When Politeness Dances with Stupidity, Misinformation, & Ignorance
This article was written by Terry Trueman with AI Assistance.
There are people I love and feel loved by with whom my efforts at kindness and civility are useless. I try to argue respectfully but that is always a losing effort. Logic, facts, and truth cannot penetrate their beliefs or touch their certainty, regardless of how wrong they are. Silence in the face of their ridiculous statements they interpret as agreement with them, their sureness in themselves makes it impossible for them to believe that any sane person could disagree.
I’ve tried civility and kindness, but that’s usually a big fail too. You might think that being civil and kind is always a good thing. After all, who doesn't want to live in a world where people are respectful, compassionate, and courteous? But I can assure you that there is such a thing as too much civility and kindness. That sometimes, being too polite and nice can cause more harm than good.
There are some negative consequences of an over-dependence on civility and kindness. While these qualities are generally desirable, they can also become problematic when they are used to avoid conflict, silence dissent, or maintain the status quo. Below I will also offer some suggestions on how to balance civility and kindness with honesty, courage, and justice.
There are some drawbacks of being a civility and kindness addict. While these traits are generally appreciated, they can also backfire when they are used to dodge conflict, silent disagreement, or try to preserve the status quo.
One of the drawbacks of being a civility and kindness addict is that it can stop us from having meaningful conversations about important issues. When we are too scared of offending someone or hurting their feelings, we might avoid bringing up topics that are controversial, sensitive, or challenging. We might also keep our opinions, questions, or feedback to ourselves. This can lead to a lack of understanding, learning, and growth. It can also create a fake sense of harmony, where we act like everything is fine when it is not.
Another drawback of being a civility and kindness addict is that it can support injustice and oppression. When we are too obsessed with being nice and polite, we might overlook or ignore the injustices and oppressions that exist in our society. We might also fail to speak up or take action when we witness or experience them. We might even rationalize or justify them as inevitable or necessary. This can result in a continuation of the status quo, where the powerful and privileged remain unchallenged and the marginalized and oppressed remain unheard and unseen.
A third drawback of being a civility and kindness addict is that it can damage our authenticity and integrity. So you want to be civil and kind, but not too civil and kind, because that would make you a pushover, a liar, or a coward. How do you find the sweet spot between being nice and being honest, brave, and fair? Well, here are some tips that might help you, or not, depending on how clueless you are:
- Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Ask yourself why you are being civil and kind. Is it because you actually care about the other person or the situation? Or is it because you are afraid of confrontation, want to please everyone, or need to protect your fragile ego?
- Think before you speak or act. Ask yourself what the consequences of your civility and kindness are. Is it making things better or worse for yourself or others? Is it solving anything or creating more problems?
- Know your worth and your limits. Ask yourself what your needs and values are. Is your civility and kindness respecting them or violating them? Is your civility and kindness energizing you or draining you?
- Be open to criticism and improvement. Ask yourself how you can communicate and behave better. Is there something you can change or do better? Is there something you can learn from others or yourself?
- Be bold in expressing your opinions and defending your rights. Ask yourself what matters to you and why. Is your civility and kindness supporting it or undermining it? Is your civility and kindness reflecting your truth or hiding it?
Civility and kindness are not bad things per se. They can be useful skills for building relationships, resolving conflicts, and creating harmony. But they can also become harmful when they are overdone or misused. We need to be careful of how we use them, why we use them, and what we use them for. We need to balance them with honesty, courage, and justice. We need to be civil and kind without losing ourselves.
One Example of a Civility and Kindness Fail
Ever try discussing racism with a racist who is in denial of his racism? Find somebody who is against affirmative action and have a go at it.
Affirmative action (AA) and anti-racist beliefs should not be controversial topics, but we know that they are and that they have been debated for decades. Some of the major arguments against the obvious fairness and justice of AA are:
Affirmative action is a controversial policy meant to increase disadvantaged groups' representation in education, employment, and other sectors. It is often based on criteria such as race, ethnicity, gender, or disability. However, not everyone agrees that affirmative action is fair or effective. I will present some of the common arguments against affirmative action and why they are flawed.
