So, I just came back from a Christmas dinner. Good food. Good wine. Interesting company. And quite depressing conversation.
There were several aspects to the conversations that erupted over the 5 hours. All of which were sad.
(1) “I just want to live my life. I don’t want to be bogged down with rules and sacrifice. I am only here on this earth for a short time so I just want to enjoy my life.” That was philosophy number 1, as presented by someone quite calmly, quite comfortably, quite boldly, over dinner. Why? She was asking me why I am a vegetarian (yes, I’m back to being a vegetarian), and I tried to briefly explain to her the environmental reasons (fish, beef, etc). She just shrugged it all off and explained to me that she just wants to live her life. I sighed. And I whispered to my brother (seated to my left) that such is the core of the problem. To feel comfortable saying, I only care about my own short life and I don’t care about anything that happens afterwards or any impact I make during my own life or what kind of life I am leaving for those around me and for those yet to be born, is hugely problematic – not just on an individual level but on a societal level. That her comments would be so calmly accepted reveals deeper problems for us all.
(2) “Well, that’s your opinion. I have my opinion. We all have our facts and our opinions.” That was philosophy number 2. (the number, by the way, reveals only the order in the conversation and not the priorty of the philosophy itself.) Here, we have the idea that all opinions are equal. The mere fact that I hold an opinion grants it merit of its accord, and if you hold a counter opinion, then your opinion also holds equal merit. No discussion on the process through which you got your opinion is necessary. If I say that eating beef grown a certain way and transported long distances is harmful to the environment, and you say otherwise, both our opinions have equal merit. Simple, eh? Logical? Not at all.
(3)”I don’t want to be involved. I don’t want to do anything.” This philosophy (#3) assumes that there is such an option, assumes that one can be neutral, uninvolved. Example: I don’t want to be involved in the boycott. I just want to go on living my life. Well, that person is being involved. Rather than supporting the boycott say, of, products that support the Zionist state of Israel, that individual is opposing the boycott. No neutrality. Doing nothing is doing something: nothing. Choosing not to act remains an action. Choosing to remain indecisive is a decision. Being “out of the picture” means supporting the status quo, and thus supporting the powerful. This philosophy is one that is accepted by those who deem themselves able to stand aside, those economically privileged enough to consider themselves unimpacted.
(4) The fourth philosophy isn’t quite a philosophy as much as a way of life, a style of conversation. Or, more accurately, a lack of conversation. Here we have a man talking to a woman, and, yes, typically this style of conversation is gender-biased. The communication style is akin to a hammer: asking undefined questions, not waiting for an answer, and jumping to unjusified conclusions. And the man calls it a conversation. When the man engages another man in the conversation, then he pretends to listen and does not interupt. There are many layers here: arrogance (since he continues to speak on behalf of the other, and sicne he believes he knows it all), sexism (since he finds it acceptable to be rude and impolite to women, and only to women), and a blaring incapacity to listen.
So, bring these four philosophies together and we have a scary situation.
How to rectify them?