I’ll be the first to admit I have some very strong opinions on certain topics, and when discussing them with people can be rather adamant that what I have to say is right. But I have no illusions whatsoever that people have to, or will, agree with what I have to say. And to that, I say good on them – they do not have to take my word as gospel, nor take the same or similar viewpoints. In fact, I enjoy it when people question me or argue; partly because it’s a guilty pleasure, but mostly because a discussion of ideas is how healthy discourse should work.
My one gripe is when people blatantly ignore or argue against fact. If evidence is presented before you, which is true and verifiable, then your ‘opinion’ on a topic is irrelevant and the only cause you are championing is your own ignorance. But even then, unless I provide such evidence, being sceptical and critical is a good thing. On some issues, like climate change, this does not apply – the proof of mankind’s affect on our planet has been well documented since the 1950’s. But in the majority of cases, questioning and research is something I would very much encourage.
When I say people should vote Greens, or at the very least Labor, and supply reasons why, I know full well that they are the preferable parties to have in government. But when I tell my friends how I vote and persuade them to follow, I do not want them to do so just because I said so. I’ve had many a political conversation with an old friend of mine, and in early 2016 (before the Federal election) he was a swing voter, more inclined to consider the Liberal Party over Labor. I tried to convince him otherwise, with minimal success. But after listening to what I said, he took the time to look into the major parties’ policies to see which aligned more with his ideals.
Three years later, he has become an ardent Labor supporter who cannot understand why anyone with a brain could vote for the Coalition. It wasn’t me that swayed him at all, because as I said, he was hesitant to agree with me on anything at first. Even today we still have disagreements, albeit minor ones. The important and defining step for him was research. He heard what I had to say, expressed his opinions, then made up his own mind after considering what he has uncovered elsewhere.
Another friend of mine trusts me completely when it comes to political matters, because she knows I follow it closely and she hasn’t had much interest in it in the past. In the lead up to the NSW State election, she did not ask me my opinion on who to vote for – she asked me to detail what each party was standing for, and (as they were currently in power) what the Coalition had done for the state. As her ideals match somewhat closely with mine, suffice to say she did end up agreeing with my stance. To her, as someone studying in the medical/healthcare field, the topic of public vs private hospitals and the like drove her right away from the Coalition.
These two examples, however, are not the best for two reasons. The first is, obviously, that they are friends of mine, and there is a level of trust that makes discourse smoother and leaves us more open to hear one another out. The second is that the end result, while satisfying to an extent, does not challenge me all that much. If one of them did indeed decide to vote Liberal/National, or god forbid One Nation or the like, then it would have been a much more interesting exchange.
One instance where a discussion ended with the other party quite disgruntled and dismissive of what I had to say was not about Australian politics, but was instead about North Korea, and with an American. Here, our disagreement was about the role history plays in current events. As he was much older and, in his own right, incredibly knowledgeable and intelligent, I could not fault his reasoning, even if it was off-putting to be rather abruptly shut down when attempting to prove my point. The exchange, in the end, did not alter either of us from our original views, and I doubt he gave it much thought afterwards, but I did reflect on it and used it to further consolidate my own opinion.
In another case, I was talking to a friend’s relative about foreigners, specifically the Chinese investing in and buying land in Australia, and Muslim immigrants. While I agreed with them on the topic of opposing foreign ownership of land, pointing out that it was the Liberal/National government that was allowing this type of thing to occur was rather testy. It would also be safe to say that their opinions on the issue of immigration were more racially charged than built on any real argument. When I put any challenge forward, they almost immediately tried to claim I was wrong and left the room.
So the question is, why write? Why argue, in words or in person, my point of view if I don’t expect people to be persuaded by, or be in agreeance with, me? Well for starters that would be a rather petty and self-absorbed reason to write, and completely ignores that fact that sometimes I know I might get things wrong at times. No, my reason for writing (other than for my own personal benefit of engaging in the act of writing itself) is to simply offer my viewpoint to others. If people agree with or like what I have to say, then that is a bonus, but I would not expect them to do so blindly.
What I want from people when they read my posts or when I converse with them is to come into it with a critical and questioning attitude. See what I have to say, and don’t take my word for it. Any claim I make is up for debate, and while I strive to base everything I say on fact, I expect people to make up their own minds and carry out their own research. Not everyone will agree with me, nor will I agree with everyone else, and that is how it should work.
That goes for any source of information, be it opinion or analysis like mine, or news sources reporting on events in the world. Analyse the work yourself, verify the truthfulness of it, and apply your own knowledge to it. Be active in your engagement with content, especially online, and be sure to challenge your own beliefs so you do not become complacent and box yourself into an echo chamber. The world could do with more critical thinkers – are you one of them?
Liked this? HERE is my reflection on the exchange with the American, the first piece I ever wrote for this website.
Previous piece: start One Nation, the NRA, and Al Jazeera: A Question of Public Interest from Pt.1 HERE