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Another man’s shoes

Another man’s shoes

Picture the scene: you have arrived to meet your friend in a nearby café, ready to fill them in on the juicy details of your date last night. It is fair to say it was one of the worst dates you’ve been on. They did not look their photo. They had all the charisma of a block of cheese. The music was too loud. They were too quiet. As you entertain your friend with these stories, they diligently nod in impassioned agreement. You feel completely cheated! They agree! It feels like a true miscarriage of justice…

But wait, using the magic of imagination, we now find ourselves transported to another café listening to the so-called, ‘worst date ever’. We overhear them recounting their own story, describing a similar scenario to yours but this time it is you who is being slated, labelled as the dating equivalent of cold toast, and their friend is also in fervent agreement…

Now, you may be wondering what I am getting at here, but in this fictional scenario I am depicting two people recounting the same experience, both of whom believe they are right. And yes, dating is of course subjective, nevertheless, we could also be talking about someone’s views on evolution, or the best way to cook an egg – but the point is, if you find the right audience to listen, you could be led to believe your truth is indeed gospel…

And lo and behold, along came the Brexiteers, Trump, Geert Wilders… all of whom ran campaigns based on their own version of the truth, twisted and shaped to fit into a package to be sold to the right audience. And once the right audience was found, they just had to keep hitting home the same message and the audience dutifully responded with adulation and applause furthering the belief that these were indeed the keepers of the absolute truth. And that, as we have seen, can be potentially dangerous.

If you agree with everything you read, you are reading the wrong things. If you are not being challenged in your thoughts and opinions, you are either surrounded by employees paid to agree with everything you say, or you are simply not engaging with the ‘other’ – whether that means conservatives, liberals, queer, straight, young, old. Whoever the ‘other’ is in your life, confront them, talk to them, listen to them. Empathy cannot be taught, but exposure to others’ experiences helps bridge the gap between our different realities.

And I shall leave you with this thought: ignorance may be bliss for some, but remember it is the ostrich that buries its head in the sand, and it has a brain the size of a ping pong ball.

Michael Stewart-Evans, alumnus of UNU-Merit

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