Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

A couple of years ago, I had opinions on every topic it was possible to have an opinion on, and I had strong ones. Most pop was awful, I hated any rap or hip-hop, and if you hadn't read Harry Potter, you weren't worth my time. If it was possible to have an opinion, I had one.

Now I'm not so sure.

I've recently realized that a lot of the people I dislike most in the world are those who try to force their opinions on others in unproductive ways. This includes the religious ones who are so sure that I'm going to hell that they're practically foaming at the mouth, the creepy guy at the coffee shop who tries to tell me that benevolent tyranny is the only form of government which will ever work, and the girl who breaks up with her boyfriend for not liking Twilight. Whenever I come face-to-face with one, all I can think about is how we're really never going to agree and that there's absolutely no point in arguing, and that it's really all a waste of time. I know I'm not the only one. When anyone thinks about the people they dislike, they'll frequently name the people who they disagree with, whether it's a politician, a celebrity, or a parent.

This realization came long after I stopped being so fervent about my thoughts, when I realized that it was more interesting to calmly look at as many sides of the topic as possible and draw your own conclusion. This may sound underwhelming, but it's not something that happens automatically. I had to consciously stop myself from letting my mind blurt out the first opinion that surfaced, pause, and try to look at as many aspects of the situation as possible. It was the difference between gulping down a Sour Patch Kid (tm) and eating a sandwich. With one, you got one flavor which came and went quickly but left the taste in your mouth; you could easily recall the flavor if you had to. With the other, you'd get the initial bite and impression, which became better and more complex as you kept taking bites. If you remembered it, you wouldn't just remember the overall flavor: you'd remember the softness of the bread and the sweetness of the tomatoes and the slight crunch of the banana peppers.

Basically, it made all discussions more interesting and less frustrating. A person who is determined to stick to their opinion will turn any discussion into an argument, and if conclusively proven wrong, they will finish with some vague, stubborn statement which shows that they only argue to win, or they will try to deny how set they are on winning. That is why so many arguments end in frustratingly short phrases which make the other party want to start the argument all over again. "I don't care" makes people want to start an entirely new, much more personal argument about how no, it's obvious that you really do care, just admit you're wrong, and "Whatever" could probably make an otherwise sane person start tearing off their clothing and punching things in a fit of rage. On the other hand, a person who is less determined to win for the sake of winning can accept that the other person's viewpoint is different. If they do find themselves agreeing, they can admit that their opinion has changed. At that point it's up to the other person to avoid gloating.

Another thing I always think about when I find myself confronted by a person so hellbent on their ideas that they're almost crying, is a lesson from all the science-fiction and fantasy I've absorbed (no, I'm not digressing; this will all make sense in a paragraph, and with a minimum of vampires or telepathy.) Namely, that Reality is a matter or perspective, or perception. One of the oldest philosophical questions has to do with the idea of reality: is there any way of knowing that what we experience is real, and not a complex dream? This is not an idea which is uncommon today (the proof is in the screenplay for Inception, as well as a good deal of work in modern psychology.) This just leads to the question: "What, exactly, is reality?" Reality, as far as any individual can define it, is the entirety of the way they perceive the world. This means that every individual is living their own separate reality, including which facts they believe to be true, and the truths in which they believe. "Truths" being their views and opinions. In some cases, people disagree over topics which, when all the easily confirmed facts are taken into account, have very obvious solutions. This isn't because they choose to be wrong; it's because their reality is such that it makes them unable to accept the solution that others produce. While many others may argue that a religious argument has no value to anyone with a different religion because it is not a fact-based argument and that morals can be too closely aligned with pure emotion, the religious person believes that their religion and emotions count as factual, or at least truthful. They may also believe that the will of their God(s) trumps any other arguments. In this case, since there is a large difference in their realities (namely, the existence of a deity) they can never see eye to eye. Religion is also frequently characterized by an acceptance of ideas which have been disproved or make no sense from a strictly fact-based point of view. This isn't to say that religion is necessarily a negative thing or that the world should be ruled by facts because it isn't and it shouldn't. It is simply saying that it is a factor which some people easily dismiss, while others are less able to, even if they are aware that others disagree.

Any individual is going to be exposed to many different opinions on a huge amount of topics throughout their life. It is important to remember that any opinion should be awarded more attention than any other just because it's shouted louder. It's also important to try to avoid letting yourself become enraged over a small difference of opinions. Don't start screaming just because you don't like Katy Perry; you won't be achieving anything other than getting yourself excited and annoying or offending whoever you're talking to. Your loathing of brand-name water shouldn't make people run for shelter. And whether you like Justin Bieber or not will not matter in the long term. Or really the short term, for that matter. You will encounter people who both agree and disagree with you, and you can't convince those who disagree by energy alone. Avoid starting argument which you know are only going to end in frustration for both parties. Try to not be afraid to admit that you're wrong. When you are wrong, admit it calmly and confidently, because it means that you can try to improve your mistake instead of sticking to it out of stubbornness. Try to avoid making judgments on things you do not know about. Finally, if it is an opinion which really does lead to a significant decision, remember that persuasion works better than force.



Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback