Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Good Comment

From a commenter on Reason.com, on the subject of Leftists and their approach to fighting Trump:

"If you wish to fight racism and xenophobia, then you should probably be spending a lot of time talking to racists and xenophobes. Otherwise you are just preaching to your own side. No one ever said missionary work is pleasant."

I agree very strongly with this quote and I am attempting to walk the walk. I work in technology. I have lots of smart leftist colleagues that pat themselves on the back for watching five minutes of Fox News once a week. "Oh I'm not in a bubble! I read Slate, HuffPo, The Atlantic, Vox, and even CNN sometimes."

If you really want to get out of your echo chamber, you have to do more than just occasionally read an opposing editorial that you'll probably just rationalize out of your mind anyway. You have to immerse yourself in the world of people who think differently.

This has happened to me several times in my life. I grew up in a moderately conservative neighborhood and was a hardcore liberal in my teens. Then I went to ultra-liberal NYU and became libertarian. Then I spent some years traveling and teaching in Asia. I lived in homogeneous socially conservative societies and came to understand some of libertarianism's flaws. In every case I was immersed in a new world view. I learned and grew.

I believe I have a strong understanding of contemporary liberalism, conservatism, libertarianism, socialism, and multiculturalism. The election of Trump has piqued my interest in what is called the "New Right" or "Alt Right." I lurk 4chan a bit (mostly /g/ just to troll Thinkpad threads) and in the last year the hard right board /pol/ has spread all across the community. They espouse a kind of race-aware nationalism that has been bolstered by the election result.

Instead of dismissing them as charlatans, I am trying to talk to them. I am commenting in Alt Right communities. I even support a few of the better speakers on Patreon (I support dozens of people there, mostly interesting artists).

The truth is, my goal is not to fight racism or xenophobia. As I have written previously, I never get into a debate with the goal of changing someone's mind. I engage with these people purely for the sake of my own knowledge. In truth I am agnostic on the question of race realism. Having read The Bell Curve and A Troublesome Inheritance recently, I recognize that there is real scientific evidence to support racial differences, even for things like IQ.

As an engineer I believe in the primacy of science, even when its results might make us uncomfortable. As a free thinker, I believe it is important to talk with a wide variety of people, especially those deemed controversial.

We all need to be willing to step out of our comfort zones from time to time. Doing so has helped me adapt to Japanese society. More liberals and conservatives in America need to reach across the aisle. We need to talk to one another, if not for the sake of finding common ground, then at least for the purpose of strengthening our minds.