In this episode of the Disgruntled Life Coach Podcast, we’re going to explore when to try to fix someone else, and when not to. We’ll start off with definitions and quotations, then the main segment will discuss when to leave stupid well enough alone, and we’ll finish off with a Disgruntled Nugget – a little piece of wisdom you can take with you, or not, I don’t care. Also thx to Audionautix and Partners In Rhyme for the music and sound effects.Support the show
I want to start today by saying that, for those of us who are privileged enough to have worked throughout the pandemic, it’s time to share the good fortune. There are people in your community, refugees, immigrants, women leaving abusive and dangerous domestic realities, and these people are starting from scratch. Here’s your chance to look around your house, check out a bunch of stuff you bought on stupid Amazon this past 18 months, and donate those things to local charities that will help these individuals and families. They’re easy to find, just look them up. And don’t ask for a tax receipt, don’t tell your friends, just do it because that’s what giving means. It will mean a lot to someone, and you have less stuff in your house. It’s a win-win. Do this today please.
So, in this episode, we're going to reflect a bit on last episode, but take a different fork in the road. I said "Fork". We'll still talk about being uninformed, but not strictly from a wrong vs. right perspective. We'll just assume that, like me, you're always a little bit wrong, at best, and grow from there. We're also going talk about what to do with low-information and low-knowledge people you meet, ways to find out if you're one of those people, and how to move forward with regards to your own stupidity. Also, of course, we'll end with a disgruntled nugget of wisdom. So let’s get started.
We're going to skip the definition portion for two reasons. Firstly, we don't really have a term to define except perhaps ignorance, and we're all aware of what that thundercloud of hopelessness looks like. Also, we have a lot to talk about, so we're going to go straight into the quotations. The first one is from Nelson Mandela - the South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, statesman and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He said "A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don't have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed." This is really what we've lost in today's hyper-polarized society: that concept that we can meet in some middle point instead of screeching "us versus them" like a bunch if shit-covered toddlers. But the starting point is that we all need to actually know something. Alas.
Next up, we have the rags-to-riches maven, author, and philanthropist J. K. Rowling who said: "I mean, you could claim that anything's real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody's proved it doesn't exist!" Although she may have used this as her jumping-off point for her own misguided dislike for trans-gendered people, she's strangely exactly correct. Conspiracy theories with roots in NO actual knowledge or data thrive in this kind of putrid petri-dish mindset, and that misinformation creates a huge gap in actual public knowledge.
Finally, we have the always quotable math and physics giant Albert Einstein who said "Any fool can know. The point is to understand." This is a key to actually being informed. The problem here is that some people are simply incapable of real understanding, but we'll get to that later. If it's you I'm taking about here, grab a juice box and go stand in the fucking hallway until class is over.
What are we actually talking about today? Well, it comes down to the fact that not everyone in our world today has the mental capacity, education, or general will to be fully informed. In a world where real, data-driven knowledge and research is available at our fingertips, we have huge percentages of the population who self-identify as idiotic because they choose to believe anything and everything. They wear this misinformation almost as a badge of honour. In a 2020 article published by the American Psychological Association titled "What do we know about conspiracy theories?", neuroscientist and science journalist Zara Abrams states that "People believe in conspiracy theories for a variety of reasons—to explain random events, to feel special or unique, or for a sense of social belonging, to name a few." This speaks volumes, because it shows that people, in general, aren't necessarily stupid, they're just lost in this screwed-up world and they need to belong to something bigger than just Taco-frigging'-Tuesday.
Further to that, psychologist Dr. Daniel Romer, research director at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center who co-authored a paper titled “Conspiracy theories as barriers to controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S.” states “Conspiracy theories make people feel as though they have some sort of control over the world” Romer goes on to say. “They can be psychologically reassuring, especially in uncertain times.” So people follow misinformation and conspiracy theories to gain both a sense of belonging and a need to have control over a world that seems out-of-control.