Are you tired of hearing about affirmative action? Do you think it's unfair that some people get special treatment because of their race, gender, or other identity? Do you believe that everyone should be judged by their merit, not their background? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then congratulations! You are a victim of reverse discrimination, and you have every right to be angry and bitter. But before you go on a rant about how affirmative action is ruining your life and society, let me tell you a few things that might make you reconsider your position.
First of all, meritocracy is a myth. It's not a natural or universal law, but a human invention that serves the interests of those who have power and privilege. You might think that merit is measured by objective criteria, such as test scores, grades, or resumes. But these are not neutral or reliable indicators of ability or potential. They are influenced by many factors that have nothing to do with merit, such as access to education, resources, opportunities, and social networks. These factors are not equally distributed among different groups, but rather reflect the historical and structural inequalities that have shaped our society. So when you say that affirmative action violates meritocracy, what you really mean is that it challenges the status quo that benefits you and your group.
Secondly, reverse discrimination is bullshit. It's not a real or widespread problem, but a rhetorical strategy that exaggerates the costs and ignores the benefits of affirmative action. You might think that affirmative action means that qualified candidates are rejected because of their identity, and that it creates resentment and hostility among different groups. But this is not true or proven by any evidence. Affirmative action does not mean that anyone is denied opportunities because of their identity, but rather that candidates from underrepresented groups are given a fair chance to compete and succeed. Affirmative action does not create reverse discrimination, but rather reduces the existing discrimination that has historically marginalized and oppressed certain groups. Affirmative action does not harm society, but rather enriches it by promoting diversity, inclusion, and social justice.
So next time you hear someone complain about affirmative action, don't fall for their myths, and lies. Affirmative action is not a threat to your merit or rights, but a way to make our society fairer and more inclusive for everyone. And if you still don't agree with me, then maybe you should ask yourself why you are so afraid of losing your privilege.
In conclusion, affirmative action is a complex and controversial policy that has many supporters and critics. However, the common arguments against affirmative action are based on misconceptions or fallacies. Affirmative action is not a violation of meritocracy, but rather a correction of its inequalities. Affirmative action is not a source of reverse discrimination, but rather a remedy for existing discrimination. Affirmative action is not an obsolete or harmful policy, but rather a necessary and beneficial one.
And trust me, or try it yourself, in arguing with a racist who doesn’t know he’s a racist, you’ll soon see that all the kindness and civility in the world won’t help you be heard.
How do stupidity and misinformation combine to create wrong outcomes in life?
This is a question that many people might ask themselves, especially in the age of social media, fake news, and conspiracy theories. Stupidity and misinformation are two factors that can influence our decisions, actions, and beliefs, sometimes with negative consequences. But how do they work together? And what can we do to avoid falling into their traps?
Stupidity is not the same as ignorance. Ignorance means lacking knowledge or information about something, but it can be remedied by learning and educating oneself. Stupidity, on the other hand, means having knowledge or information but failing to use it properly or wisely. Stupidity can be caused by many things, such as laziness, arrogance, prejudice, bias, or emotion. Stupidity can make us ignore facts, logic, or evidence that contradict our opinions or preferences. Stupidity can also make us overestimate our own abilities or knowledge or underestimate the complexity or difficulty of a problem or situation. Finally, as Foret Gump’s Mama put it, “Stupid is as stupid does.” I’m not sure Forest understood this tautology, but his Mama sure as hell did.
Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is spread intentionally or unintentionally (Looking at you FOX News and Evangelical MAGA Christian Nationalists). Misinformation can come from many sources, such as media outlets, politicians, celebrities, influencers, friends, family, or strangers. Misinformation can be spread for various reasons, such as propaganda, manipulation, persuasion, entertainment, profit, or fun. Misinformation can appeal to our emotions, fears, hopes, or prejudices. Misinformation can also exploit our cognitive biases, such as confirmation bias, availability bias, or anchoring bias.
