Learning From Your Enemies


I’m going to make a leap of faith and logic and assume you’re politically left of center.

That’s the audience these sorts of articles point towards, and the political demographics of age and internet access often align like that. Me too! I mean, everyone is.


Everyone in my circle believes similar things. I prune my media to reflect that, after all. Why would I want to debate with idiots, violent fools entrenched in backwards muck and lies?

And then everyone thinks that. And everyone calcifies in their opinions. They learn to fight themselves and each other for the distinctions of being the most ideologically pure. Extremes run rampant as a way to earn distinguishing. I don’t want to draw a false equivalency, so I’ll say this seems most politically relevant on the right with increasingly fiery rhetoric that seems far further than anything Reagan would’ve said without blushing, but the social nitpicking on the left seems more concerned with status and cultivating perfect theories that completely ignore physical realities outside of their narcissistic internet bubbles.

Had to get that off.

I think that separation is the root of some of these problems. People let their dreams and thoughts drift, and, with the internet, compromise isn’t needed. It’s much easier to go further and explore your political beliefs. That’s good! Compromise can be a form of watered-down weakness. You shouldn’t let your thoughts be bogged down by making sure it fits the world. But being unattached from your enemies breeds its own problems.

First and foremost, it lets you see the other as an enemy.


There are some serious leaks in what I’m saying above.

The first and most serious problem is that I’m hypothesizing above a sort of false equivalency that prizes friendliness over truth or action. That’s a fair critique, and an important one to keep sight of. But there’s also a value in considering the other as human. The first is for the deeply cynical reason that it will help you defeat them; the arbitrary caricaturing of your political opponent as cartoonish means you talk past them, not at them. It galvanizes the base, but doesn’t win converts the a nuanced, kinder approach to analyze the other would.

The second is it corrupts you.

Corruption of soul is an important thing. If you truly believe in the right or the kind, there’s a double-bind. Obviously you believe what you believe, and that implies you firmly and truly think of it as the path to a moral good. So what, then, do you owe the opponents of that good? Zealotry logically follows belief, and nuanced kindness and analysis are difficult, unpopular concepts to sell– that’s also why why they’re worth holding on to. Not always. You don’t have to hear both sides of nonsense, or pretend to weigh something utterly horrible or offensive for some lukewarm idea of fairness. But there are times where it’s worth it to view, with respect and curiosity, the thoughts of others not as blasphemy, but as alternative philosophies worth picking through.

You might learn something from them. You might not, but I doubt it. And, if you can’t humanize the other enough to learn from some part from some people, is that really something you want to brag about.

To expose yourself to other ideas is a drag. It’s difficult, awkward, and feels off. It’s not as fun as whittling your ideas and philosophies, either. But it’s important. And if you don’t want to, you should at least consider why, exactly, that is.