where do i stand?

The caption says "anti-Polish political slags"
Yesterday’s issue of “Warszawska Gazeta”; it says “anti-Polish political slags”

So I saw this yesterday, and I just couldn’t resist sharing it with you guys.

I don’t follow politics, i don’t know much about it (yes, yes, ik i should); but it’s not about that.

I believe in freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. But this isn’t freedom. This is hate speech, and a personal attack directed at some public figures in the Polish political arena.

I’m not even saying that that kind of thing shouldn’t be allowed; it’s not for me to say. If some of the people on the cover decide to sue for defamation, that’s their (bloody well justified, imho) decision; if they then lose in court, i wouldn’t be surprised either.

Anyway, let me confess to something that most of you will frown upon: I don’t vote. I wish I would, which I know seems like a nonsensical statement, but I really can’t. I’m so on the fence about everything, I literally physically can’t bring myself to decide when confronted with so many options, so drastically different from one another. I guess I’m more or less a leftie, but even leftist parties have certain qualities that are deal-breakers to me.

But never mind that. There could be a “perfect” party, completely aligned with my own beliefs (which in itself is impossible, because they shift constantly; I’m easily swayed by the mere suggestion of an argument.), and I still couldn’t handle the idea of having contributed to them being elected, lest they fuck up. I would feel too personally responsible, and I don’t much like the idea of choosing the lesser of two evils.

I don’t refrain from voting out of laziness. (Well, maybe intellectual laziness plays a role, but it’s not the deciding factor.) The cause of my indecision is that I know i’m prone to extremism.

Let’s take something as simple as food, which is rather too important in my life but a good example nonetheless: at various stages of my life I’ve gone on so many diets I don’t even remember many of them. I have restricted calories (which in the end led to a variation on anorexia), I’ve been vegan, and then I tried keto for a while. (‽) Oh, and I binge-eat.

And it wasn’t because I wanted to lose weight… not really. It was because “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. I thought changing my body would magically solve all my other problems. And I wanted to believe it so strongly, I uncritically accepted all the tenets of whatever new diet I adopted as gospel.

I find conviction off-putting. I don’t claim to be free of it; quite the opposite. Sure, there are certain issues that are pretty much clear-cut. But as soon as we stop talking about filicide or whatever — things that everyone can agree on — it gets much more complex.

Agents everywhere on the spectrum abuse human gullibility for their own ends. The question then becomes, where do you draw the line between inflammatory language and manipulation? What were they trying to achieve, and what part of what they say do they themselves believe?

Was the cover disingenuous or ironic, or purposely over the top? Was it because controversy sells? Were they appealing to a very specific demographic who would readily believe whatever accusations were made in the article? Or maybe it’s not a big deal and I’m blowing the whole thing way out of proportion?

But I don’t think I am. You may think it’s not that serious. But I know that there are people who would wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments expressed in this headline. I know because I live with some of them. They’re good people, but this is what treating religion as the only valid coping mechanism does to you: you start believing bad things, and justifying them with flimsy concepts such as your narrow idea of patriotism.

Please explain to me, because I don’t understand: what good can possibly come of polarizing the discourse any further? What point is there in conflict, hostility and animosity? Why can’t people just listen to each other and reach some kind of consensus, I mean, isn’t that the whole point of democracy?

But every arrangement, no matter how perfect in theory, is bound to be perverted by our countless cognitive errors. We live in such an advanced society, but we can do nothing to override our most basic, tribalistic instincts and our narrow-mindedness. You may be surprised to find that this is also true of people on the left.

Some might argue that being prejudiced against prejudice is different. But it still makes true communication more difficult than it needs to be, because it dehumanizes the opponent in your eyes. It gets harder to see where they are coming from, and concede that they might have some valid points.

In my susceptibility to extremism, I almost became, to use a term considered derogatory by some — though not me — a social justice warrior. But that degree of certainty about anything, and dismissing counterarguments right off the bat, simply doesn’t sit well with me. I actually agree with most of what they say, it’s just how they say it…

I’m not the right person to mediate between extreme world views, which is precisely why I don’t get involved in it. But surely some people would be?? Surely there must be people who would be able to muster the empathy both for minorities, and for those who oppress them?

The mechanism behind prejudice is quite straightforward. But eradicating prejudice takes more than simple appeals to reason. Hostility is very much emotional. You feel threatened, so you reject everything that could shake the very foundations on which you have built your entire life, worldview, and a sense of comfort and security.

If I can’t stomach blind hatred, i at least have some respect for the deep, imperfect humanity it stems from. Everyone has fears, and everyone copes with those fears whatever way they can. But sometimes eliminating racism, sexism, or homophobia takes years of undoing a lifetime of indoctrination.

I propose something fairly impractical, and extreme, but non-violent: everyone should go to therapy. Of course if everyone understood themselves and had compassion for everyone else, the structures that keep our society as we know it in place would collapse, and civilization would fall apart. But isn’t that the direction we’re headed, anyway?


PS Please don’t treat this post too seriously. I know I’m not equipped to give this topic the justice it deserves, and I haven’t really said anything new… I just wanted to share my thoughts on something other that my emotions, while — inevitably — connecting it to those emotions. I’m interested to know your thoughts on this subject. What do you think of the headline? Do you think reaching a compromise is possible, or is even a legitimate goal to strive towards? Please let me know.

Note to self: objective ≠ neutral.