Productive communication: Jubilee’s Middle Ground

I’ve had a lot of response to my posts on communication in political conversation. Figuring out the best way to communicate with people who oppose our political views can be tough. I’ve spoken in past posts about the difficulties involved with speaking to people who disagree with us, polarisation has effected us as a society and had led to divisions. A divided nation does not make for an effective democracy, learning to communicate even when we disagree with people is essential for productive debate, but also for respect.

How do we reconcile or communicate with people who disagree so deeply with our values? This is a question I have received from you all in response to my articles and a question I do ask myself. I think the best way to approach this question is to offer a resource I have found helpful and one I’d like to share with you all, the Jubilee YouTube channel. I first of all want to shout out one of my friends for introducing me to Jubilee, Arty! We are obsessed with the channel, its a great conversation starter tool. The videos often spark questions about society and make us look into our values, watching it with friends and family can allow us to have important conversations that we should be having about our society and the way it benefits and disadvantages people. We can understands others perspectives and that is so important. I heavily suggest you check out the channel.

Today I’m going to be talking about their Middle Ground series. This series brings together two opposing groups to discuss their similarities and differences. Examples of opposing groups they bring together are; LGBTQ+ and Christians, Flat-Earthers and Scientists, Rich and Poor, Atheists and Christians, Pro-Gun and Anti-Gun, Feminists and Non-Feminists, Socialists and Capitalists, Democrats and Republicans, and so on. They have so many videos so be sure to check them out, they’re very insightful. I will leave a link here for you to check out their Middle Ground playlist of videos.

Today I’m going to be sharing three of their videos and highlighting parts I think are interesting and important. I’m going to be selecting the videos more focused on political policy and societal issues to keep it related to the past posts I’ve already been discussing.

Pro-Life and Pro-Choice

What is interesting about this video is the diversity in peoples experiences. You’ve got someone who’s had two abortions and regrets that, a man that actually works for planned parenthood, and then a woman who works to reverse abortions after a change of mind. There’s a mixture of people who all have different experiences associated with abortion. We get a humane picture. When I say humane I mean peoples stories. Often when we talk politics or policy the actual people get left out of it. When you hear peoples stories and experiences associated with a policy, such as abortion law, it has a greater impact. I like that we get to see that in this video.

It is also interesting that when asked if anyone ever questions their belief about abortion, half of the group steps forward, explaining that some debates make them question what they believe in. One girl even says she feels that her religion drives her pro-life belief and if she wasn’t religious she would understand the pro-choice stance.

It is refreshing to see people with such different beliefs, still respectfully discussing their opinions and even mentioning that they respect the other persons faith or belief but, this is how they feel. It’s an amicable disagreement, and that’s okay. In the last question, when they are asked if anyone was shocked by a response they heard, they all admit that they respected eachothers responses. One of the women even mentioned that too much of our dialect is through screens and not in person and that creates a whole different way that we respect eachother. I think that point is important to make because at they end of the day we are all people and the internet has affected the way we all communicate and how we respect eachother. It’s a lot easier to not respect someone through a tweet or a Facebook post because you don’t see that real person, they are behind a screen, that influences the level of empathy and understanding in discussion.

Feminist and Non-Feminist

This is a really interesting video, similar to the last one, they respect eachothers views and they listen to eachothers points. They definitely don’t always agree but the effective communication is there. We see this when the non-feminist side agree with the guy talking about his mum, a teacher, being seen as lesser at work and feeling uncomfortable in the workplace. It’s nice to see that respectful agreement is taking place within this conversation, empathy is being utilised.

It is also interesting to see two people from the feminist group disagree on the statement ‘would being a man make life easier?’. This shows how diverse all of our perspectives can be, even within the same group. This is something that is mentioned at the beginning of the video by Faith, a non-feminist. Faith says she isn’t feminist because she doesn’t believe in core feminist ideals. Later in the video she explains that she is pro-life, but she was raised by strong women and she is an independent, strong woman too, but feels certain values of the feminist movement mean she cannot be a part of it. Faith believes in the strength of women and that there should be more women in government, but feels she can’t identify as a feminist due to her other views.

There’s some in the group who do not agree, that’s obvious though, not everyone’s going to agree, this is literally feminists and non-feminists communicating. They definitely reach some tension at certain points. In one part of the video a non-feminist states that there is no wage gap and that women choose lesser paying jobs because of culture, this is going to offend a feminist and is also not factually true. One of the feminists states that as an attorney she is paid less than her male colleagues for the same job and compared to some, she is more qualified. We see this situation happen in many workplaces and for a non-feminist to say this is because a woman chooses a lesser paid job just doesn’t make sense, especially if the job is the same. Conversations that become close to our personal lives become more emotional and we feel attacked when people don’t agree about obvious situations such as the pay gap, which has been proven countless times. Frustrations rising in this scenario make a lot of sense.

The phrase ‘disagree-agreeably’ was mentioned towards the end and this is exactly where we need to strive too. Productive communication can’t take place in an environment where respect and listening are non-existent. There is so much noise, but no listening and understanding; these are imperative for communication to be successful.

Democrats and Republicans

Alright, so this one gets a little heated. Let’s just dive right in.

