But you don’t get what I don’t get either.
Mutual understanding is insanely difficult to build, mainly because we conflate critiques of our most fervently held beliefs and ideas into insulting, personal attacks on our very core identities. We don’t like to hear we’re wrong. Wrong is for other people.
It’s hard to understand other people’s world view and prevailing mental model – their self-defined constraints, goals, values, inbuilt prejudices, and the bounds of their imaginative possibility. These things are rarely self-evident at a glance. You can know a person for a lifetime and still be surprised.
Do you know why so many people feel lonely, alone, misunderstood and isolated? It’s because no meaningful dialogue can take place until we have established that elusive mutual understanding. The necessary pre-conditions are almost impossible to achieve.
Everyone thinks they’re right and that everyone else is wrong, but that’s almost certainly wrong. Nobody wants their decisions challenged. Their decisions define their identity. Changing them feels like open heart surgery.
Some people, who care about the quality of their thoughts, have ideas of immense value to those that don’t, but because these people don’t care in the least about their own thought quality, they can’t recognise the value. You might as well be placing pearls before swine.
This gulf of misunderstanding happens in professional life all the time. In organisations, you’ll stumble over unstated aims, secret agendas, unknown and often superficial depth of skill sets, a total absence of mind sets for learning, twisted attitudes toward humanity, divergence of what they fervently believe leads to success, and disturbing differences in how they define success and ethics. I’m constantly surprised and wrong-footed. I find it to be a minefield.
In particular, I am often surprised at the things others have ruled out as impossible, when you know, for certain, they are entirely possible. Yet, they’ll fight you to the death to maintain their belief. It’s a decision they’re not prepared to reverse, irrespective of what you know and the evidence you can provide. Their more comfortable rationalisation is that you’re the enemy within; a madman and vandal who must be silenced or excised from the situation.
Here is an illustration of what I mean. I contend that electric guitar design is quite sclerotic, with little deep innovation having gained market acceptance since the 1950s. People think the electric guitar is already perfected. The best possible design features are believed to already exist. Yet, how can that be?
Somebody skilled in design, or guitar playing, could produce a long list of design deficiencies requiring solution, if they thought about it for long enough. But people don’t, so incremental improvements fail to excite the buying public, which increasingly sticks to what they already know. Tastes ossify.
Settled science often turns out not to be. We still have supposedly respected, qualified spokespeople claiming sugar is an essential nutrient, that fat causes raised cholesterol and further, that both fat and cholesterol lead directly to heart disease. Recent evidence suggests strongly that these regurgitated items of pure commercial propaganda are wrong and so badly wrong, that the opposite is closer to the truth.
There is no biological necessity to consume sugar, certainly not in the quantities and frequency we do and it is sugar, in likely fact, that is doing all the damage. Dietary fat and cholesterol can, in ordinary amounts, be protective. This would be an article of interesting intellectual debate, were it not for the fact that getting this advice wrong and doggedly sticking to it for decades has prematurely killed and debilitated millions of people, many of my nearest relatives included. Stellar scientific careers have been destroyed for trying to point out the mistake and yet, this mistake is being repeated even today, irrespective of the mounting solid evidence.
The current climate change talks are, it is reported, deadlocked over money. At what point do you suspend playing the human-made economy game, entrenched in our collective behaviour as if it were some kind of natural law, in order to save our actual living world? At what point does humanity face up to and solve its most egregious, insane errors? We need to solve this problem urgently, or everything dies.
Why should inaction result, due to disagreements over the distribution of paper trading tokens? Surely the conditions necessary for continued existence take precedence. All of humanity’s other achievements and accomplishments, artistic or technological, are worth precisely nothing, if everything alive perishes.
There is a long litany of explanations for events that were once derided as mere conspiracy theories, which have subsequently been documented and confirmed as actual fact. Here’s just one. We were told by the authorities, in report after official report, that there was no plot to assassinate JFK and that the mere suggestion it was anything other than the spontaneous act of a crazed, lone gunman was the product of a fervid, paranoiac, overactive imagination. Classified papers recently released, however, document Jack Ruby inviting an undercover FBI agent to accompany him to Dealey Plaza, to, “watch the fireworks”. Without forethought and planning, how could Ruby have known there would be fireworks to see?
You don’t know what you don’t know and I struggle to perceive what you see as the boundaries of thinkable thoughts. Our horizons differ.
It’s idiotic to double down on your errors, but people do, rather than admit that they and everyone they identify with were wrong. This single behavioural flaw, hard-wired into our neurology, could lead us to extinction. It’s maladaptive. Our tribalism and intransigence could be fatal.
The question, still unanswered, is whether or not our brains are sufficiently plastic and fungible to work around this grievous neurological deficiency. Can we accomplish this as a population? In short, when (if ever) will we become much more agile at changing our minds, when we’re wrong?
The way forward, for me personally, has to be to focus on the avoidance of confrontations with idiocy. I don’t have the time to spare and I’m out of good-natured patience with it.
I hope the rest of humanity wakes up to this gross mistake in its thinking processes soon. Everything depends on it.