“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that”

I wrote a post back in May about my need for urgent advice.

I am heading off to California and while I am at Stanford for a couple of days I expect I will see the person who I have known longer than anyone else in the whole of my life. But he is now from California and has all the political blindness that comes not just from being on the left coast, but from being right in the heart of Silicon Valley. He knows my political views, but is too obtuse to leave off. And although we are an ocean apart, he never lets up from sending me political junk mail, with the latest torrents about Donald Trump and the disaster he supposedly is. . . .

Other than major trancs and a crash course in Zen, is there any advice on what I should do to get through these days?

OK, here I am Palo Alto and so let me tell you how all of this has worked out. And let me thank all those who contributed to this earlier thread, but this is the conclusion I came to. I won’t say it has worked in failing to cause immense irritation in others. But it did turn out to make the conflict extremely short and not necessarily a death spiral for a long-time friendship. This is the advice.

ASK THE OTHER PERSON WHAT THEY HAVE READ THAT SUPPORTS THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE THEIR OWN BELIEFS

That is, ask them what they have read or watched or in any way undertaken to understand the points you are trying to make by looking at things that you would agree with, not some gloss of our views put together by some person of the left. It turns out no one can ever think of a thing. Not one person has been able to come up with anything at all. They not only do not read such things, they don’t even notice. And the effect on them is extraordinary and strangely devastating.

My first experience using this technique is I think quite instructive. Someone I know mentioned the violence at my book launch, not that she knew what the book was about. From that we got onto climate change, which got her into a rant on how important doing something is. So I said, what had she read that argued that climate change was not a problem. It stopped her dead, she got truly angry and stormed off saying, well that’s all right for you because you will be dead while she will have to deal with all of the bad consequences of our carbon filled atmosphere! Not nice, but I found it very satisfying.

The quote, by the way, is from John Stuart Mill.

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