This is worth repeating again and again, you can’t convince anyone of anything, certainly not through one simple discussion, certainly not through merely trying to list facts, no matter how verified those fact might be.
If you give people a choice, whether they support something or are against something, they immediately decide where they stand without digging deep into facts, without doing any research.
If you ask people ‘are you for or against the legalisation of all drugs’ or ‘are you for or against universal basic income’, they will immediately tell you they are for or against.
We come to these snapshot decisions based on our emotions, our identity, and how we feel we can be loyal to our value system.
Someone might immediately be against something because he is a Christian, because he has the association that the thing he is against is something any Christian would be against. Even if, in the facts, it becomes clear that being FOR it and not against, is the more Christian thing to do, if appropriately analysed, and if we could agree what a true Christian actually is or does and doesn’t do.
But this is not how people operate, they decide something based on loyality to their self-image, their heritage and THEN they look for all kinds of arguments to support that view, and dismiss any arguments that go against it. Like a lawyer in court.
When we have discussions with people about hot topics, like euthanasia, drugs, homosexuality, facts don’t matter and don’t have any impact, because most people, if not all people, mainly form their opinions based on their emotions.
About the only way to convince anyone is to not just use facts, but to somehow convince them that the facts are somehow supportive of their emotional identity.
To convince a Christian that legalisation of drugs is a good thing, no facts pointing out how it leads to less addictions, less criminality, less hospitalisations, how it disrupts criminal networks, and how much more cost-effective it is than repression, none of that matters to a truly devout Christian who is very loyal to Church doctrine, because it simply doesn’t fit with his identity. Nothing is more threatening to a person than the feeling that he or she has to change something in his or her identity. So any argument you bring to the table will be dismissed.
Your only chance is to somehow convince them that the legalisation of drugs would be the truly Christian thing to do, and you can imagine how tricky that would be.
The same with someone who identifies as being a very, very hard worker, who feels that everybody should work for what they get and who is proud of his identity as someone who hates lazy people, this attitude always has roots in childhood, and is probably a mechanism through which the person is screaming for love and recognition.
– ah, how much easier the world would be if we would all know WHY we REALLY say and do the things that we do… –
Well, a person like that will likely immediately oppose the idea of a Universal Basic Income, thinking it will make people lazy, or that it will make hard work unnecessary or no longer such a source of pride, which would severely threaten his identity. No mere facts pointing out that people do not stop working when they get a universial basic income will help to change this. You would somehow have to manage to link universal basic income to his self-image as a very hard worker.
You can see how incredibly difficult it is to convince someone of anything, since facts matter so little. Almost everywhere in the world the most succesful politicians can shamelessly rape the truth and still get elected.
Someone like Bernie Sanders, who is a politician who likes to use facts, has far less appeal than someone like Donald Trump who blurts out anything that fits his agenda of the moment.
It’s scary how facts don’t matter in the human world, and even worse is that facts are not even taken seriously. Facts are always questioned, but emotions are rarely questioned.
That’s why you can so easily say that Mexicans damage the US economy. There will be lots of people to cheer you on if you say a thing like that, even if you have no clue whatsoever if it’s true or not. On an emotional basis, rooted in my identity, I feel the pressure to say: of course they don’t damage the US economy. And then my brain starts looking for arguments to support that view. The truth is that I have no idea what the effect of Mexicans on the US economy is. I only have an emotional reflex pointing in a certain direction. We could go deep into my personality to see where that reflex in this situation comes from. To cut it short, I would say: because I have to side with the underdog and I see Mexicans as underdogs, so they have to beneficial to the US economy, they have to be positive, because that conclusion fits with my self-image as a defender of underdogs. Note that I have absolutely no idea whether they are or not. I don’t even know if we can truly say they are underdogs, also that is an emotional decision.
If you would come up with a list of facts that Mexicans are actually benificial to the US economy, lots of people would immediately challenge those facts and find reasons to dismiss them, no matter how ‘ironclad’ and verified those facts might be.
Human beings are deeply emotional creatures, formed far more by their childhood experiences and loyalty to parents, than anything else, even people we would assume to be very intelligent are more led by loyalty to parents and the views of parents and the culture they are a part of than any facts.
On top of that people do not have the modesty to shut up about topics they know very little about and have very little personal experience with, and have a complete unwillingness to read books defending both sides of an argument.
The result is that human society and human history is a sequence of constant, irrational clashes.
You could almost say that we never take the best route as a society, but the most emotional one.
You can of course have a very heated discussion about what this ‘best thing for society ‘ would be, even there we would all become very emotional.
I personally try to avoid discussions as much as possible, because I don’t have the patience for it, and I think every discussion should begin with a thorough analysis of the source of somebody’s opinons, so we can know why facts will not matter to a person, at least not in an objective way.
I myself was raised in a very liberal way, so in a discussion I will usually -certainly not always- defend what the position that gives people the most freedom. I will also defend the position that gives people the least opportunity to exploit others or cause other people harm. I was also raised to reject any form of dogmatism, so I will defend what is nuanced, and not dogmatic.
If you would take this a step further, you would find that this is based in a deep loyalty to my father, and to a lesser degree to my mother.
Please examine where the emotional source of your opinions come from.
We all have a self-image, partly conscious, partly unconscious, that we continually seek to re-emphasize and to express. We are carefully trying to keep that self-image consistent. We are constantly filtering and expelling things that do not fit with this self-image. We are not honest about this, we just need to FEEL that we are loyal to that self-image and consistent.
For this reason someone can, for example, easily find reasons to defend the consumption of alcohol and fanatically look for reasons to ban the use of cocaine. Although both are hard drugs, both are dangerous, both are addictive, and both have been around for a very long time, in some form or other.
People are not honest creatures, they are not objective creatures, and one of their prime motivation is to safeguard their own pleasure, and to maintain a consistent idea of who they are as a person and where they stand, most people are rather resistant to change in their self-image.
For these reasons you will find that it’s so hard to have a serious discussion with people, where both sides are truly open to the arguments of the other side.
Things become even more complicated when someone’s financial income depends on his or her NOT understanding something. It’s almost impossible to convince a person that something is wrong if he derives money from the thing.
I myself try to refrain from discussions as much as possible, because before you know it people start using ad hominem arguments, or unfairly change the topic of the discussion, comparing apple to pears.
Instead I put what I think on this blog, and the reader is free to agree or disagree.
Where does the inspiration of this blog post come from?
Well, during a discussion today I heard two people say -rather vehemently- that if we legalize all drugs we will soon also legalize pedophilia…