You can see it everywhere, CNN, Fox News, Facebook, Twitter, on street corners, in cities, in the country, we have become self-obsessed. Our personal view is right, our opinion is the most important thing in the world. We can’t imagine how the world can live without “our reply” or “our hot take” on the latest hot topic. The internet and social media give us the platform to express all of these views, regardless of objective merit. Unfortunately, we often express them without thought. We frequently express them without actually making a point or an argument. Instead they are cheers or they are rants, but they are hardly thoughtful. Take Twitter, the limit on characters actually prevents you from making an argument. 140 characters is simply not enough. And yet, this is our discourse on important topics. It bothers me and so this is my attempt to try to change it. More importantly, the way that we value each other, especially those we disagree with has us on a disastrous path. It is not the policies that are tearing us apart. It is the way we are treating each other. If we continue like this, society will break, of that I am certain. So let’s #changethediscourse.
How can we fix things?
#changethediscourse will be my new response on Facebook and Twitter when anyone uses an unnecessary pejorative in their post. I will write nothing else, I will not address the topic or the issue, until the discourse by the argument maker is changed. It’s the only way to improve things. Pejoratives and inflammatory descriptions are the tools of people who are mad. People filling their posts with these words don’t want to have a discussion or actually try to improve the situation. Pejoratives and inflammatory speech are problems because:
- THEY ARE VALUELESS WORDS
- THEY ARE CRUTCHES FOR YOUR LACK OF AN ARGUMENT
- THEY ATTEMPT TO SWAY AN ARGUMENT WITHOUT PROOF OR EVIDENCE
- THEY ARE HURTFUL, DEMEANING AND DEGRADING
All human beings have value, even the worst people, even people you don’t like, even those you disagree with. All are eligible for forgiveness, all people make mistakes, all people believe the wrong things occasionally . All human beings deserve respect and they deserve dignity. All human beings deserve love. I know we believe this, because I see parents and teachers correct young children, all the time. Yet because we are adults, we believe we can judge people and use far, far worse terminology with this justification? How insecure must we be that to even discuss topics or people we disagree with we bury them beneath an avalanche of pejoratives from the outset. We don’t do this people we know. So, if you’ve done this with regards to someone you don’t know, like a public figure, which we have all done it, then we should be embarrassed.
I encourage all of you to use #changethediscourse and spread it like wildfire until the discourse is changed. Use it against bad media stories that you see. Use it against bad Facebook posts. Use it against bad Twitter threads. Use it until we are having an exchange of dialogue, not a battle of name calling. When we are cooperating, not grandstanding. When we are empathetic and sympathetic to the person we are arguing with. When we listen instead of talk and when we strive for compromise rather than hold out for 100% of our position. When we are suggesting solutions instead of simply venting our frustrations. I am not trying to get rid of conflict. I am not a crackpot Polly-Anna, I make these mistakes too. I fight poorly, I argue poorly, but I want to do better and I need to do better. Look at our political discourse and please, look at yourself because I am talking to you. Everyone comments on every story, because “of course” Facebook gave us a comment line to go above the story we want to share.
Let me challenge you, really challenge you here. When you see something you disagree with, for example, President’s Trump’s latest proposals on immigration. First off, get informed. I saw today that some newspapers are prohibiting comments unless you can prove you understand the story — BRAVO.
Second, use multiple sources, ideally from a liberal side and a conservative side. When I look for news now, I deliberately go to CNN (biased on the liberal side) and Foxnews (biased on the conservative side). I am very comfortable in their bias, which is why I do it. So then, if there is a news item that both are covering, it’s probably real news and worthy of my time. Most times, there is little or no real news and I move on. Finally, after gathering source information from both sides, I beg you to make one positive point, in your head, for the other side of the argument. Here is why this is important. the people on the other side of the argument are not ignorant. They are not dumb. They are not anti-American, They are people and they deserve your respect. If you can see a good reason why someone might hold an opposing view THEN you are prepared to make an argument and either persuade people about your policies or reach a compromise.
Let me help by presenting argument 101
- Make a Claim
- Provide Evidence
and few suggestions on things to avoid so you don’t get #changethediscourse
- Do not berate or label a person
- Do not berate an argument
- Do not tell people how to think
- Avoid inflammatory words (ex President Trump made Immigration proposals, he did not make Xenophobic Immigration proposals)
- Let your facts make the argument
There is no room in there for name calling. An example, if I may:
“This war is going to tear our country apart. That ugly, awkward, lanky, country-bumpkin, wearing that atrocious stove-pipe doesn’t have the first clue how to run this country.”
