Why I rarely pick sides …

I was catching up on a recorded Zoom talk on mythology at lunch today, when the speaker talked briefly about how remaining stuck in a particular idea is foolish, as life is always changing, and my mind locked onto the idea as reasoning for a few things that have been bothering me lately.  Between the recent removal of US troops in Afghanistan, or basically anything related to the response to COVID, the vast majority of what I have seen on social media has been people taking sides and lamenting how stupid the other side is.  Another man in my men’s group through Man Unvicilized also had a more personal issue where someone immediately jumped to the worst conclusion about him, and then kept berating him while refusing to attempt to understand his side.  I have been growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of considered responses and at people just unwilling to approach new ideas thoughtfully.  So here is why I don’t believe I am liberal nor conservative …

The only thing that I know is guaranteed in this life is that things will change.  I have certainly learned that idea myself, sometimes the hard way, when I didn’t want things to change.  There are even many books and movies which all have a similar theme of learning to ride the waves of frequent change.  This is why the idea of conservativism does not appeal to me … we know things are going to change, yet believe the answers of the past are always going to be right.  “If only things could be the way they were, everything would be great again” … yet perhaps if we could incorporate the ideas and understanding we have gained since then, things could be even better for even more people.  I am sure this is a difficult idea, as I know personally it can be hard to let go, but as I have grown, I have learned not to blindly hold onto the ideas of the past.  There is actually a book written by Marshall Goldsmith called “What got you here will not get you there”, and I think the title says it all. 

Now, before you try to point out that my refusal of conservatism is equivalent to a leap towards liberalism, I would like to offer my counter argument as well.  While I may not like assuming what has worked before will always work again, I also believe we should be able to learn lessons from the past.  Jordan Peterson was just discussing the “reason” for memory in a podcast, and states that it is not simply for recall, but to filter your recall into lessons which can allow you to make better decisions in the future.  I do not celebrate change for it’s own sake, and do not believe we should immediately throw out all the learning we have gained from the mistakes of our past. 

There is also an aspect of mental freedom here, which is frequently missed in this conversation.  If you always do the opposite of what everyone else is doing/what you’re supposed to do/what’s expected, then they have just as much control over you as if you were doing exactly what they wanted.  When you always do something, whether it is what is expected or the reverse, your decision is still being made by someone else.  What I like to promote, and my personal goal, is freedom of thought.  Learn from the past to forge a better future.

As silly as it might be, a lot of this conversation for me boils down to a quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off … “-ism’s, in my opinion, are not good”.  I truly just wish more people, on both sides of the aisle, or argument, or social media, would take more time to come up with their own thoughts, even if their answer would simply become “I don’t know”.  And while I know most people will want to challenge me that they always consider both sides of an argument, I would like to challenge you back to note how often are you picking sides?  Very rarely do great ideas fall into such a false dichotomy that there is a clear answer one way or another, so stop letting people convince you there is only one right answer.  Choose instead to be thoughtful …


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