In the past few years or so, I’ve met a lot of people with, shall we say, underdeveloped attitudes to things. They don’t have a problem of lack of knowledge, but a lack of perspective, and possibly the open-mindedness necessary to correct their lack of knowledge. After all, if you’re already set in your views, no amount of new knowledge will change that. Indeed, the backfire effect might lead you to reinforce your views.
“I’m not sure that Trump is worse than Clinton because Clinton would have started a war” is something I’ve heard multiple times in Switzerland. There are many facets to this statement which are problematic, but the underlying one is that military action is thrust onto the American president regardless of who is sitting in the chair. Nevertheless, this view is usually championed by people whose perspective on American interventionism is limited to the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. They are the most current examples of American military involvement and thus get the most attention, but are only a small part of a much larger picture. One cannot assume that American military policy in Iraq is the same as it is in Korea, or South East Asia, or Europe. Generalising a specific case is, honestly, highly problematic, even within the MENA region. Libya is not the same as Iraq, or Syria, or Afghanistan. It’s just as problematic if you’re an American generalising about Muslims as if you’re a Muslim generalising about Muslims.
There are a lot of Tumblr bloggers who are mostly young Americans discovering their opinions about race in America. There is, indeed, a systemic problem of racism there and it’s an important fight. The problem is that “race” as a term implies global, human characteristics and people are therefore inclined to generalise that of course, the rest of the world also suffers from the heavy thumb of the white man. I lived in Malaysia for 6 months and racism there is a completely different picture, just as problematic but totally different and very little to do with white people. You cannot transcribe American race problems on other countries. Doing so creates a gross injustice by oversimplifying the problems of other peoples.
What people need is an open perspective, and a desire to learn. We’re so often wrong, even about ourselves, and growing up is an endless process of learning for ourselves what we can bend our principles on, and what we stand firm about. Experience teaches you what that is, and those experiences should be challenges to your worldview which help you to mould yourself.
All this is a result of the human talent for pattern recognition, which likes to build patterns. It’s generally a good thing and was an early human survival skill, but sometimes it makes us see things which aren’t there. Just because you’re black in America and you have problems, it doesn’t mean they’re the same problems for black people in the Caribbean, or sub-Saharan Africa. Just because US military intervention is problematic at best in the MENA region, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a net benefit in others, and just because it was a relative success story in Japan doesn’t mean there weren’t many problems.
Pattern recognition is handy, but it needs testing, just like the worldviews of people need challenges. Wanting to believe in something is childlike behaviour regardless of your age, and part of the process of becoming and being an adult is understanding that everything is a lot more complicated and doesn’t necessarily care what you think. If you’re too easily convinced by something, there’s probably something wrong with it. You can take a side on an issue, but you have to recognise the realities of it.