No arguments made. A whole mess of pejoratives designed to win your favor, Since they are all negative, if the listener finds them fitting, then (s)he MUST support the arguers argument or lack there of, at least that’s the rationale for using pejoratives. Not once did the arguer provide evidence on how the war would tear the country apart. Nor did (s)he once try to prove that President Lincoln didn’t know what he was doing. Sound familiar?
Use #changethediscourse to remind people to provide evidence, make an argument, suggest solutions. Stop name calling, stop demeaning, stop driving us apart and behaving as if you are somehow superior. You are not superior. Starting with President Trump. Notice the title, President Trump, the office deserves respect. He is not “Trump”, just as President Obama, was not “Obama”.
A new Quinnipiac University survey of 1,078 voters across the nation has found that words like incompetent; liar; leader; unqualified; president; strong; businessman; ignorant; egotistical; and asshole are some of those most commonly associated with the president. The top three words (idiot, incompetent, and liar) were given as response 39, 31, and 30 times, respectively. Mostly bad, derogatory, pejorative, demeaning and distasteful names. I am ashamed and I blame the technology we hide behind and the cult of “self” that we have created. If we don’t fix it, it will tear the country apart but not in the way that you might imagine but more on that in a moment. Before I explain the risk, lest you think this is a Conservative rant, let’s look at a Liberal example.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a former candidate for President and a human, is called all forms of abusive names simply because people don’t like her and don’t agree with her politics. This is one paragraph from an article that I won’t cite because I don’t want to draw your attention to it:
And for all that time, there has been a deafening chorus of critics telling me that she’s just the most wicked, evil, Machiavellian, nefarious individual in American history. She has “the soul of an East German border guard,” in the words of that nice Grover Norquist. She’s a “bitch,” in the words of that nice Newt Gingrich. She’s a “dragon lady.” She’s “Elena Ceaușescu.” She’s “the Lady Macbeth of Little Rock.”
Pejorative after pejorative. Derogatory, demeaning and distasteful. Sadly, we buy into this charade and this farce. You might think the author is making an argument, or *gasp* even suggesting a policy alternative, but why should he, most of the readers have already bought into what the author is trying to achieve which is to discredit Hillary Clinton.
So why am I going to all of this trouble. It is far more likely that #changethediscourse will NOT go viral and will NOT change anyone’s behavior, but it won’t keep me from trying. I need #changethediscourse because I need a polite and courteous way to reply to posts occasionally. Most times I ignore these posts, but I hate being so passive. I hate not trying to fix things. So this is one attempt. Maybe some of you will join me. I hope you will.
I am also doing this because of my work at ForHumanity. The challenges we have ahead from the advancement of Artificial Intelligence & Automation are enormous. I also believe that there is a coming divide among people. Not the one you might expect from my examples above. A larger and more meaningful one. One that is not here today, but given the history of our use of technology, it will come to pass. On our present course, technology will physically divide us. I wrote a previous post which explains that the introduction of technology into our bodies will create two classes of humans, augmented and natural.
Humans that augment their bodies with technology will be superior, that is the point of the technology. It will give you super-human skills. As an example the “Gateway Drug” of implanted technology, the RFID chip. Those that implant the chip will have the super-human ability to NEVER misplace their keys. They will also likely be able to pay for things faster and without the strain of pulling out their wallet. Hardly Superman stuff, but they are super human, in the true meaning of the term, which is “better than or above” human, even if it is in a small way. The people who get it done will rave and tell you all about. The Swedish company that asked their employees to get one held parties each time someone got chipped.
A Swedish start-up has started implanting microchips into its employees
And as with most new technologies, it raises security and privacy issues. While biologically safe, the data generated…www.cnbc.com
That’s the point of a gateway drug, its simple, its cheap and its easy. Soon people will have super human hearing, eye sight, strength and speed from technology. There will be super humans using technology and there will be those who think that augmentation with technology is a sacrifice to their very humanity. Two classes, with one superior in many skills, quite possibly even intelligence. If the two classes cannot value the people as equals, despite their differences in skills (intelligence), then we will have serious, serious problems. As discussed at length above, I am already concerned about the way we devalue people who disagree with us. Devaluing humans is a dangerous precedent, one we are practicing to perfection today and it starts with how we argue. This is a problem that ForHumanity will work hard to avoid and it starts by #changethediscourse. All people are valuable for who they are. Treat them accordingly please.