Me — Too Much Tribalism!

If there’s one thing I see too much of in this world, it’s tribalism.  So much of the way our society has been programmed is in regards to categorizing people into allies or enemies. Sports and politics are two very easy and simple examples, but the topic obviously goes far deeper than that.

With sports, it’s fine. You cheer your own team on and are proud to be a fan when they win, and you get irrationally (perhaps playfully mad) when they lose to a team you hate. All well and good there. That’s not what the problem is.

The problem arises when people start identifying and supporting their group simply because of the name attached with it, rather than the ideas surrounding it. This isn’t an issue where sports are concerned, but I see the biggest offender of this is everything surrounding politics.

America has a two-party system. That’s all well and good (well, actually, I’d argue that it isn’t — at all — but that’s another story), but so much of the policies surrounding people and actions of our nation in the last several decades has been about “Democrats vs. Republicans”. Democrats can’t do anything right when they’re in office, and Republicans only screw it up more when they take the lead. So much negativity. Screw Obama and his administration. Trump is nothing but a racist idiot!

Yeah, yeah, sure, everyone sucks. But America’s politics has just become a giant grotesque cluster of ad hominem fallacies. We shouldn’t hate people just because they’re liberal, or conservative, or whatever stance they take on any topic. Nobody can ever have any healthy debates because two people on the same team will just talk about how awful the other side is, and when two sides talk to each other everything stops being about the topic and turns into insults. Healthy debate stops once the argument is not about the facts surrounding the topic. (This isn’t to say that feelings have no place, but feelings should, on principle, be supported by facts.)

Another huge issue is that we separate ourselves into two groups — liberal and conservative — and we characterize those groups by the loudest ones on the spectrum. The fact is, most of us lie moderately in the middle, and only lean one side or another. If I say I’m liberal, for instance, you might immediately conclude that I’m pro-choice, pro-immigration, pro-gun control, etc. I may or may not be any of these, but the problem is that assumption. Somebody can be liberal and be pro-life, or anything else, because so many topics are so complex that you can’t put a blanket statement over everything and separate them into one of two groups.

Now, pretending that American politics isn’t basically just a business that indulges itself rather than a government whose priority is its people, how do we fix this? Well, it needs to start with us. The media, the every day people, everyone. We would need to start a talk about the issues and stop identifying ourselves as “one or the other”. We all need to be open, often accepting, of new and previously contradicting information.

No more name calling. No more categorization as ‘friend or foe’. Just a healthy talk about what should and should not be done. Ideally, after a debate like this, you and the other person should agree based on the facts each have presented.

Obviously, this is never going to happen. But this is how we would start, if this change could happen.

Me — Debating and Arguments

Preface

It may have been some time ago, but I’ve explained before how no two words can ever mean the same thing. Each and every synonym will leave different connotations and impressions on the people that hear specific words.

Such is the case when people use the word “argue”. I hate that word, really. When arguing, one often tries to prove oneself right and undermine the value of what another person may say. Arguing, in my opinion, is a waste of time.

What I love, and something that seems difficult to find, is a true debate. In a debate, the goal is not (necessarily) to prove one’s own opinion as the superior one, but instead to search for the truth. I enjoy debates because they teach me about myself and the person I’m talking to on top of the fact that one’s opinion may be changed through facts and observations.

Now, I won’t try to justify this one, because this opens a huge can of worms I don’t want to get into today, but it’s my belief that with sufficient evidence and support for any claim, most people can come to accept and value different opinions. If two people are willing to honestly listen to the points and rebuttals of the other, I think an understanding can be reached concerning most topics. The reason these “arguments” may occur seems typically to involve miscommunication or a lack of information.

Chapter Yes

Recently some family and I were talking, and my brother brought up (jokingly) that when rating something on a scale of ten, you can go backwards to negative ten, as well. So when a movie is so bad its good, it will achieve negative scores and be good that way. (I related this rating much later in what would become an argument as a rating of absolute value. Meaning the higher the number the more enjoyable it is.)

Let me propose a spectrum of quality movies to you for context. At the top, you have amazing movies. Ones everybody loves and classics. Then you have good movies. Then you have bad movies. Then, you have movies that are so bad, they are funny to watch because you can laugh at them. After that, you have movies that are so terrible, you can’t laugh because the quality is so atrocious, its not funny or enjoyable anymore.

My brother proposed funny-bad movies as “negative tens” because you could enjoy them still, while movies that are just regular bad or atrocious-bad would be “zeros” because they are not enjoyable. I, however, placed bad movies as zeros, like him, but placed funny-bad movies as in the negative five range.

This started an argument.

Now, this is a stupid thing to argue over, and I don’t deny that, but what intrigued me is that this sparked an argument. You see, we were never disagreeing over which movies were bad, or where we should place them on this negative ten to positive ten scale. We were simply arguing over how the scale works in the first place. Isn’t that weird?

So, the thing that fascinated me was that this entire argument was initiated because of how my brain operated differently from everybody else’s in the room (not necessarily better, mind you). I rated every kind of movie by production quality. Negative ten meant not enjoyable ever, but the funny-bad movies were enjoyable because of the low production quality. Everybody else in the room valued this scale by the entertainment value of the movie.

movie-graph

What they thought I was thinking.

This meant that when they tried to “graph” my scale, they would get a bump that didn’t make any sense to them. While this does hold true with how I was explaining it to them, this wasn’t at all how I envisioned the scale to go.

I realized, (as I have already explained), that this is because we were working with two different variables. They were all scaling things based off the entertainment value. Something that was bad but still enjoyable earned a high negative score, whereas something that you couldn’t like earned a low score, probably close to zero. I scaled everything not by how much I liked something, but by the production value. A negative ten meant no production value, and a positive ten meant very high production value. Entertainment value, as shown in the graph above, looks a little odd when viewed in this way, but the graph below is what I envisioned.

movie-graph-2

What I was thinking.

It looks completely different because we’re basing the system off of two totally different ideas.

So, upon further speculation, which one is the “correct” way to view something like this? When judging off production value, having everything scale from negative ten to positive ten is pointless. Why not just have it be from zero to ten? (It makes sense to me, because the baseline is where a movie was iffy, but not great.)

On the other hand, if one judges these things from entertainment value, the difference between a positive four rating and a negative four rating is arbitrary. What makes the movie “good” or “bad” at that point? If I say a movie was bad, but you say it was good, its impossible to rate, whereas it’s easy to tell how much effort was put into a movie when it was being made, so production value isn’t often debatable.

So in the end, we’re all wrong, in a way. As soon as the argument occurred, I would have been satisfied to convey my idea, even if people disagreed with it. But as it progressed and in the midst of the conversation, I tried to figure out how it had devolved, people didn’t even seem to attempt to understand what grounds I even stood on. I think this is the cornerstone of the difference between arguments and debates. It’s difficult to learn and better ourselves without looking at both perspectives of a matter objectively.

We have pointless arguments, stemming simply not from diverging ideas, but different thought processes. It’s aggravating when people call you weird, annoying, or argumentative when you’re the only one in the room that disagrees on something. The worst part is when people get fed up and drop the subject without even letting you justify your side. I’m not wrong, I just think differently.