What can you do when you’re accused of being closed minded, but you’re convinced you’re not?
For me, you start an obsessive spiral that lasts for weeks. You ask questions you know the answer to, double checking the obvious – trying to measure your morals against anything solid, trying to make sense of the ethical fog you find yourself in.
Is it closed minded to reject bad ideas and disingenuous arguments? Is there really any merit in sickening and hateful rhetoric that reduces lived experiences and historical legacies to “whiny snowflakes”?
Recently, I was forced to challenge my views by right-wing friends, but my conclusion isn’t what you’re expecting. Here’s why we don’t need to be more open-minded,
Why being open-minded is important to the Left
I realised this is what I’ve been trying to write about this whole time.
In online political spaces it’s almost impossible to navigate without being identified as either a liberal, a commie, a smug right-winger or a self-serving centrist.
None of us love being written off for our political views, some people even weaponise that feeling against us and ask to be considered equally, fairly, or else risk becoming exclusionary yourself.
It’s a hard line to walk, being the “tolerant left”. You want to listen to everyone, yet we don’t have time to waste with fascists and baiters. Where do we draw the line when we’re pulling up the drawbridges to our ivory towers?
Why the Right never worry about being open-minded
Being unfair and not listening is a charge leveled at both sides, including the Right.
The Right are often more proud and open about refusing to listen to the other side – it’s one thing that makes it infuriating and impossible to have meaningful discussion.
If you believe in a rigid world of right and wrong, where progression poses a risk of dangerous and unknowable harms, you won’t be shy about refusing to give way to these ideas. The Right wing job is clear – change is your enemy, stick to your guns.
By contrast, the Left love to be seen as kind and equal. It’s not in our nature to write people off or discard them, and this can be weaponised against us. Our time gets wasted by people who aim to either change our minds or delay us. Our open-minds leave us open to manipulation and time-wasting baiting.
How the Right stay immune to your opinions
You can bait a Right-winger easily.
You can easily make them angry at your political identity, but you won’t make them less sure of themselves, because they are armed with moral certainty, given by a rigid structure that doesn’t need to accommodate many people.
Right wing views are built on individuals, and individuals don’t need to compromise with themselves. This makes them robust and defensible, even if you are judging them. You are the enemy, and they’ll stick to their guns like they promised.
Why the Left are easily baited by “Free Speech”
The Left on the other hand co-operate with others, trying to make compromises and listen equally.
We negotiate rights and responsibilities, making our systems more flexible and adaptable but also weaker and vulnerable to manipulation by bad actors.
We need to find a stronger way to be flexible.
That line in the sand needs to be made, and clearly:
- It can’t be negotiated or pressured away, and it can’t backfire and split us against each-other.
- It can’t be a line that’s fuzzy or unclear, ready to be invaded and exploited by bad actors who argue for items like paedophilia, or attacking trans rights in the name of feminism.
- It has to strike to the very core of what it means to be “Left”, and be held onto above all else.
We need an equivalent to Right wing underlying principles, to find what makes us strong. For the Right, it depends on individuality.
Everyone arguing for right-wing causes are arguing for themselves. They can’t be tricked away from their solid foundation, so where’s ours?
The deceptively simple secret that can make the Left stronger
It’s a deceptively simple premise. The definition of left-wing will vary on who you ask of it, but ultimately, it’s not a hard question.
Everyone who is political believes it’s for virtuous reasons, whether they are a hardcore traditionalist church or an aggressively liberal college student.
We can’t define the Left and the progressiveness with how it’s for the good, even if that’s how you feel.
From a certain perspective, your climate change passion is the enemy of industry, a dangerous fad without any pay-off. LGBT+ people in another light are straying too far from norms; who are in need of protection and control from their own instincts. Wearing your mask and believing in science is a dangerous lack of free-thought, if you’re aggressively cynical of establishments.
It’s not pretty, but it’s true. The Left are only “good guys” to other people on the Left.
Does that makes us the same as the Right?
Remember how the Left are constantly struggling with negotiation and fairness, while the Right relentlessly advance their own aims?
This is the key to what makes us look weak, but is our real strength.
Are you ready to learn it? It might surprise you, considering what I said earlier…
The Left’s Biggest Strength Revealed
Our real strength is listening to others.
By being open minded, we make things complicated and sometimes awkward, it’s true, but it’s also what makes us stronger.
I know more about politics by knowing about what matters to people other than myself than an average “gammon” does, who only looks inward for political guidance. I know that deaf people need captions, and Indian people face colourism, and trans folks just want to pee.
For most people, we know the Left will advocate for them. The Right by contrast, will welcome you in to fight for yourself.
I don’t have to be scared of different people, because I can learn their views and be an ally to them, at no cost to me. By contrast, I know I’m not trying to hurt anyone when I advocate my politics, because I’m considering others than myself.
This is what makes the bait of “be more open minded” so irresistible and painful. We’re all about being open-minded, so it cuts to our core.
We need to find ways to be open-minded, without opening the door to manipulation and pain. It should be clear by now that giving in to this deception only harms the Left, instead of focusing on strength and hope.
PS: If the Left aren’t hurting anyone, why are the Right so hurt?
That’s a big question, and one I will need to answer next week. I’m really excited to start this project, I feel like it’s clearer to me than it ever has been before. If you found this material as exciting as I did, I hope you can share or send it to a like-minded friend. It’s free, and supports my work by showing your support for it.
I’ll see you next week, with more explanation of why the Left is hurting the Right – I might finally get to use my “So Much for the Tolerant Left” title, so exciting!