Conversation

The world has paid the price of isolation; but as we return to our sprawling shopping centres and bustling restaurants, we are going to realise a fatigue we haven’t had to deal with for some time.

Engaging with people, even positively, can be exhausting; beware the impact of isolation on our social tolerances.

Be kind to our service workers, Take care of our administrators and our organisers, and tread gently into the social spaces we were so used to occupying only a small time ago.

‘Normal’ is returning, but things have changed; let’s not allow it to be a change for the worse.

Somewhere along the line, explicit cancel culture got cancelled. Calling cancelling ‘cancelling’ isn’t cool anymore, but the cancelling still occurs; once a public figure wades deep enough into problematic waters, there exists a tangible progressive pressure to disavow them.

At the end of the day, cancelling lacks nuance – which is likely why it’s become . We have to keep context and intention in perspective and accept that there are some standards we cannot hold other to, because we could not hold ourselves to them.

The full wrath of public outrage should be reserved for those who commit the most vile of discretions. Everyone else deserves the right to learn and grow.

I’ve been asking it too much. I’ve been asked it too much. Questions in the how are you family don’t generating interesting insights. We all have scripts we default to in response, awkwardly dancing around wherever is actually going on in our lives.

So what’s the better option?

We could ask, “What’s been energising you recently?” Aggressive out the gate, sure. But bound to spark something of interest.

“Overcome any hurdles this week?” Risky. But cuts the fluff, especially if you can sense the something’s not quite right with someone you care about.

How about, “Are you looking forward to anything coming up?” Sure, it puts a bit of pressure onto whoever you’re talking to, but it leaves the door open for them to decide if they want to talk about a dinner they’re about to have or a wedding they’re going to attend in Summer.

We can do better than our crutches, and we should; people are fascinating. Learning more about them is rarely a bad idea.

The stories we tell ourselves aren’t always accurate – especially those in which we play either a hero or a villian. The truth is always more complex (and more painful) than ‘I was right’ or ‘I was wrong’.

By externalising the dominant narratives we tell ourselves we can get a glimpse into how the story might read from the perspective of others. This is hard, because our own biases are always the loudest, but it is possible.

Externalising and identifying these narratives opens up the opportunity for us to deconstruct them; to challenge the dominant tale from all angles in an effort to adapt or solidify our own.

We can offer each other nothing more valuable than the absolute assurance of our support.

Unless you’re in a film, this rarely happens verbally. Anyone who feels the need to regularly reiterate that they have your back, probably doesn’t (or doesn’t know how).

The trust required to assure someone that you’re truly there for them can only be realised through action; a kind of consistent, genuine and careful love which radiates inevitability. It is impossible to sustain authentic trust through inconsistent love; the kind which rages, scorching those too close, and dwindles when things gets too hard.

The result of finding and sustaining this kind of trust is perhaps the most valuable gift we have to give: it’s warm, knowing feeling; one of security, one of home.

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.