Let’s face it, there are a lot of problems in modern society: from inflation, climate change, abortion, to the ever increasing cost of healthcare, housing and college to a dozen other issues that I could fill the entire paper just talking about. We want to solve these issues (well most of them); however, we disagree on how to solve them. As we prepare to vote in another contentious midterm election, I am calling on people to reach out to someone they disagree.
Why should we talk to people we disagree with? The first reason that comes to my mind is the simple fact that I do not know everything that there is to possibly know. Moreover, there are likely things that I am wrong about. After all, I am limited only to my perspective based on the information I know combined with my lived experience. Nevertheless, there is a solution to having a lack of knowledge and misinformation, and that is to engage with different people. Like how we learn new information and skills at Wooster to broaden our perspectives and improve ourselves, by interacting with new people who know different things with a different perspective, we can broaden our own perspective and learn new ideals. The more different the other person is, the more potential there is for us to learn and experience new things, as what they know and their perspective is wholly unique and outside our own perspective. Moreover, progress both personally and societally is made by engaging with new ideas and perspectives and having one’s own perspectives challenged. Lastly, if you want to understand someone and change their mind you actually have to talk to them.
We all have biases and our personal and social media spheres which limit our perspectives and how much we know. Furthermore, these spheres we occupy can give us very negative impressions of people we don’t know and this limits our ability to understand and empathize with people. However, by reaching outside of our personal and social media spheres we can come to expand our perceptions and see people outside our sphere as people like us with their own unique knowledge, beliefs and perspectives. By engaging with people outside our spheres we can gain a better understanding of not only the world and the people that live in it, but also of ourselves and our place in the world. Expanding our bubble also provides the opportunity to make new friends, especially those that may be very different from ourselves.
While a lot of issues are rightly seen as sensitive and requiring careful consideration and nuance, making these topics taboo is counterproductive. Being unable to discuss taboo topics means that understanding and progress on the topic cannot happen as people will be too afraid to talk about taboo topics. Furthermore, when discussions do occur with heavily tabooed topics, these conversations tend to involve people with the most extreme and uncompromising views who have an interest in harming their outgroups and gaining notoriety for their extreme takes. Even if one is silent on taboo issues, this only guarantees that people who disagree with you will control the conversation and narrative around taboo issues. Only by having a more open form of discussion on taboo topics can a better understanding and advancement be made for all those that engage with the taboo topic.
If one is looking to have safe, open, and free conversation with a variety of different people, do it right here in Wooster. Next Thursday, Oct. 27, Wooster’s John Stuart Mill Forum will be hosting the second “Is God Dead?” conversation on religion and faith in Wooster and the world at Kauke 038 from 5-6:30 p.m. I intend to participate in the conversation, and I hope that anyone interested in expanding their perspective or having an interesting and thought provoking conversation comes.