Stupidity and misinformation can combine to create wrong outcomes in life in many ways. Stupidity and misinformation can make us believe things that are not true or not supported by evidence. This can lead to false or distorted views of reality, which can affect our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. They can make us do things that are harmful or risky for ourselves or others and can lead to negative consequences for our health, safety, finances, relationships, or reputation. Stupidity and misinformation can make us miss opportunities or waste resources that could improve our lives. This can lead to lost chances for learning, growth, development, or happiness. They can make us resist change or innovation that could benefit us or society. This can lead to stagnation, regression, or deterioration of our conditions or environment.
To avoid these wrong outcomes in life, we need to be aware of the dangers of stupidity and misinformation and take steps to prevent them from influencing us. Some of the steps we can take might include seeking reliable and credible sources of information and verifying them before accepting them as true or valid. Thinking critically and logically about the information we receive and question its sources, motives, methods, and evidence. Being humble and curious about our own knowledge and limitations and seeking feedback and improvement from others. Being open-minded and respectful of different perspectives and opinions and trying to understand them before judging them. Being responsible and ethical for our own actions and decisions and considering their impacts on ourselves and others.
Stupidity and misinformation are not inevitable or incurable. We can overcome them with knowledge, reason, curiosity, humility, openness, respect, responsibility, and ethics. By doing so, we can create better outcomes in life for ourselves and others.
How do Misinformation and Ignorance feed off one another?
Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is spread intentionally or unintentionally. Ignorance is the lack of knowledge or awareness about something. Both phenomena can have negative consequences for individuals and society, especially in the age of social media and information overload.
Misinformation and ignorance mutually reinforce each other. They can create ‘echo chambers’, where individuals only expose themselves to information that aligns with their existing beliefs, dismissing any contradicting information. This can result in a skewed perception of reality and hinder critical and objective thinking.
These issues exploit cognitive biases, which are mental shortcuts or errors that influence our information processing and interpretation. For instance, confirmation bias leads us to seek or favor information that aligns with our preconceptions, while disregarding contradicting information. Availability bias causes us to judge the probability or significance of an event based on its ease of recall, rather than its actual representativeness or accuracy.
Ultimately, misinformation and ignorance breed fear and distrust, making individuals more prone to misinformation. In complex or uncertain situations, people may seek simple explanations or scapegoats. This fear and distrust can also make people less receptive to credible information sources like experts, scientists, or journalists, and more inclined towards unreliable or extremist sources such as conspiracy theorists, propagandists, or demagogues.
Misinformation & Ignorance Are Not Inevitable.
There are ways to combat them and promote a more informed and rational society. Some of these ways include developing media literacy skills, such as checking the source, date, and evidence of any information we encounter online or offline and comparing it with multiple and diverse sources. Practicing critical thinking skills, such as asking questions, analyzing arguments, evaluating evidence, and recognizing logical fallacies or emotional appeals. Seeking out different perspectives and opinions, especially from those who disagree with us or challenge our assumptions and engaging in respectful and constructive dialogue with them. Being humble and curious, admitting when we don't know something or when we are wrong, and being open to learning new things and changing our minds when presented with new facts or arguments. Supporting quality journalism and education, which provide accurate, relevant, and balanced information and foster a culture of inquiry and debate.
Misinformation and ignorance are not only harmful to us, but also to others and to the world we live in. By being more aware of how they feed off one another, and how we can prevent or reduce them, we can make better decisions and contribute to a more democratic and peaceful society.
A caveat or two. While I mean everything I’ve suggested above, I’ve seen very little movement in ignorant (willfully or otherwise), stupid, misinformed, angry, hostile, argumentative people married to long held beliefs that are quite simply full of shit.
Kindness, civility, acceptance, gentleness, harshness, rewards, punishments, discipline, and any and every other technique I’ve tried to bring people to their senses and help make their lives and everyone else’s around them happier and better—nope, rarely has anything worked.
Maybe the Beatles had it right, all you need is love—but come to think of it, that’s been part of everything I’ve tried also, and it ain’t workin’ either.