Tuesday, February 07, 2012

You're ill-informed and I need to learn to live with that

In Swedish, we have the word "Besserwisser", which ironically isn't in Swedish at all, it's actually in German. It translates into "better-knower", or "know-it-all" as it would be in English. I prefer the Swerman word, because a know-it-all just knows everything (or so they think), and a Besserwisser doesn't necessarily know everything, they just know things better than you do. Subtle difference.

Now, being introverted tends to give a boost to conscientousness. If you're a HSP on top of that, you're so highly conscientous it can easily become a problem. Especially when you're online, as that opens you up to a whole lot of people who are, for all intents and purposes WRONG. And they're WRONG about so many things. And if you're highly conscientous you have to let them know.

[Source: XKCD, a webcomic making many good points]

Here's the thing: it's actually not a question of "I'm right and you're wrong". It's a moral obligation to right a wrong, regardless of the topic. Not arguing for argument's sake, I'm just trying to educate you! Make you a better person! You need to realise the error of your ways! Perhaps that's why I really can't stand proselytising Christians, because I can be just as bad as they are, except I'm not trying to convince anyone that my religion is the only way to live and if you don't agree with me, you'll burn in hell forever.

The downside of needing to rescue people from being ill-informed, aside from coming across as a humongous Besserwisser and/or complete arrogant bastard, is how easily worked up you can get. See a Facebook post where someone is saying something that is blatantly ill-informed? Heart starts pounding, anxiety sets in and you have to do something, because they're WRONG and they NEED HELP. Let sleeping dogs lie? Yes, I wish it was that simple, because it would make life so much easier!

Instead, whenever I see something that is so incredibly wrong, it hurts me, and I need to put it right, or at least voice some kind of concern about it to make people stop and hopefully think. I don't have to be right, but it's my moral duty to make sure you hear both sides of the argument before you go and say/do/believe something insanely stupid.

Sometimes, I really believe it's for the best. Other times, I really need to remind myself that no, steady on, other people might not agree.

Got into something not far off an argument in English class once, when we were discussing a short story we had all read. Somehow, we got talking about what happens after death, and because I'm a strong believer in reincarnation, I didn't instantly click that some people won't believe it, even if there is rather fascinating examples, or evidence if you like, to support it. I don't just believe it because it sounds cool and gives me comfort, but because as far as I'm concerned, there's more evidence to support the theory of reincarnation than there is to support the idea of heaven and hell, for instance.

It basically ended with a "let's agree to disagree, shall we?" but inside, I was still shocked and dismayed that they had not understood that there are other ways to consider what happens after death. Quite possibly the same sort of feeling a Christian trying to save my soul gets when I stubbornly refuse to agree with them. (Yes. Oh, the irony.) I was just trying to help, because they were so obviously WRONG. That's what I mean by it being a problem, being like that. Well, at least I don't have a holy book that strongly suggests I have to go and try to convince people that I'm right and they're wrong and that they need to change.

To my defence, that particular incident happened when I was about 19, and I've learned to filter myself a bit more in the decade that's passed. But there was still a righteous indignation about it, even though I have no right to force my ideas on others, and they're not obliged to believe what I believe just because they've not read the same sort of books I have, or subscribe to the same school of thought. What you believe happens - or doesn't happen - after death, that's your problem, not mine. I realise this now, even if I perhaps didn't back then.

Again, I don't have to be right, or even agree with the side I'm trying to inform about. When there was the outrage in Sweden because Sverigedemokraterna got seats in parliament - this is much the same reaction as the British National Party (BNP) got in Britain when they too managed to do better than socially acceptable - I was more dismayed over how disgusted and angry people were because THOSE HORRIBLE RACISTS had got into power than, well, being disgusted about said party had gotten into power.

I would never vote for SD/BNP or any other parties of that ilk, because I strongly disagree with their racist agenda. I do, however, object when there are cries to exclude a legally elected party from parliament just because I don't agree with their party manifesto. That's wrong, and it's against freedom of speech. Yes, I know, the Nazi Party were legally voted into power as well, but if we want to stop that from happening again, saying "SD/BNP should be banned!" is not the way to go about it. So what is it they say? "I don't need to agree with your opinion, but I'll defend your right to say it."

But to sum up, I - and probably a lot of other people of the same temperament - need to learn not to go on a crusade every time someone's wrong. It's okay for them to be wrong, they don't necessarily have to be corrected, educated or better informed. Okay, no, they do, they really do. But I don't have to get super-stressed and hyperventilate every time someone is WRONG on the Internet. I don't have to get involved, or have a minor anxiety attack about the state of the world just for reading poorly educated people's stupid remarks on Facebook. You might be a complete moron, but I have to learn to live with not being able to change you into a better person.

Related lessons: "don't feed the trolls", "hug a hater", and probably "leggo the saviour complex".

This was originally going to be a rant about U.S. politics, but I'll save that for tomorrow. It's based on this.

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