only a heuristic. In retrospect, I think he's right there. If I had just assumed "he's got Republican backwards views on gender equality, gotta shun anything he says," it would have just led to more arguing for no reason instead of finding common ground.

Christopher said...

In any case, you should be respectful of other's views. Still, it seems like not saying anything is implicitly accepting those biases and perspectives. Changing people's views is hard, but biting your tongue doesn't seem like the answer.

Christopher said...

I get your point though, remember to be humble. I tend to be a bit terse with these posts when I'm on my phone.

Dan Tasse said...

Yeah, I know what you mean, don't want to just always let things slide, then nothing ever changes.

But it's the difference between "hmm, I disagree with that" and "YOU ARE DEFINITELY WRONG AND ALSO A BAD PERSON." If you live in a world of absolutes, it makes sense to jump to "definitely wrong and bad person." If you're always a little careful to remind yourself that you might be wrong, it tempers that instinct.

(it may be a thing about the internet too - people seem to jump to "you are definitely wrong and also a bad person" real quick, and you tend to get a lot more people doing it. it magnifies everything.)