A possible cure for social and political hostility: re-discovering intellectual humility

Opinions. Opinions. Opinions. We all have so much of them. I have a lot of them. People throughout the entire history of the world have had opinons: strong opinions, weak opinions,  crazy opinions, radical opinions,  and for some reason people throughout the history of the world have clung to the idea that their opinions are somehow a cure-all for all our social and political ailments.

I don’t mind opinions. In fact, I love opinions. I love an open debate. I am drawn to intellectual discussion and discourse. It’s invigorating.  What really gets to me, is arrogance around opinions. If the greatest philosophers throughout history still face intense scrutiny for ideas they spent their life constructing, then why do some think that the essay they wrote in their philosophy class on the ‘inherent socio-political implications of Nietzsche’s philosophy’-or something fancy like that, is the greatest gift to humanity?

First of all, if, you have had the privilege of spending a few years of your life thinking about this-thinking about the world in any way, you are incredibly lucky. Not everyone can spend 8 hours a day thinking about politics and social issues (or 2 hours depending on how lazy you’re feeling). Yes, this does not mean people should just be apathetic. I do think we should hold a certain responsibility to educate ourselves as much as we can with the time we have but, the constant bashing and arrogant way in which people tend to bring their opinions across-exacerbated by the fact that they are behind a screen is not helping anyone.

In fact, it is probably hurting the conversation. In fact, you are probably preventing yourself from learning anything new by assuming that your opinions and ideas are so great.

I am not just talking about university students. I consistently witness people battling egos disguised as great and wonderful ideas. Even if your idea is factually and logically more sound than the other person, you certainly are not going to change any minds by taking on such a pompous attitude.

“Pride is concerned with who is right. Humility is concerned with what is right.”-Ezra Taft Benson

We love hiding behind screens, we love echo chambers, we love being right and we love disguising this with a mask that says ‘I want to change the world for the better’. If we really wanted to change the world, humility and a lessening of intellectual snobbery could go a long way. Moral high grounds mean nothing when you have created a hostile reality where everything is just as bad as it was before-or even worse. If we really wanted to change the world, some of us would realize that maybe having a few years of a university education behind us doesn’t entitle us to know exactly how to do this. It is much more complicated than you think and you can hurt society by arrogantly and carelessly throwing out powerful ideas into the public arena.

Many of us don’t even know how to conduct ourselves in the correct way and yet we go around acting as though we have all social and political ideas and realities figured out to a tee.

There is nothing wrong with dialogue, there is nothing wrong with debate but more than often it serves nothing if you are just using your intellectual prowess to inflate your ego.

I have said this before in my previous articles but I feel it is really important: We need to ask ourselves, do we want to be right, or we actually want to change the world for the better? If so, the first step is more simple than it seems-start practicing a little bit of humility and start listening more. You might learn something new.

 

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