People isolate themselves within homogeneous groups. Without external criticism and with group reinforcement, they spiral into imaginary worlds. Sometimes these worlds are only ridiculous. Others, they are dangerous. I have few tips to avoid getting yourself trapped in Idealand.
Sometime ago, I had a great idea: I was going to simulate the efficiency of photodevices based on a clever molecular model created by myself. I convinced a couple of co-workers to engage in the project with me and after months of simulations, when we compared the results to the experiments, it was clear that my clever model wasn’t better than generating random numbers.
I tell this story to illustrate one point about science: science, when serious and honest, is a permanent dialog with nature. We talk, nature answers back. And she answers without condescension. If she does not like your idea – like my clever model – she will tell it without patronizing.
This is great. We grow with that. And this mandatory dialog is a lesson for life.
In many fields on human experience, there is no dialog. At least no dialog with someone willing to disagree. People tend to join in homogeneous groups. And when they do not have disagreement, they spiral into crazy, ridiculous, self-centered imaginary worlds, not better than those of Dungeons & Dragons. (With the substantial difference that Dungeons & Dragons players normally know that it is only an imaginary world.)
Religious, cultural, political bigotry: nationalism, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, tribalism, prejudice, intolerance. How much evil is not born or fed from the lack of dialog between groups?
Greeks and Turks, Indians and Pakistani, Israeli and Palestinians, Syrians and Syrians, plus dozens of other Peoples separated by real barbed wires, they don’t guess how pathetic they are for the world outside their sectarianism. I am not naïve to think that dialog alone would help them to put their differences aside, but at least, if they talked, they would dislike each other for the right reasons.
We need the contradictory to call us back to earth. To show the constant ridiculous of our ideas. Democracy, for instance, is a great system not because it produces the most efficient solutions, but because all the noise of contradicting opinions helps to avoid ideas spiraling into extremes of the ideological spectra.
Here, a few tips to escape the barbed wires of Idealand:
If you take part in a discussion group, regularly invite outsiders to get new perspectives.
Avoid reading always the same authors.
If you listen to somebody and think that his ideas are great, sound an internal alarm. Possibly he was only expressing your own beliefs.
- If people are constantly agreeing with you, sound an even louder internal alarm.
- Don’t mind if others laugh at your beliefs.
- Allow yourself to be cynical once a while about your Holy truths.
Do not send your kids to confessional or ethnic schools.
Do not isolate yourself within ghettos and closed communities.
- In short, don’t be afraid of leaving your comfort zone.
Finally, if dialog is so important, should we also debate with neo-nazis or religious fundamentalists, you may ask? Trick question. Possibly, no. Neo-nazis are better talking to the police; fundamentalists only listen to themselves. I am sure we can always find less disgusting ways of wasting our time.
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