I’m a collector of words, phrases, and quotes. Perhaps it comes from being a writer myself, or the fact I’m a bit of a bookworm, but whatever the reason may be I have various notebooks, apps, and other paraphernalia dedicated to scraps of sentences around me.
One such place where I collect quote is in my Google Keep app, and I’ve found this to be quite a productive thing to do. Case in point is this blog post today which was inspired by something I’d written down in this app, although Lord knows where I got it from.
If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my post the other day about the book I’m currently reading and some feelings I was having about it. That book is Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates – and yep, it’s a heavy one!
I mentioned in that Instagram post that I’ve been weirdly obsessed with ‘heavy’ topics like what this book deals with all year. This book deals with those communities which are rife in society and are based on misogyny, while also dabbling in white supremacy and alt-right politics. It’s similar to another one I read earlier in 2021 called Going Dark: The Secret Life of Extremists by Julia Ebner.
The topic is obviously always relevant, and becomes scarily more so as time goes on, but it struck a personal chord with me in the winter because I found out someone I was following, have endorsed and supported, was actually part of these extremist groups. So I’ve been in kind of a dark headspace for a lot of 2021, but it’s so fascinating and upsetting and relevant that I can’t see it ending soon.
All of this is relevant to the title, I promise and I’m getting there.
Something that these extremist groups and the people who follow their ideology have in common is their cries of ‘freedom of speech’ whenever someone argues against what they believe in, and that’s kind of what I wanted to talk about today.
Obviously, it goes without saying that freedom of speech is important – it’s essential and we don’t want it to go away. As someone who studied journalism and got a pretty good degree in the subject (which included modules/exams on law and public affairs within the media, so I do know my stuff), I fully support free speech.
However, what people in these alt-right groups do is not in the name of free speech.
Free speech does not excuse hate speech, threats, or discriminatory language. It’s deeper than that, which is why there are books and courses on the very subject, which I would love for people in these spaces (including those that I have interacted with personally) would take heed of.
When it comes to debating, or arguing as the case is more likely to be, with people who use ‘freedom of speech’ as a way to try to shut down any conversation, there is a mentality that you can use to get out of it safely.
Let Them Disagree
I wrote a post about how letting other people be right can be such a beneficial thing to do for your mental health during times of conflict. This post might seem a little contradictive following my messages of the past, but letting people be right is a small action to do in daily arguments or disagreements to make your life a little easier.
When it comes to the big topics, such as who is allowed rights and who is protected, you don’t have to (nor should you, if it is safe to do so) let the other person be right. You can argue and state your case against them using what I think is the best technique – with facts. But that isn’t always going to work.
To bring it back to my title and the actual point of this blog post in the first place is the quote I found within my Google Keep app which read:
There are obvious lots of variations of this quote across the internet, and I reckon I heard my version through a YouTube video, but either way the sentiment is the same.
Even though I’m on the subject of extremist views and those things that we really want to argue against, this quote can work for basically anything you believe in. The reason I’m linking it to such heavy topics, especially with all that is going on in the world right now, is for your benefit.
Trying to change someone’s mind is so hard, yet lots of us still continue to try time and time again.
We get into debates with family members over the dinner table, we argue with bigots online, and we stick up for the values we hold in protests.
And I’m not saying that these things shouldn’t take place or that you should stop doing them, because I really believe that change comes in small actions and having conversations is a way to gain new perspectives. But I do want to say to not waste your time or your energy when you don’t have it.
Learning When To Walk Away
We can do everything in our power to share the facts with someone who is on the opposite side of the fence to where we are, but if they’re stuck in their ways, then they’re not going to pay any attention to what you’re offering – even if it is right, even if it is better, even if it actually makes sense.
It’s something we’ve all experienced and it’s exhausting to try and argue with someone who just isn’t having it.
People can only meet you as far as they’ve met themselves, right? Sometimes it takes time for people to come to their senses, to think about what their case is and whether it even resonates with them anymore to change their mind, which is why sometimes you just need to accept that no one has to agree with you so you can move on.
This post isn’t intending to stop debates, or to stop people standing up for what they believe in – although I understand it might sound like that.
This post is instead about preserving your energy in the times when it needs to be preserved.
You can’t convince everyone to agree with you and some people are always going to have a problem with what you’re saying, no matter how much you can back it up, which is why we need to accept that no one has to agree with us.
This message can apply to both sides of the argument – both those I support and those I don’t, like the alt-right people I mentioned earlier.
Even though there is a lot of evidence to show that extremist groups such as Incels, Red Pills, and other alt-right groups are no longer as ‘fringe’ as we once thought (I mean, we only need to look back at Trump’s election to see how wrong we are there), their ideas are still not the norm.
The majority of people are decent, at least that is what I need to believe in order to keep living alongside them, and the reason why so many arguments come up against extremists, etc is because most people think what they believe in is wrong.
Most of us want to live in safe, equal societies where everyone has the same privileges no matter their sexuality, gender identity, skin colour, race, whatever.
With this in mind, not only am I getting on my soapbox for the people on my side of the argument (the people who believe in equality, safety, feminism, and all that) to preserve themselves and keep safe, but I’m also up here for the people on the other side – the people I’m obsessed with reading about because I don’t understand how they think – because both sides, all sides, can benefit from this mentality.
Accept the fact that not everyone agrees with you.
When you accept this, the need to ‘indoctrinate’ people to follow you goes away. If people don’t agree with you, perhaps instead take that as an opportunity to learn more or just move on.
Don’t keep going on about it, is what I’m saying.
While I think there needs to be some control when it comes to extremist online spaces and the behaviour that is accepted/tolerated not just online but in actual law too (please read Laura Bates’ book for more on this), sometimes we also need to learn when to just walk away.
With this mentality, you can have your opinions and you can keep them – you just don’t need to try force other people to agree with you, or shame them for thinking something different. Violence is never the answer and when you can accept that some people are going to disagree with you, it’s easier to walk away.
I’m aware that this is too simple of a solution for such a massive issue, but I’m hoping that you can apply it to smaller areas easier. The extreme examples I’ve used could also benefit from a new mindset like this, but I guess in showing the bigger picture I hope it is easier to apply it to your everyday activities.
As cheesy as it is, one of the best things about being a person is the difference in opinions we all have from each other.
It doesn’t even have to be extreme like the examples in this post, but even down to things like what you and your best friend don’t share a common interest on, and so on makes people very interesting. It is something that can be celebrated, in the right spaces, and doesn’t have to cause panic, terror, or dispair.
If you can’t get someone on your side, it isn’t the end of the world. All you can do is keep showing up for what you believe in, sharing real facts, and learning as much as possible to ensure things move the right way.
When you accept that no one has to agree with you, you have more time to focus on yourself and what you believe in. This can be time used to strengthen your argument, based on real facts, talking to others, and generally taking care of yourself.
Again, it’s been another lengthy post and one that I’m not sure is as coherent as it could be! But I’d love to hear your opinions on this subject and whether the fact that no one has to agree with you is going to be helpful to you?