Reasoning with the Unreasonable

If there’s one thing this year’s political cycle has taught me, it’s that there is a significant number of people who believe what they want to believe, not what they’re persuaded to believe. Donald Trump says he loves Mexicans, and so, by golly, he must! If he’s called out for saying one thing at one time and a different thing at a different time, he says its a lie, and there are plenty of people willing to believe him.

This doesn’t just apply to national politics, unfortunately. I’m seeing it at work at the school budget debates here where I live. “Facts” are only to be listened to when they agree with your preconceived notions. When they conflict, those facts turn into “lies.”

In many ways, this reminds me of some conversations I’ve had with my kids over the years. They value my opinion (most of the time), but they also value the opinion of their friends. Sometimes equally. (Sometimes mine loses out.) I might be very well-read and up to date about advances in technology, but if TRC’s friend said that the Hololens is going to be on sale in a week, and it’s going to be equipped with a laser cannon, then by golly, it must! And no amount of arguing on my part (or article-finding) will change his mind completely.

“Maybe my friend found a newer article. Maybe this one’s wrong.”

(Note: this is not an actual example from real life. The topic has been changed to protect the innocent.)

At some point in time in our society, truth has become a relative term. If you want to ignore it, you can, and there will be plenty of people right there next to you, reassuring you that you’re right. (And as long as other people are doing or saying it, it must be okay, right?)

It’s one thing to realize this is a problem. It’s an entirely different matter to somehow deal with it. Because in cases like the school board budget, where tempers flare and things get heated, people are largely set in their views, and no amount of reasoning is going to change things. You can’t use statistics (they’re manipulated by both sides). You trot out your experts, they trot out theirs, and what does it matter if your experts are better qualified to speak to the matter?

You can’t win a game if one side refuses to agree to the rules. If the rules say you get $200 when you pass Go, and your opponent says you don’t (and refuses to read the rule book), then you might as well go watch some Netflix.

So in cases where Truth has become relative and no longer authoritative, what do you do?

You mobilize your side more than the other side can mobilize theirs. You acknowledge the fact that they will ignore your arguments, and so you get more people to come out to the voting booths. This is what needs to happen next week at the school board vote, and it’s what needs to happen in November to make sure a being of pure evil doesn’t take the White House. (Ironically, both sides in the national election seem to view the other side’s candidate as a being of pure evil. That’s a topic for a different post.)

In the end, the way to reason with the unreasonable is to not bother reasoning at all. Because while you’re there spending all your energy trying to convince them of something they’ll never be convinced of, they’re out getting their buddies to go vote.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

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