It’s pretty straightforward – and decent, and the right thing to do – to condemn what happened yesterday in Washington, to listen to all the statements, and all the stern comments, and the grave finger pointing, and even the angry positions on the serious thought and intellectual imbalance that led to the misguided attacks.
Yet as it happens, so many times we rush into finding the guilty party, the catalyser, the manipulator of events and facts – when we should go way beyond that. A lot of voices point towards the last four years of fake news and deep fakes where the lines between facts and opinions are as blurred as they have come to be non-existent. But this is not the cause, it’s just a symptom of many. For instance, it was all so intellectually stimulating to superiorly and massively laugh at and dismiss people who quoted Facebook or Twitter to support their beliefs in the so called birther movement, or the reasons for not wearing masks, or how immigrants steal local jobs.
But how many of us stopped to think as to why people have such belief and conviction systems? Outrage and disbelief mix and mingle on liberal social media and are voiced and phrased as utter surprise that there are such people who still support Trump, who storm the Capitol, who think that a pandemic is a fake, or that the Earth is flat for that matter.
However, why are there such people? Or better yet, why do people think all such nonsense? I wager it’s the lack of education – and I don’t mean formal education or training, such as university or post-graduate studies. What I mean is whenever there is a debate on a topic, a controversial affair or pretty much anything that involves disagreement, people tend to choose a side (most of the times the debate and intellectual conversation is as barren as only two-sided), different parties storm out with facts, arguments, and ultimately opinions – at least in the best of cases. But so few people start with communicating information, with explanations, so few people stop to clarify, to elucidate.
When I say education, I mean we got so used to having our opinions and defending them, and listening to people who think alike, that we forgot to explain and show why we think that, how we’ve come to that position or state of mind. Furthermore, this line of thought would imply educating other people, as in explaining, clarifying, informing, communicating. It might sound as elitist as the whole establishment I am trying to criticise here, but how about explaining why it’s not okay to use violence to defend ideas? How about trying to make people see not that it’s logically wrong to believe immigrants steal local jobs, but clarifying why that is so? How about showing people that expressing your opinion is all great, and we all embrace freedom of speech, but first let’s just try to base it on facts and not on social media news feed? Yes, it should be as rudimentary as that.
I believe this is what education means. Yes, recent world events only go to show that somewhere education has, at least partially failed. I mean we have universities and PhDs and we write articles and share ideas on a highly intellectual sphere and we understand each other and tend to retire in our own inner circle of liberal knowledge high castles. But where is all the learning, the sharing, the explaining? All that people who think the way we don’t like grasp at is TV debates, social media news feeds, and basically just listening to people who use fancy words to fuel ambitions or justify personal convictions.
We all tend to do that, because it’s easier: we have a situation, let’s ask a specialist. We have a debate, let’s ask a couple of experts from all the spectrum. We have a controversy, let’s liberally ask what all parties involved have to say. And all these people speak their minds, of course. But so few of them explain how they got there, what train of thought brought them to think and believe that.
How about we teach more? How about we explain more from a factual point of view? How about we say more: don’t listen to me, just read Aristoteles? How about we recommend more books, or movies, or songs we can all learn from? I used to believe people don’t change their minds, or at least not after one or two or a million conversations, but I am adamant that incessantly talking, informing, explaining goes a long way. And that referencing goes the longest of ways. That is education. Better yet, that is pedagogy: not merely telling people what is right, wrong, blue, grey, good or bad, but explaining why that is, and even more so, providing people with common sense premises to understand that.