Conversation

The recent events in Minnesota should be a reminder that, after COVID, our goals should not be as uninspiring as ‘returning to normal’.

For too many, normal wasn’t cutting it.

If we continue to fail them, there is only more of this to come.

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

John F. Kennedy

There are an unfortunane number of people prone to thinking that they are in on something that everyone else is blind to. You’ve met these people; they’re usually quick to tell you what they know and, more importantly, what you don’t. They will immediately trust the word of anyone aligned with their beliefs, but refute every qualification held by anyone with a differing view. The problem with people who are suceptible to this is that, aided by a little fear, they can be convinced of nearly anything—and some falsehoods, once believed too deeply, can be perpetual.

A vulnerable person desperate for status and meaning will clutch onto the closest belief which makes them feel intelligent and in control. For some, that results in turning to faith. Religion offers the vulnerable a socially acceptable way to become ‘enlighened’: believe, and you get to join the we know something you don’t club. In this way, religion is a kind of conspiracy; it binds tightly those who believe and arms them with infallible premises to dispute with those who don’t. Religions, like all organised conspiracies, generate a cognitive bias which cannot be challenged by the logical standards of truth.

“Science adjusts it views based on what’s observed. Belief is the denial of observation, so that faith can be preserved.”

Tim Minchin

Conspiracy is attractive to vulnerable people because it arms them with an illusionary safety net: they are the ones who see and understand, and those who don’t are wrong by default. They never have to risk the embarrasment of being found out or losing an argument; your disbelief of their premise makes you wrong by default. The visciousness of this thinking is that it self perpetuates; feeling like you’re ‘right’ all the time feels good. So good, that just talking about the conspiracy can become its own form of self-gratification.

The sad result is that these people become insufferable to those who don’t share their delusions. The deeper one falls into conspiratorial thinking (which was meant to increase their status and likability by making them feel wise and in control), the further they isolate themselves from anyone outside of their conspiratorial bubble. For some, this works just fine. There are plenty of people who live entire, happy lives within two degrees of separation from someone who attends their church or mosque. But, in times of doubt, it may prove more difficult for those tricked into believing that malevolant reptillian humanoids walk among us to find meaningful engagement and community.

To return to reality, a conspiratorial thinker would have to accept the observations of the experts they have learned to distrust and denounce. If they wished to reclaim their place in the logical world, they would first have to admit to themselves that the ‘special knowledge’ at the root of their illusion of superiority was a lie; that they have been tricked, deceived and likely exploited by people and sources they have grown to love and trust; that the world might not be out to get them in the ways they feel it is; and that much of the fear they have been publicly projecting might actually reside within.

The problem with illusionary knowledge is that it leads to illusionary superiority. The problem with illusionary superiority is that it isolates you from those not under the spell of your brand of conspiracy; and the problem with that isolation is that, in order to give it up, you have to revoke the comfortable, infallible power you’ve grown dependant on weilding.

Tragically, this is often too painful. Its easier to believe that you’re a misunderstood genius than a delusional fool. Instead, they stay stuck in their unpopable bubbles of delusion, frustrated at the world for not understanding.

Never waste your time arguing with someone who has learned to believe in the things which make them feel good, instead of the things which they can prove. Facts won’t persuade someone to give up superiority which is grounded in illusion. Their knowledge and, in fact, their entire conception truth is not governed by logic or reason—their knowledge is governed by their insecurities.

Intelligent people love being wrong; every time it happens, they get wiser. It’s the foolish who can’t bear it; their fragile egos deny their ability to grow.

It is almost always better to receive infomation about a result or decision before it has the chance to impact you.

There are niche cases, of course, when discovering something in the moment allows for powerful instictive reactions to take over; reactions which may be more beneficial than if you had have time to plan.

This is rare though.

Usually, finding out early is by far the best option. Which means that giving people information before it affects them is important, too. If you know someone is going to find out one way or another, why hold back?

Cut the fluff. Candid is king.

A conspiracy, by nature, cannot be proved – as soon as it is, it ceases being a conspiracy. Facts, on the other hand, can be proved.

Science, by nature, iterates itself based on what is observed. Conspiracy seeks to provides the comfort of explanation without the heavy weight of the truth.

The truth can be painful, but it is always falsifiable; consiracy is comfortable, but it never is.

Imagine protesting for your right to risk the lives of others for the sake of your own mild convenience.

How much more selfish could we possibly be?

At times like these it hurts to imagine how our children might look back on us; our headlines should plague us not with anger, but with shame.

Those who commit to joviality tend to enjoy happier lives. They aren’t necessarily jokesters or pranksters, nor are they unable to take things seriously when they need to.

What separates the jovial from the rest is an intuitive ability to turn dull moments into joyous ones.

The stakes are rarely so high that we can’t enjoy a laugh. The jovial amongst us are commuted to finding that laugh, and sharing it.

If only we could all commit to joy; we might find less bitterness between us all.

There’s something special about things which are refined; those which are distilled to their purest form. In language is perhaps where that simplicity is at its best.

We each share an intuitive appetite for sentences without fat.

When we receive a direction impossible to understand, or offered compliment so genuine that it doesn’t need to be prefaced, we are engaged in one of the most basic and delightful treasures the human experience has to offer.

The point is to get to the point, with as much precision and clarity as possible.

We make art about the things we most wish to remember; we externalise them in the best ways we know how.

Great art stays with us because it conveys a fragment of the human experience in such a way that it can be re-framed and re-accessed by others. In that sense, art is an act of sharing; art is collaborative memory.

Art is the core of our culture. We should therefore be prepared to protect our art with the same rigour we would muster to protect our countries; because if we don’t, there won’t be much left to protect.

Clarity and brevity are essential.

Respect is more valuable than pride.

People cannot meet your expectations if you don’t lay them on the table, and your expectations aren’t defensible until they’re agreed upon.

Changes to the plan must be made swiftly and decisively, without hesitation or deviation.

Communication is everyone’s responsibility. Let’s make sure we play our part.

Is it better to ask, “what have you been up to?”

No? Still exhausting.

For a lot of us at the moment, both questions beg awkward and uncomfortable answers we don’t want to give.

Nevertheless, chances are that you’ll be hit with at least one of these in the next few days, so why not consider your answer in advance to negate some of that awkwardness. If you don’t like the answer you have to give, chances are you can do something tomorrow to change it.

Me? I’m struggling to keep productive, but coping just fine. And I finally got confirmation that the bones I found stashed in my garden aren’t human… So I’ve been building a garden bed.