Nathan Barrett

Aug 21, 2020

5 min read

Talkie Walkie

The idea that any one person is beyond criticism or that your opinion of anything, literally anything at all, is beyond criticism is pathological. Your strengths are just as pervasive as your weaknesses, and that’s okay, because that’s what makes us human and what makes this all so interesting and worthwhile and exciting and makes me thirsty for books and strange conversations, and hopefully it does the same for you.

One of the core reasons as to why every individual human, every family or group, tribe, political party, nation, village or city depends on others as they do is because of the dynamic exchange between our strengths and weaknesses. We are social beings and this is a joint effort, regardless of your disagreements with others, because, like it or not, there is no other person or group of people who are better acquainted with your weaknesses than those who disagree with you, and, likewise, there is no group of people better acquainted with your strengths that those who are happy to be associated with you. To believe otherwise is to believe yourself beyond good and evil, beyond, even, the basic tenants of science itself because, as every scientist will tell you, however confident you may be in your data, you may still be wrong and you — as the scientist who has collect said data based on a hypothesis you presume to be true enough to spend, in many cases, years and even a lifetime researching — are not the best judge of its validity. Such an investment of time would naturally skew anyone’s ability to remain objective.

Might we not apply this same tenant to our own lives and with how we interact with people in our community? However wrong they may seem to be, even the wrongest of them would only serve to remind us of the fundamental basics of our argument by endeavoring a conversation with them. And what if in reviewing your argument by way of this discussion, you find a flaw in it you had not previously seen? Would it not be in the best interests of your goal to repair that flaw so as to improve the efficacy of the pathway you take to obtain your goal and thus reducing the duration of harm sustained by being able to obtain the goal sooner? Wouldn’t in this case an ongoing discussion of your opinion of say racism and how to end it be a worthwhile consideration in the hopes of greater and more effective progress toward abolishing it?

If, for instance, you have devoted a similar amount of time into a political ideal only to have a new generation go out into the world that you have worked so hard to build up and improve its stability, only to have them angrily point out its flaws, would you be any less susceptible to taking offense and thus compromising your ability to remain objective to the solutions that are offered?

As average people, refusing to engage in conversation with other average people is a hypocrisy. You are not a scientist or a philosopher and you have nothing better to do with your time, outside of caring for your family and doing you job well. What better way to spend your time helping people to rid themselves of the disease of racism, since you were otherwise wasting time simply scrolling through social media anyways.

I am continually flabbergasted by the fact that so few people are willing to live and act under the assumption that they make mistakes or are not always in possession of the best reasons or information to support their opinions. This, despite the fact that no person willingly holds an opinion about the world they know to be wrong, except that we all — every last one of us, including myself — hold opinions about the world that ARE wrong, and we, each of us, including myself, are not the best judge of what those opinions are and whether or not they will manifest themselves in the world in a way that will result in good. We all readily admit that we are not 100 percent right 100 percent of the time and yet none of us are capable of identifying a single opinion we willingly maintain and know to be wrong.

There must be some more objective or empirical way to make it through this bottle neck of over-corrections, over-confidence and the like against the utter lack of confidence in one’s ability to find well-suited reasons and information. We need to have conversations and discussions about difficult topics because the tragedies of our world would be so much worse if, in our endeavor to alleviate harm, we instead bolster it under the assumption that we were infallible in our attempts to alleviate it. Because good intentions do not always lead to good results.

There will be more harm. There will be more mistakes. You and I both will be responsible for some of this harm and some of these mistakes, whether we agree to take on that responsibility or not. But if our objective is to align our actions with our words, it would be best for ourselves and for everyone we have ever met or will ever meet to agree that we could all be doing a little better, to have a little more patience, to be a little more open-minded, to work a little harder to understand ourselves and each other and that we do, in fact, have a responsibility over the harm that occurs in the world even in the very act of trying to alleviate it.

We are currently in the midst of the longest sustained period of peace in the history of humanity. With all the tragedy that goes along with it, it is often very difficult, and perhaps rightly so, to remind ourselves of that fact from time to time. Nonetheless, things are getting better, and there is still a very very long way to go.

Perhaps we can make it there without another war. Though that is almost certainly wishful thinking. It would be in our best interests to improve our ability and capacity for conversation about difficult topics because if we are mistaken about any one of our beliefs and opinions and innocent people wind up paying for those mistakes, as they typically do, people may be even less willing to have conversation than you, and they may know a lot more about violence as well. And that is a mistake that no one comes back from.

I do not mean to make my closing statement come off as a threat but, rather, to impress on you, the reader, that there are repercussions for our mistakes and the less willing we are to confront those mistakes the more time and space they have to perpetuate themselves and gain greater amplification in the world around us.