Yesterday I heard a news report on NPR which covered a young woman trying to explain climate change to her dad. The way the journalist reported it, her dad didn’t think climate change was real. When the woman sat down and talked to him for 17 minutes (the journalist pointed that out specifically), she visibly deflated when he said she explained it in a useful way. Although the journalist thought the situation slightly whimsical, I can understand why that young woman might feel pressure in that situation.
I live with people who joke about how fake climate change is, among other things.
Even when I talk with them about charged topics like climate change, politics, or crap they share on Facebook, it’s always a nerve-wracking experience. A lot of things set off my family (like “the gays” getting married), and so they get amped up quite easily. Since I have anxiety problems when they’re upset, all of this is an exercise in dealing with my own problems.
When I can get some perspective on it all, I actively wonder why all this stuff is worth all the hassle. So what if climate change is real? Who cares if Betsy and Cassie down the street get a marriage license? Why do people feel the need to get angry about it?
This is a problem, because it makes talking about these things difficult.
I can’t talk about ordinary facts sometimes because I will get interrupted, barked at, or ignored in quiet rage. Definitely I’m not the only one who has this problem. How can anyone talk about things that might affect them when one or both parties resorts to conniption fits as a conversation tactic?
Moreover, I think it’s done some permanent damage to people around my age (and younger). Living with people who get enraged at simple, ordinary facts takes its toll on the human psyche. I have to spend a lot of time avoiding or pretending some things don’t get said around me because just being assertive requires fighting World War III. Sadly, I know too many people my age who have a primary gripe that one or two family members will get pissed off at reality.
That frustration sometimes turns me into one of those people too. The few times I do get to set any record straight, I have to treat it like I’m handling a hostile witness. At times, I just want to tell people they’re being stupid. This doesn’t help, because I’m being just as dismissive as they are. They’ll be more than happy to point that out. From there, they’ll be happy to continue as they’ve been doing.
What’s causing this problem?
I’m sure a lot of people have heard about alternative facts recently. I feel somewhat indebted to Kellyanne Conway for putting in a succinct term the bullshit getting sold as fact by news outlets. Both ends of the political spectrum do it, and they’ve crept their way into mainstream media. People who research what they’re told get to lose faith in institutions that are supposed to inform the public, and people who just blindly trust what they’re fed wonder why nobody agrees with them.
Getting someone to recognize that they’re not dealing with actual facts is very hard. You’re having to overcome years of trust built with an institution, a lack of immediate contradiction to whatever they’re told, and time spent cultivating a series of misinformation. Since people willingly go to get misinformed on topics, one might even have to do this arduous task many times about the same subject.
Right now, I still have no good way of dealing with this problem. All I can do is yell at my blog.