Every year during the odd period between Christmas and the New Year when no one knows what day it is, I, like many others, spend that time reflecting on the year closing and considering the one about to begin. Aside from the more personal and professional changes I made this year, my big focus for 2022 was attempting to better embody the behaviours I believe can lead us to a saner, wiser, and more tolerant world.
As was once said to me, “a cultural line in the sand begins with drawing individual lines.” Over the last twelve months, I resolved to draw my line while encouraging others to do the same. During the next twelve, I pledge to continue doing just that, primarily by trying to be more empathetic and improving my epistemic skills. Whereby, I hope to contribute positively to the emergence of something resembling a healthier culture.
There is a colossal empathy deficit in the world today – and it is at the root of many of our biggest problems. So quick now is the general tendency to judge others without first taking the time to understand their experiences, challenges, and thought processes, I believe reducing this deficit to be one of our most pressing concerns. But how?
Well, as the adage goes, before we judge someone, first, we should “walk a mile in their shoes.” So, for instance, when talking to people with alternative views, maybe we don’t try and convert them to our way of thinking but instead, actively listen to learn from their perspectives. For a while, we might consume only news sources on the opposite side of the political spectrum. We could work on better understanding and correcting our biases and allergies, thereby strengthening our tolerance and potential acceptance of different opinions.
As we head into 2023, perhaps, then, a net positive contribution to creating a healthier culture might be moving beyond our individual worldviews and committing to appreciating more those of other people, particularly those at odds with our own.
In this age of multi-narrative warfare, where everyone is both a consumer and a producer of information, never before has sophisticated discernment been so necessary when navigating the media environment. Therefore, the conscientious media consumer will be able to differentiate quality sources and information from questionable ones, practising humility as they do so. They will know to be mindful of the perspectives included and omitted in the information while being sensitive to the biases embedded within it. They will recognise when they are thinking for themselves and realise when the views of others are unduly influencing them.
So, next year, in addition to broadening our empathetic sensibilities, we might also purposefully develop our epistemic skills, constantly refining our critical thinking to make better sense of the world as we go.
My belief is if we put these two things together, by which I mean we strengthen our sense of empathy while sharpening our discernment, from that, perhaps a better culture may bloom. If more people prioritising empathy in their interactions with others and practising epistemic responsibility in the information environment were active in different friend groups and social networks, who knows, maybe a saner, wiser, and more tolerant world might, in time, begin to emerge.
Anyway, here is to a fantastic 2023.
Happy New Year, everyone!