I like to think of conversations as life forms. I also like to think of ideas as food for these life forms. Of course, every life form is vulnerable to something, and so I think of ideologies as viruses. Any belief that insists utterly upon itself can be the death of a conversation. The death of conversation is the birth of chaos.
At present in our civilization, certain conversations seem to have ended. One need not look very far to see polarization in several areas. In politics, public discourse has given way to blind entrenchment. In religion, in spite of apparent efforts, we can see troubled waters ahead. Between genders, we see the rise of such movements as MGTOW, (men going their own way) and the list goes on with racial division, etc. The zeitgeist seems to be a powder keg.
When the conversation ends, we must face the great unknown. As divisions deepen, responsibility and trust become clouded, and fear takes their place.
Voltaire wrote, “To find out who rules over you, find out who you can’t criticize.” Who is in charge? In this article, I could criticize a great list of people and groups. I could blame, the problems of the times, on the politicians, the scientists, the wealthy, God, Christianity, Islam, the Jews, the educators, and on it goes. In fact, as near as I can tell, I can criticize absolutely any person or group with virtual impunity, aside from reducing the willingness of people to read or listen. It seems as terrifying to be on a rudderless ship with no captain as it is to have a tyrant for a captain.
The missing ingredient to the continuation of conversation seems to be patience. We seem to have become results focused and impatient in conversation. Can you imagine living in a world where you could not find anyone to disagree with you? It seems that would be a stifling and dreadful place. Conversely, if we stop talking to people of views we find unacceptable how many conversations will survive in the long-term?
It seems clear that we are running into stormy seas. It seems clear that we have no rudder. Running into the rocks is inevitable with the “every man for himself” mentality of individualism. The correct way forward seems to be one where we talk to each other honestly, listen to each other patiently, disagree with each other respectfully but continue talking to each other come hell or high water.