then it seems foolish to suggest that the solution rests in expanding the bad practice and objectifying men. Maybe it can be argued that by subjecting others to suffering, they will be motivated to end the suffering, and thus this bad practice expansion is simply one step back, two steps forward. And I can appreciate that when you yourself have been subjected to a bad practice, you may just want to see the world burn. Still, the loss of moral legitimacy – calling something bad and then proceeding to cheer for more of it – is an untenable price: Americans are a forgiving bunch, but not when it comes to hypocrites.
Just because something is optimal or true or right, doesn’t mean that it always yields unequivocally great outcomes. The non-great outcome doesn’t make that something any less optimal or true or right, but does decrease the likelihood that the experiencer of said outcome will strongly adopt that something.
Take something like telling the truth. Everyone basically agrees truth-telling is a good thing, and yet many people don’t practice it. Why? Explanations abound, of course, and they are usually laced with castigation. These judgements are extra juicy for the truth adherents who casually inflate their egos all while failing to grasp that what may be obvious and easy to them is not for others, EVEN if those others echo the same refrain about truth’s goodness.
Let’s say that a behavior yields four scores (-10 to 10): short-term individual flourishing, long-term individual flourishing, short-term societal benefit, and long-term societal benefit. When we find a behavior that, at minimum, scores positively in the two long-term categories, it gets encoded into society’s standards of things a good person does. Stuff in this standard often appear in religions, philosophies, advice parents give to kids, and phrases uttered mindlessly in 2AM discussions. What this wholesale adoption doesn’t do is erase the importance of personal experience, experiences that may well score negatively in categories that usually, on average and among a very large sample size, score positively.
I shall now default to this divergence when I find someone not doing things a good person does. Like, I can shout from the mountains that telling the truth is the only way to be and I can, in fact, be right, but I must appreciate that part of the reason I’m so convinced of my rightness is that my history is littered with broadly positive scores. What if upon revealing my biggest secret I was kicked out of the house? What if I had to weigh being loved against telling the truth? What if I had experience piled upon experience that scored deeply negative numbers? I certainly wouldn’t be shouting from the mountains.
When thrust into a conversation with someone who sees reality in a different way, “progress” or, rather, not-ending-up-hating-this-person can feel impossible. If basic facts can’t even be agreed upon, how can anything positive occur? What this question incorrectly implies, though, is that no basic facts of agreement exist when they do. Or at least agreement on something should exist if you are the open-minded, just calling balls and strikes person you surely claim to be.
First, step back from the toxic issue (TI) and pivot to a place of shared condemnation. How to find such a place? Well, apprehend the reasoning error your counterpart is making re: TI. A quite common one is making an unfalsifiable claim1 or making a claim that seems falsifiable only to perpetually change the falsifying metric whenever the thesis appears falsified,2 but any error will do. It’s important to appreciate that your counterpart almost certainly agrees that reasoning errors are, in fact, errors, but that his own biases will prevent him from easily witnessing his mistake re: TI.
Censorship concerns aside, tech companies labeling/blocking/slowing “misinformation” seems almost certainly to be ineffective in the same way parental advisory stickers are ineffective: by attaching such a label, the people you most hoped to “save” will be, counterproductively, MORE attracted to the content than they otherwise would be.
You so badly want to help. Plus, you have very real knowledge that can assist those you care about. But, you know that advice is so rarely followed. What to do? Suggest measurement.
Consider the Fitbit craze. Everyone, from the most obese down to those possessing visible ribcages, knows that walking is healthy. Yet, almost nobody walked enough in a given day. Action, not information, was the issue.1 Then these same allegedly unmotivated, uncompetitive, and lazy folks were give a simple step counter. No advice. No instructions. And BOOM! neighborhoods were suddenly overrun with walkers striving to reach the arbitrary figure of 10,000 steps. Better still, these walkers were now truly open to receive advice since health tips no longer carried the burden of something to put off and feel guilty about, but were instead genuine methods to be added to the self-started and already underway lifestyle transformation.
12×12. Then, go 8×8. Rest there for a bit, not too long, and you are on to 6×6. You won’t want to continue, won’t even see the point. Do it anyway: 3×3. You have no more ideas now. 2×2. This has to be beyond your limit. But if that’s true, what do limits even mean?
Easy there. Hey. Stop. Breathe. Stop. Breathe. Seriously, you are gonna hyperventilaHEY FUCKER: STOP. Thank you. Jesus. I promise you can handle this. I know nobody actually wants to put himself in a box, especially ever smaller ones, but this is your reality.
You come from a world of abundance that panics itself about scarcity. Now, you are in a world of scarcity, but one that can be of abundance. The outcome is entirely up to you – abundance can be yours simply by not tapping out. That’s it, that’s all.
“Simply” was an unfair word to use. I apologize. The advice is simple enough, but enacting it is far from simple. I get that. I get that change is scary. I get that losing so many parts of your identity, the parts too big for 2×2, is disarming. I get that you want desperately to do the one thing I urge you not to do.
unless you can feel compelled to act the same as him. It’s not that you stay in this state of compulsion, but rather that, if only for a passing second, you can want to act as he wants to act. Like, you don’t “get” Trump voters unless you’ve, at some point, felt the desire to vote for Trump.
For certain topics, the bridge to understanding (as set by this standard) may be too steep to conquer. This is especially true where the topic is less academic, like sexual harassment. Still, if you as a man have ever felt uncomfortable with the way another man speaks/touches a woman, a woman’s cries of sexual harassment are more likely not only sound bad, but to feel bad. And it’s in shared feelings that the deepest forms of understanding become possible.
to say the same thing others have said (i.e., a cliché), the key point to convey is why the advice did not previously connect with you. This is the valuable insight. Generally, this insight will demonstrate that only part of the story is contained in the cliché, the part that belies the difficulty of adhering to said cliché, or the part that admits of no tradeoffs, even though there are always tradeoffs.
in warding off pain. Pride that jolts you out of malaise when you are about to be passed. Pride that holds you accountable to the promises you made. Pride that says I’m better than this, and I ain’t going out like this.