On Political Kindness

When was the last time you changed your opinion because someone called you a dumb genocidal moron? When was the last time anyone changed their opinion for that reason? When was the last time anyone changed their opinion?

Human beings are not static creatures tethered to their opinions. We learn, we grow, we change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. However, when we look at how we change our opinions, be it on something as important as caste or reservation or as simple as pets and tattoos, your views today are probably different from what they were 3 years ago. Fat chance that it changed because someone took out the time to tell you why you were wrong, why alternate positions were sounder and better.

Change is great and we should try to steer people in directions we think are right. We should bear in mind that flipping someone’s opinion is not easy. We are only making it harder for ourself if we try to belittle them into converting their opinion. A lot of ‘discourse’ on the internet fails precisely due to this.

If you are part of e-discourse because you want to help people change their opinions, being kind is the most effective way. That it is nice and peaceful to both parties should not be relegated to an ancilliary factor. If your discourse is to demonstrate your moral superiority and to put down the other person, then quote tweeting them or calling them trash works, but rest assured that the other person is not going to see your point of view, let alone accept or agree with it.

Contrarily, belittling them would only reduce engagement, stop them from speaking out loud, and force them into echo chambers favouring their view, or not develop well rounded views.

So, do think before resorting to the easiest option of calling someone on the internet a ‘literal Nazi’ and try extending basic kindness to them. You could win someone over to your cause, and maybe even a friend.

PS – I know that there are some truly horrible people out there on the internet. Two minutes into a conversation with them, you know their position is incorrigible and it is pointless to engage in conversations with them. At that point, calling them a monster (or extending kindness) won’t do anyone any good, apart from making you maybe feel good for ‘fighting the good fight’. But you are not here to make yourself feel good, but because of your belief in some opinion. While you may not be able to and perhaps should not extend kindness to such trolls, be honest to yourself on whether the other person is an actual troll or because you want to take the easy option and brand them a troll to avoid the hard work of making them see things your way.

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