I've made a shocking realization recently. Apparently I'm an optimist.
Only an optimist would continue to be surprised when people don't respond to reasoned argument, when people don't take the time to think through their positions, and when people uncritically repeat talking points as though they fundamentally represent their own worldview.
Intellectually, I know the tendency to look critically at one's own biases and viewpoints in the world is rare, and the willingness to face up to the mutually contradictory ideas you might be holding on to rarer still. But I keep getting blindsided when people keep acting like this.
You may have noticed I don't post particularly often. This isn't because I lack passion, or because I'm fundamentally pressed for time. It's because every time I go to put proverbial pen to paper, I talk myself out of a hundred subjects because the points that I could speak on are so basic, so axiomic, that I feel like I'm insulting my audience's intelligence when I try to take such a simple idea and break it down into something even simpler to explain it.
Most of the things I talk about seem so basic that, ironically, the fact that my opposition doesn't seem to get them makes me worry about whether they're capable of providing meaningful consent themselves.
And yet I keep assuming people will do the work necessary to keep their worldviews self-consistent. That people will be bothered by the presence of those inconsistencies when they're pointed out, and work to find out which of their beliefs needs to go. I keep being shocked when instead they build elaborate justifications because they actually care more about avoiding the work of reevaluating how they've been living their lives than they do about making sure the lives they live after this point are more faithful to what their fundamental core ethics are.
I keep expecting people to overlook typos and poor word choice, and accept clarifications in order to get at the meat of an argument, rather than using any excuse they can muster to decide not to listen to someone with views opposing their own. Because I value the argument, I keep expecting other people to behave the same.
And I know this is something people do. I recognize that people defend their preconceptions with more vigor than they'll question them. I know the very fact that I'm in the minority position in a debate means that the vast majority of people out there haven't thought through the issue. (Yes, I do believe that anyone who's thought through their position sufficiently will agree with me. Of course, I cheat. When someone comes up with a better argument, I change my position and suddenly they agree with me again.)
Yet knowing all this, I keep staring at shock when I see news articles, blog posts, forum conversations, and even in-person conversations with friends where these same factors keep coming up. I keep expecting reason and self-consistency to win the day, when I know people respond better to fallacious emotional argument.