Jack Schwager, an American writer on all things financial once wrote that;
“Being wrong is acceptable, but staying wrong is totally unacceptable.”
Our current national shit-storm is, in many ways, the direct result of nobody even contemplating the possibility that they could be wrong about anything. The very concept of anybody changing their mind or slightly rethinking their position, is not only non-existent but actually seen as a weakness. Any sign of “critical thinking” (a term often bandied about by online loonies, to be fair) is seen as disloyal to your tribe.
We are all in camps now, whether we like it or not. We have chosen our teams and sit behind our digital ramparts, ready to repel the enemy. We are gammon versus remoaners. We are Commies versus Nazis. We are science versus opinion. We are black versus white. We are Matt Hancock versus Matt Hancunt.
We are fucked.
Let’s take an example.
I happen to believe that the current government has been monumentally incompetent in their attempts to manage the Covid-19 crisis. They have been obsessed with short-term PR. They have lost the public trust by imposing rules that they break with impunity themselves. They have spectacularly failed to set up a functional, national testing system. If the one we have is “world-beating” then fuck knows what the rest of the world is like? I’d happily go and check if I could, but I can’t get a test, so I can’t travel.
A lot of this stems from the top. We are being “lead” by a lazy, self-serving blagger, a fat mess who has been winging it since school. Trust me on this. It takes one to know one.
But, having said this, I do not believe that our government is in league with Bill Gates to force people to take a vaccine that will allow us to be mind-controlled by some league of lizards. Nor do I believe that wearing a mask is a symbol of kow-towing to our new proto-fascist rulers. It’s just common sense and the sign of being a decent human being. The Coronavirus is real, it’s dangerous to a lot of people, most other countries are dealing with the pandemic better than we are. This is not by chance.
Both sides, certainly online, are so vociferous, so aggressive in their beliefs that there is simply no room for nuance. There is no grey area. Everything is either black or white…but Grey Lives Matter too.
So, when faced, on Twitter or Facebook, with anti-vaxxers refusing to wear masks on trains, posting caricatures of Bill Gates as the devil and wondering why the Rule of Six doesn’t apply to refugees on dinghies crossing the Channel…I tend to ally myself with the other side. By not wanting to associate myself with a wide range of attention-seeking thundercunts- from Peter Hitchens and James Delingpole, to Piers Corbyn and Jim Corr, I find myself by default supporting possibly the most incompetent government since…well…the last one. I am branded an “establishment shill” by the sort of people whose idea of work is an hour online harassing the McCann family.
Social media reduces us all to the lowest common denominators. We are for or against. It’s all about clicks and nobody clicks on the “don’t know” button any more. In the past, I laughed at endless polls in which people had taken part simply to tell us that they “didn’t know.” Who were these people so keen to tell us that they didn’t know? What kind of moron, I thought, had no opinion on the great subjects of the hour?
Looking back, I now realise that it was probably badly worded. It wasn’t that they “didn’t know” but, in Facebook Speak, “It’s complicated.” These were people who were not fanatical about their beliefs. They were not certain of their righteousness. These people now have no visible outlet on social media. Online, only certainty prevails. The Trumpian philosophy of “if you are attacked, then hit back a hundred times harder” is the new mantra and I’m as guilty of it as anybody else. It helps nobody.
Anyone convinced that their views are infallible should be automatically disbarred from office. U-turns and a search for consensus are seen as weaknesses. They should be seen a strength. I want to be governed by people who own up to mistakes, are happy to change their minds and do their very best to keep open to new, challenging ideas.
We also have a part to play in this. We need to start supporting the doubters, not the believers. We need to embrace the inquisitive, not the inquisition.
William Goldman, a legendary screenplay writer summed it up best- “Nobody knows anything…not one person knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”
It’s time we educated ourselves…but I could be wrong.