About the Blogger: Noah Henderson grew up in San Francisco and Carmel Valley, an avowed political leftist, critical thinker and student of nonviolence. Having been a professional musician and later a bus driver, he now works as a peer counselor and advocate for people with lived mental health experiences. Noah loves playing music, writing, and people.
“One in four Americans is skeptical about climate change…who gives a shit? That doesn’t matter. You don’t need people’s opinions on a fact. You might as well have a poll asking which number is bigger, 5 or 15? Or do owls exist? Or are there hats?”
– John Oliver
I want to acknowledge at the outset that I am “on the side” of critical thinking and science. But that does not preclude me from understanding people who don’t think like I do.
It is often difficult to merge logic and beliefs. They are uneasy dance partners, and holding both in your mind at once is guaranteed to produce cognitive dissonance. We don’t tolerate personal conflict very well, so we choose one side or the other. It’s simpler, easier and less painful to do that, and we have trained ourselves (collectively) over time to pick a side.
I’m not going to argue which side to pick, that’s up to you. I’m not even going to present the science, because the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has done that. There are hundreds of scientists from around the world who are top advisers to governments on climate data.
We need to address the unintended consequences of hardened belief systems and the arrogance of the liberal and science-based communities. It doesn’t matter if we (I’m a critical thinking radical leftie) are right and refuse to work with the righties – we will still watch as the planet blows up. I’m not so sure about the religious fundamentalists – they may want the end of days to come, but there are many others besides the fundies who come from belief systems that we on the left ridicule.
It’s true that we could try educating them or politically beating them or waiting for those conservative dinosaurs to die off while we illuminate their young, but could we do any of those things in time to stave off the looming untenable future? We don’t have time to waste, and we need everyone on board, so it would be best if we figured out how to cooperate with them. We have no better choice.
For starters, let’s stop ridiculing them. That’s just going to make them dig in even harder, delaying the time we might join together for a brief moment in time to save ourselves. Side note: I don’t view the singularity or any “technology-based” future with kindness. I’m old school, like in Fahrenheit 451, where there are underground book people who keep literature alive by becoming the book they “own,” able to recite it to others and bringing those books forward into the future by living them. I’m not pleased at the thought of less nature and more technology. Once nature is gone, it’s gone.
People who develop strong belief systems as their modus operandi are either genetically predisposed or culturally motivated, neither of which would be readily changeable. Small, rural communities, the small-town ethos expressed so well in the movies of the 40s and 50s, have centralized beliefs and morals, which are quickly mobilized against dissent.
There is little support or opportunity to live outside the system. In the TV show Happy Days, Fonzie rode into town on his motorcycle wearing his leather jacket and he wowed the girls and the boys, but he always was well-mannered with Mr. and Mrs. C (Cunningham). I can’t imagine changing anyone’s mind that grew up like that, and many of us did grow up with those moralistic guides.
The way to get others to work with us is to validate them, treat them kindly and with respect, and ask for some kind of negotiations. People who are conservative in temperament often have a strong sense of right and wrong, and there are rules they find hard to transgress blithely. We can acknowledge those qualities. We have our own mirroring qualities with which we can recognize theirs as similar. Looking for something good in someone else is a winning strategy. It is also satisfying.
When they see that you look at them as equals, they will eventually become open to hearing what you have to say, especially if you’ve been willing to hear them, and if what you say is “how can we do this so we’re both happy,” they should be willing to work with you. They want to feel safe just like us, but we each have a different way of achieving that sense of safety. Theirs is just as valid to them as ours is to us, and unless we embrace that, increasing social division will ruin things for all of us and our children.
Transformational social change happens from the ground up, starting with individual conversations and expanding into massive movements. We have science on our side and plenty of creativity, but unless we can cooperate with others who are unlike ourselves, change is moot. We need them and they need us. We do need to keep educating ourselves and promoting the science, but we also need to include them however we can.