So how do we deal with these people, how do we find out if we are these people, and what do we do to make our lives better? Those are great questions. The first thing is to look at yourself first. Really critically look at yourself. If you are a free thinker, you probably think you have all the answers, or at least an open mind. But have you really challenged your belief systems? Without going too deep into the dark world of cognitive bias, we do need to look at your confirmation bias. We all have it, the need to find facts and information to confirm the beliefs you already hold. If this is you, and believe me, this is totally you, spend five minutes everyday searching out valid, verifiable information that challenges your bias, and really think about how you may not be as honest with yourself as you think. In a time when access to valid researched information is easier to find than, say, a used 1970s Pinto, Ann, we should be using that access to be better, smarter, and more rounded with our knowledge gathering. Just try it, even just for one week, maybe two. If I'm wrong I'll refund your money. No I won't.
Now, If you are an individual who follows the path of conspiracy theories and polarizing politics, start asking yourself why that is. It's possible you actually can't do better, but it's more likely something we’ve already discussed: that this is the soft mushy part in your brain where you make the world make sense, even though the things you're saying don't. Again, you need to look at yourself and really identify what it is you're getting from this polemic view. Some people, like assholes Jack Posobiec and Ben Shapiro, or in Canada Ezra Levant and Keane Bexte, hold these views because they can monetize them. They may not even believe them, but this is how they make a living. Don't listen to this bullshit. And when they say that people on the left are sheep, and you repeat those same words, that means they're now the shepherd and you are the sheep. That's a baaaaad look, but you can stop it. Just get information from somewhere else - somewhere reliable and verifiable - and, if they contradict your ridiculous worldview, really explore why that is, and be willing to shift gears. Don't let your confused identity get in the way of being a better person.
And what do you do if you encounter a low-information, conspiracy theorist-type person? The first instinct is to change them, make them see how wrong they are, coerce them with the knowledge and facts you have, and make them see the light. But in reality, that's only going to work in very limited number of situations, and you're not likely to get great traction on that device. You'll remember that I discussed this in the last episode about being right, same thing applies here, generally. However, sometimes, we turn to insults and degradation of those who think opposite to our own biases, and this, too, is doomed to failure. Calling someone dumb, even if they are dumb, will not help anything, ever. It’s like swinging a shovel at someone’s head, there is no good outcome from this action.
To inform that position a little more academically, in a recent article in The Guardian titled “How to persuade people (hint: not by telling them they're stupid)”, Anne Cassidy cites social psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini throughout. Although the thrust of the article is people in leadership roles, it applies to anyone trying to influence another, positively or negatively. Included is this passage which, in part, says "Ultimately, anyone seeking to be more influential should never underestimate the value of being nice to people. Paying someone a genuine compliment gets them on side, Cialdini advises. he goes on to say: “People will want to work with those they feel a sense of rapport with, and are much more willing to give grace to those leaders with whom they feel an emotional connection." So, once again, there's a real need to feel some empathy for others, be kind, and make whatever small inroads you can, when you can. Ultimately, however, this is more about changing you than it is about changing the world. And you can do that, and have Taco Tuesday, so another win-win.
Okay, so that's it for this episode. As always, I'll leave you with a Disgruntled nugget in a second, but first I want to thank you for listening. Remember to subscribe to this podcast, I’m on all the major platforms platforms, and please visit www.disgruntledlifecoach.ca for all my podcasts – Yes you heard me, w-w-w. Please also follow me on twitter @lifedisgruntled, there's a link on my website. And please request some stickers – they’re fun, free, and they don’t cause anxiety, I think. Also, if you like what you've heard today, tell your friends. If you think this is ridiculous, still, tell your friends, I mean how hard is that.
Harlan Ellison once said “The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.” Frank Zappa quantified that further by saying “There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.” But when Albert Einstein says “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe." then do we now have possibly more stupid than infinity in the universe filled with hydrogen, and stupidity, or something, I don't know, whatever...
Again, thanks for listening, and thanks also to Audionautix and Partners in Rhyme for music and sound FX, thanks again to Neatnik for visuals, and thanks for your patience - see you in two weeks, or not, whatever...