In the current cancel culture society, having a dissenting voice can come at a high price. From journalists to opinion-makers to actors to politicians, people who dare to disagree with commonly accepted beliefs pay the price —sometimes with their own lives— for contradicting a highly inflammatory Left-wing movement that, although having been in control of government for at least half a century, is now more emboldened than ever to quiet down voices that opine differently.
Cancel culture has become so negative, that as many as 150 Left-leaning and extreme Left influencers published a letter claiming the right to disagree in what they call the cancellation society. But how can we do it without being subjected to public lynching?
“The free exchange of information and ideas is becoming increasingly restricted,” reads the letter published in Harper’s magazine. The signatories of the letter warned about the danger of censorship as it is spreading in our culture.
There is an increasing intolerance towards the opposite points of view, those who think differently are publicly shamed and ostracized. Something that “only impoverishes public debate”, necessary, according to experts, for society to advance.
No dissent, no peace
To understand the importance of disagreeing, it is only necessary to take a look at science, where progress has been nurtured thanks to the existence of debate.
Science questions everything. It is exactly the opposite of what happens in other aspects of life —such as politics— in which we let ourselves be carried away by emotional reasoning. In short, very different shades than those of the discussions of the rest of the mortals, which usually involve harsh recriminations as the letter points out.
Perhaps the forum in which this problem is most clearly seen is social networks, where the consequences can range from insults to loss of reputation and even work.
Social media have become reassuring echo chambers where liberals attack conservatives and vice versa, and where there is no room for debate since people seem to sign up for an account for the sole purpose of hunting for comments to assassinate commenters’ characters without addressing the core of anyone’s argument.
In our daily and private life, it is also possible to frequently face situations in which expressing an opinion can trigger a bitter conflict with a boss, a mate, a friend, and a relative. The question is: why do some people get so bothered when there is a difference of opinion?
When someone does not validate an opinion, the other person feels that their acceptance of the group and themselves is at stake.
One of the keys to avoiding hurting the other person’s self-esteem and keeping the debate alive is in the way the discrepancy is expressed. You have to be flexible, have empathy towards the other, pull seduction, and make it clear that the ideas expressed also carry benefits for the interlocutor.
Take note of how to do it:
Using the first person plural when there is a conflict is positive because it does not imply that there is a confrontation, but rather gives the feeling that there is a team that has a common goal. It is one of the best resources. That and making it clear at all times that the other person’s vision is understood and that despite disagreeing it is equally valid, are two simple strategies to apply.
Also, it is best to always look for a private place. Although social media are now seen as the public squares of the 20th century, they are not such a thing, because anonymity and lack of accountability only promote the existence of fertile grounds for launching insults, character assassination, and little debate.
From the example of science, it is also possible to learn healthy discussion strategies such as judging ideas for themselves and not according to who issues them. Also, it is a good idea to get used to receiving ideas from various sources, to question them, and contrast them, but without canceling them before having all the information.
No dissent, no conflict?
You wish it were so simple, but it is not. Refraining from opining in an open and free way does not spare you from becoming a victim of the cancel culture crowd. The more you yield to their desires, the more the tight the noose of power that they seek to hold. Surrendering is never an option.
Once again, social networks do not help in this endeavor. New communication channels make this increasingly difficult because we give credibility to information based on the number of times it has been shared.
In addition, we live within the so-called ‘echo chambers’, which make us only listen to a certain version of history. This problem can only be addressed by leaving these spheres so that we learn to empathize with people who think differently, although that act of disengaging with our reality does not guarantee comprehension from people who inhabitate their own echo chambers. In fact, moving to environments where people hold opposite points of view usually results in more tension and conflict.
The solution to this endeavor is to manage to discuss the ideas themselves and not simply attacking the messenger. We can lay the foundations to at least be able to dialogue between people who think differently. For that to occur, though, both parties need to be willing to listen actively.
Given that not everything is in our hands in this climate of increasing censorship, it is inevitable to ask whether there are times when it is better to put aside confrontation and opt for silence to avoid unnecessary waste of energy.
The answer depends on each situation. You always have to think about whether the reward you will get from the discussion is high enough with respect to the time and energy that you have to dedicate to it.
For example: Fighting with a brother-in-law about whether the municipal policy of the dog parks is adequate or not, is probably not going to improve our quality of life in any sense. However, open debate and discussion should never be avoided for fear to be attacked or ostracized. Only each person knows how far he or she wants to take the conversation and whether there is anything productive to get from such discussions.