Don’t be your own worst enemy, debate yourself

Trevor on the importance of self-critique and open-minded debate

I think questioning your own beliefs gets a bad rap.

With social media becoming more pervasive and algorithms getting smarter (but hopefully slowly enough that SkyNet won’t be a reality until Terminator 18 comes out) it’s easy to live in bubbles.

Social media bubbles.

Friend bubbles.

Geographical bubbles.

I noticed that last one when I moved here — in Toronto, people will talk a big activism game on social media.

In Smithers, I see a community that genuinely cares about its issues.

That’s not to say it isn’t divided on some.

In just over the last week I’ve had the opportunity to attend both a town hall-style forum on what Smithers wants in a potential “Green New Deal” as well as a discussion by a researcher on a large flux of American money coming in throughout the crescendo of a “Tar Sands Campaign” over the last decade or so.

Very different people, very different views.

But one thing I was pleased to hear at both events is a call for individuals to engage with the other side.

Vivian Krause, the aforementioned researcher, discussed the importance of challenging your own views and beliefs to evolve as an individual.

On the other hand, at the Green New Deal event, organizers discussed the importance as not seeing people on the other side of the political spectrum as enemies, but rather people to engage with on the issues.

Two events with very different vibes yet that same message of unity (despite what CNN tells you, perhaps we aren’t so different after all).

Back to the point. It’s easy to live in bubbles and echo chambers.

Challenging them? Not so much.

I’m a very different person from when I first entered university. And I was a very different person entering university than I was entering high school.

Sure, some of it is maturity, physical growth and the ravages of time.

But a lot of it isn’t.

Politics seems to have become a sport of sorts. You root for your guy and their team colours and boo the away team.

I’m sure most of you have experienced this phenomenon, some of you may have even lost friends to political debates.

I know I have.

The truth is that it takes a lot more courage and maturity to debate someone with opposing views to you.

And I mean really debate, as in not just for the sake of debate, but to try to gain an understanding of their perspective and challenge your own beliefs.

Someone who lost their child to a school shooter and another who has stopped a handful of robberies at their small town corner store with the pistol they keep under the peeling linoleum counter will likely have different views on gun control.

But they also probably agree on things:

That they want to keep their loved ones safe.

That they don’t like violent crime.

That police need guns to do their job effectively.

When we focus on our differences, that’s all we see. When we open ourselves up to debate, whether with another person or by researching the opposite side of an argument we feel we’ve already made our minds up on, then we actually begin to understand an issue.

Perhaps a simpler way to say that is that many people, myself included at times, make up their minds on an issue without having researched both sides fairly.

As the debates for both the Canadian and American elections grow near (perhaps something we can all agree about is how messed up it is that both of our televized debates start around the same time despite our election being a year before) I encourage everyone who reads this to keep an open mind to the other side.

If you feel a certain way on an issue and can’t explain why the other side is wrong, research their beliefs.

You might learn something new and change your views, or you might solidify your previously-held beliefs, and actually be able to back up your ideas in a discussion.

Either way, you’ll be a better person.

That’s something I’m willing to debate you on.

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