The following topic is covered in more depth in this week’s episode of Coffee Shop Philosophy.
Sometimes things suck, and that’s okay. During several episodes of my podcast, I’ve tackled different ideas about how to deal with and overcome issues that arise in day to day life, but sometimes that frankly just isn’t enough. Sometimes we need to acknowledge that life isn’t all that rosy, and despite our best efforts things can just be negative.
Take for example a person living in poverty. Sure, thanks to our capitalistic society people in poverty can push and grind their way towards better savings, higher earnings, and an overall better life. The issue is that as great as that sounds it does little to help them now, nor does it fix their worldview. When people are hit with hardships, they feel that. When we’re looking at this kind of negativity, I think we need to allow ourselves to accept some of that negativity more seriously than we do.
If things are in a generally negative state for you it’s perfectly fine to acknowledge that. It’s okay to say that things suck. Contrary to most self-help books that push for endless positivity, sometimes the most important thing is experiencing that negative side of things and viewing them for what they actually are.
In the Buddhist traditions when they teach people how to meditate, one of the key things they teach is that negative thoughts that come during meditation are natural, and shouldn’t be blocked out. Instead, they ought to be accepted, felt, and then those feelings should be allowed to pass just as easily as they came. Now, I’m obviously not suggesting that everyone ought to go start practicing meditation or become a Buddhist or the like. What I am suggesting here, however, is that we need to acknowledge and accept those negative thoughts and ideas as valid.
In the libertarian realm, it’s our general failure to acknowledge the emotional aspects of both our opposition and more importantly those we wish to convert, that leads to our arguments falling short in the public eye. The libertarian notion of working harder and pushing through poverty by learning and using the market to our advantage is a correct view as far as I’m concerned. Try telling that to someone that had to reduce their daily meals to just one so they could make rent. It’s hard to change someone’s mind on socialized healthcare when they have a chronic condition and need Medicaid (or other such programs in other countries) otherwise they would literally die.
Authoritarians, in general, are able to take advantage of this emotional state by offering immediate solutions. They will agree with people that things aren’t as good as they can be, and they’ll offer the “get rich quick scheme” equivalent of public policy so long as they get the power that goes along with it.
I firmly believe that we could make far more of a dent in the public eye by accounting for this worldview when we are offering solutions. A lot of arguments that are built on long-term self-betterment or high time preferences simply don’t change minds or hearts of the people currently suffering. It’s hard to change people’s mind about the government when it’s been mostly positive in their experience, but way easier when they’ve been on the receiving end of its wrath (I.E. people who have suffered from the war on drugs).
What those arguments will look like depends heavily on the way the person is in need, and their mindset and state going into the discussion. If we can change the way that we approach that we would help but to start seeing more success when trying to show people the light. For those going through those dark times, telling you that things will get better doesn’t mean much. Instead, allow yourself to feel some of that negativity. Don’t compare what you’re going through with others, and instead let the feelings come. Then all that’s left is to let them pass and get to work on getting out of it.
You can read more from Killian Hobbs on Think Liberty here.