I read an article in Mindful magazine this weekend that really stuck with me. It’s about how humans are biased towards claims that conform to our existing beliefs or points of view.
Really made me think more about something that is already on my mind a lot these days: how collective beliefs divide us from each other.
The article calls this “cognitive tribalism” – when being a part of a community becomes part of our identity. It gives us purpose, belonging, a sense of being within something bigger than we are. What our group believes, we believe. And other groups or schools of thought that our group dislikes, we dislike.
This makes a lot of sense, and I see it every day. I truly believe that on the deepest level, we all want to belong. Being different is uncomfortable, and in a much older time it would have probably led to exile or being ostracized. It’s part of our nature to feel comfortable, to feel safe, as one of the group.
But I also think this can be very harmful, and even dangerous, in the world now.
Politics is where I see it be most troubling. And the media does not help. Their job is to get us worked up, to sensationalize things so we continue watching.
One video clip can be interpreted a thousand different ways based on how it’s edited, who is commentating on it, and how it’s presented. And we fall victim to it when we take it at face value without any further research.
Let’s strive to be above this. Let’s not let the opinions of a collective be our only truth and accept the community mentally without trying to see both sides. I am so tired of seeing people torn apart from this.
And what also bothers me is this: I know people on both sides of politics. People I love, people I cherish, people who are my friends, my family, who are good people. None of them are racist or masoginist… or against freedom of speech or a bleeding heart lazy millennial. I know some amazing people who are not what TV or internet portrays them ALL to be.
I want to challenge us all to work against this enough to think rationally – to not take information from one source (or a biased source), not take as gospel what we hear from one, two, even three news stories just because it sounds “right” or especially reinforces our anger or hate towards another group of people. This is such a dangerous why to live.
In order to come to any sort of solutions, I think we MUST let go of the need to always be right or always be above groups we see as the “other.” When we do this, we dismiss instead of listening. This closes us off from understanding anymore about what’s going on around us unless it fits our narrative.
And I’m not saying we shouldn’t discuss and disagree. We absolutely should! That is necessary to learn. But it’s not getting us anywhere unless we actually listen to what other people have to say.
(And this is not just in politics. I mean with any differences in worldview – way of eating, religion, etc.)
Lets dig deeper, let’s listen to people, let’s be empathic enough to know that being human is hard, people are diverse, and where you come from can completely change your perception of the world.
Can we accept that our reality is not a mirror image of the person sitting next to us, across the street, or even countries away sitting behind their keyboard?
Can we consider for a moment what those we disageee with are physically and emotionally feeling, the reasons behind choices they make, the past they carry – to recognize that their hearts beat and their blood continuously pumps to the same tune as ours?
I do believe that if this happens on a wider scale, we can actually move forward and gain more from the world than hateful passion and a need to always prove “the other side” right. But where does it start? I believe it begins with listening to each other, pausing before reacting, and not letting bias or half-stories blind us to how complex important issues in life can be.
(P.S. I’m talking to myself here, too. I struggle with this every day!)