Opinions != Science: a meditation on a dilemma of responsibility

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This morning I saw Sept. 11 conspiracy theories in my Facebook feed.

There is so much wrong with this that I don't even know where to begin.

Can we start with gravity? It's not a speed. It's an accelerative force.

Actually, I changed my mind. I shouldn't begin at all because it's not going to make a shred of difference.

The situation is hopeless. People will continue to believe the lies they choose and criticise others for doing the same in the opposite direction.

Maybe we can adapt Newton's third law into a means of accepting that people will find a way to justify their opinions:

For every truth, there is an equal and opposite lie.

At least then it's out of our hands. It's a law of nature.

If I can accept that there's nothing I can do to stop people spouting hateful bullshit that helps no one, then I don't get dragged into an argument about it. Then there is a bit more peace in the world.

On the other hand, if I don't fight ignorance at every turn, am I letting it win? Will it grow and take over?

Maybe, instead of looking at the argument, I need to look behind the argument. Maybe I need to ask why someone is more willing to believe that a secret cabal coordinated a massive lie and cover-up operation after murdering thousands of humans.

I need to find out what is causing them to think that's a more plausible theory than the one we witnessed.

If I can work out how it helps them live, maybe I can provide an alternative source of that same mental or emotional sustanance that won't lead them to cause other people harm.

Because this is what stabs me in the gut whenever I see these conspiracy theories: the people spreading them might not even know how hurtful they are. They don't take into consideration the families who look for closure in their mourning. They don't consider that their accusations can snowball into a lynch-mob looking for an outsider to blame. They don't take into account any of the consequences of their own actions.

They've probably never seen "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street". 

So maybe the solution is sitting them down, making them watch it, and then opening a dialogue about their actions rather than their beliefs.

Because it's not the difference in belief that matters; it's how we act in respect to that belief that impacts our society's stability.

Cool. I have that on DVD. This is going to be easy.


Your Holiday

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My temptation, when people post photos of their holiday in Bali, is to post photos from Kerobokan prison in the comments.

I resist that temptation because I know it's petty and won't change people's thoughts about traveling to Indonesia, it will only change their attitude to having me as a social media friend.

But it was only months ago that we, as a nation outraged with injustice, mourned over the deaths of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

Bali is part of Indonesia and Indonesia behaves appallingly, in terms of global citizenship.

Many countries behave appallingly in this regard. Australia behaves appallingly. The US behaves appallingly. China behaves appallingly.

(I'm searching for dirt on New Zealand, but I think it might be clean.)

Yet, it's travel to Indonesia that sticks in my craw and I'm trying to work out why. Currently my theory rests on the images of paradise-like tranquility yelling to me as a lie about the "real" nature of Indonesia.

But I know that politics, economics and human rights are complicated topics, not likely effected by incidents of individual outrage and wishing the world was fair. I know that people sometimes just want somewhere quiet, warm and pretty to visit, cheaply, with their family. I know that it's easier to lie to ourselves with justifications of our actions than to actually reduce the occasional luxury we work so hard to afford.

Knowing these things don't make it better. They make it worse. Because I also know that nothing is ever improved by taking the easy route and we can't expect other people to work hard to better our world while we choose luxuries over morality.

This makes it worse because I am guilty of the same thing in other parts of my life. I don't go to Indonesia but I support other things, countries, corporations and activities that make the world worse.

I see photos of people's holidays in Bali and they remind me of all the luxuries I should go without in order to make things better for others. They remind me of how other people see the world and I wish I could see that world too, but I know it doesn't exist for me. So I suppose there's envy there too. And to be envious of a thing that repulses me so much causes me more guilt.

Enjoy your holiday. Don't get executed. Never expect justice.

Working Together

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Last night I spoke at Web Directions' excellent and low-key What Do You Know (Melbourne).

This was the second of their small-scale events, designed as a launchpad for local speakers to test talk concepts in front of an audience, in preparation for a possible slot at the October event, held in Sydney's Luna Park.

I spoke about learning to be ignorant, which I think is an important step on the road to empathy.

The real delight for me, though, is seeing what other people share from the stage. Looking at their workflows, the small hacks they employ to make their lives a little better, the new technologies that they get excited about: it's the only time I hear people being optimistic about their jobs. It's uplifting. The optimism spreads through the room.

Last night I learnt more about ES6 and JavaScript Promises, and I was introduced to things I wasn't even aware of before like React, Ember and Pact.

It's just a joy to see people work with something they love and then to want to share it and get others excited.

We're all just learning. Or we're all still learning. Either way, it's really nice to know that we're all in this together.

Other People’s Success

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This morning, at Creative Mornings, Poppy and Scott (from the Pop & Scott Workshop) spoke about collaboration.

They spoke with the easy-going style of the Australian surf/skate community that just makes things work and no obstacle is too grand. In other words, they are so different to so many people we come across in the creative community. It was a delight.

One of the things they mentioned was celebrating other people's success. I think this is something many of us do poorly and I think it's an attitude I'm going to try to adopt.

Success happens through, not just hard work, but a little bit of luck as well. That means it's not entirely in their control, so be happy for them because their hard work is paying off.

If they don't work hard and they still somehow manage to be successful then my challenge will be working out how to be happy for them. I might need a little bit of luck in that department myself.