“The world is being ripped apart by greed and inequality.” “Capitalism left unchecked will continue to destroy the planet.” “Capitalism makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.”
These are the kind of statements that I would have typed up in the past. I was wrong.
What is wrong with these statements is not necessarily their content but the extreme emotional charge that masks any underlying ignorance.
Passion moves people
One thing I have become very wary of lately is passionate arguments. I don’t trust them. It was last when working as a software product manager that I began to notice their danger.
I would be in a meeting discussing the use of some technology or technique. While conversations are happening I would be fully conscious and present to the moment, but then all of a sudden the conversation would take a direction that countered one of my strongly held beliefs.
The next thing I would remember is coming out of a blind rant. I would notice that I had been “passionately” throwing my opinion against everyone in the meeting. What’s more is that because I could deliver it with such conviction, people didn’t question it, and hence, many holes in my arguments would go overlooked.
This is the case with many important issues today. They get sensationalised in order to drum up support and motivation from people.
Alinsky, the famous organiser from the 60s said it in his book Rules for Radicals:
“To convert people you must polarise your idea. Nobody fights for 10% improvement, people only fight for 100% change.” – Saul Alinsky
He is not wrong, the best way to motivate people to fight for change is by sensationalising the issue. However, that comes at a much larger cost.
I’ve been wrong
I’m not excused from the blame. I get fired up about everything from Capitalism to climate change and write for what I think is right.
However, after reading Factfullness I’ve come to realise my mistake. Any argument that you feel to be certainly true, should be able to be expressed in clear simple terms; sans-passion.
The other problem with sensationalising issues is that it leads to long-term fatigue and actually works against your cause.
If you are so confident that you are right, you don’t need to rely on passionate arguments to convince other people, you should be able to make it evident through simple logic.
TL;DR: Be wary of passionate arguments
- Passion often masks ignorance.
- Passionate arguments are often accepted on the strength of the conviction, rather than the strength of their truth.
- Passionate arguments are the conflation of idea with ego, and hence cause other egos to respond.
- The ego-conflict in passionate arguments leads to more energy being spent proving each other wrong, rather than finding the best idea.