I was having a discussion with a coworker the other day and we got to talking politics. We were specifically discussing some of the underlying dynamics that often lead people to believe into crazy conspiracy theories. Mostly, we talked about how people often reason based on emotion not logic.
I used an example of my little brother. Not because my brother is a crazy extremist, just the opposite. The story perfectly illustrates how even well-meaning people end up on the wrong side of things at times. So the real question is how, in an age of sensationalized media, truly fake news, and bias, do we encourage every day folks to move beyond their base feelings and examine a solution with logic? How do we get people to realize what they “know” is often based on very limited exposure to the world at large?1
Let me get to my example. My little brother grew up not really “seeing” racism. To him, it is something he knows exists but in more pronounced examples. For lack of a better description, he sees it as a very black and white issue. I tried to explain white privilege to him and found it a frustrating struggle. As a white man he has never had to experience the frustrations a person of color endures daily. Because he grew up poor and busted his tail working hard to get to a point where he feels stable, he doesn’t understand how a black person doing the same thing faces many more obstacles. I explained many of the very real world examples to him and while he sort of ‘got it’, because he lives in a rural environment where these ideas are usually avoided, it doesn’t become ‘truth’ to him.
It is hard for people who spend everyday just worried about trying to put food on their table to rise above the squabble and focus on bigger issues like politics. And when they live in an environment where biases are constantly reinforced, it’s easy to see why so many fall prey to the machinations of political hacks who want them to stay poor and ignorant. People who are poorly educated as a whole are easily manipulated by their emotions. Quite simply, their emotions are used against them.
And this is one variable of many leading society towards a calamity. So how do we overcome that? What do you say to someone to get them to truly open their mind and listen? If we could figure that out I think the world would be a better place.