They do all seem to agree on media bias and the misuse of news channels. Josh (democrat) points out that we live on different information spaces, we all have access to different information which can make it hard to communicate. Both groups do however say that the other party is worse in media bias, so they are clearly not agreeing on one being worse than the other, but are defending their own side. This is probably because of the different access to different information.

On the ‘should me make America great again’ statement the conversation becomes heated. Charity (democrat) discusses how America was not a good place for minorities and people of colour, which is 100% true. There should be no desire to go back to a time where there was less equality. The conversation gets heated because of a more personal comment when Charity (democrat) refers to the group having white privilege and Christy (republican) who is Hispanic is upset by this comment. This whole conversation breaks down because Charity wants to explain her point but Christy won’t let her speak because she is clearly upset. This creates a lot of commotion in the group. Michael (republican) says the statement is based on going back to economic strength and growth, not racism. There is mention of the statement ‘make America great again’ being too broad which I also think is a fair comment to make. If someone says ‘let’s make America great again’ and also is referring to the social issues and racism, that was in even worse shape than our current society, then that is wrong and shouldn’t be something we want. I think the reason why the statement ‘make America great again’, shook up tensions in the group was because people were interpreting that statement in many different ways, there was no shared understanding to begin the conversation and this stunted productive communication here.

Interestingly when speaking about the right to carry a gun, Josh (democrat) actually believes that there should be a right to carry a gun and that it’s a false view to think all democrats believe we should not have this right. Michael (republican) believes there should be more access to education for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Between these two people who have different political views, we see some cross over in belief. Another democrat, Alan, says that gun safety is what should be focused on and that there should be more regulation on gun control, which they all seemed to mutually agree with.

In the final question they all agreed that the nation is too divided. Hope (republican) says she shouldn’t have to lose friends over her political beliefs, but she is, which she says proves the nation is divided. The group say that we need to agree to disagree. Being willing to come to the table and have productive conversation is so important. This was a good end to the video and I think an important note, we need to be able to agree to disagree and to have respectful conversation or we will remain divided.

Concluding thoughts

A lot of the times we can think of our opposition as some radical psychopath. But these videos show us that our opposition can agree on some beliefs that we hold. We can communicate. We don’t always have to agree, but we should still be respectful when having social-political conversations. These videos show that even when people have polar opposite beliefs they can still communicate. I hope these videos showed that respectful and productive communication is not a lost cause for our society. When communicating with someone who has different beliefs to you, remember that you don’t have to agree, but if we want to see any lasting change in policy etc. we have to learn how to communicate with our opposition. These videos show us that this can happen, but mutual respect has to be there, we have to agree to disagree, we can’t force our beliefs onto someone.

I hope you enjoyed todays post and found it interesting! Be sure to check out Jubilee’s other videos on their YouTube Channel. I also wanted to add a thank you for 100 followers! It means a lot that you enjoy reading my posts and that you find them interesting, so thank you for following and please keep your comments and feedback coming, I love to hear from you! I’ll be back soon for a post on mental health during the Christmas period so be sure to come back for that post!

Can we be friends with our political opponents?

Today’s post is a follow up to my last post on political polarisation. If you haven’t read that one yet, click here. Today I’ll be talking more closely about how polarisation and differing political opinions affect our relationships and friendships.

We have all become very politically saturated in society. Politics takes up a large part of regular conversation, it’s no longer taboo to talk politics, it’s become part of regular discourse. With that, politics has saturated our conversation, including with our friends and family. So, when our friends have different political opinions to our own, can we get along even if we have different political ideals? I’ll be discussing this today.

Politics is personal, its our identity…

Politics has become very much personal over the years. It’s not just a passing remark to say you voted for a different political party, in some cases its an insult or violation to our political identity. To say you voted for a different political party, is to say I value this over what you value. When a certain policy effects the way we live out our lives, for example, LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality, gender pay gaps or low-income support, it can feel very offensive, and like a personal attack, when someone says they do not believe in a policy that protects those rights. In that case it can feel very personal when someone opposes your political ideals and values.

Our political values are becoming more and more a part of who we are and how we choose to live, disagreeing with that is like saying I do not agree with the way you live your life, and we take that very personally, because it is something that defines who we are and what we believe in.

Friends who don’t support your human rights and values…aren’t friends

I think it’s best to get the obvious out the way. If someone’s political values and beliefs mean that they do not support your fundamental human rights, then they are not a friend to be keeping around. You simply cannot disagree on human rights, and be friends. If someone is saying any of the following statements to you and they correlate with a part of your identity, then they are not a friend.

  • ‘I like you, but I don’t believe in gay marriage’
  • ‘You’re great, but, I don’t think that our governmental systems restrict people of colour.’
  • ‘I think that the gender pay gap is just something women are complaining about’
  • ‘You are transgender though, you shouldn’t be allowed to use the women’s bathroom if you aren’t biologically a woman.’

The person telling you that, is not your friend. That person is supporting policies that restrict how you live, they are dictating your place in society. They are choosing to ignore your rights and on an even more personal note as a friend, your individual struggles, they don’t support you because they don’t value your rights or your political identity. That is not okay, they have to go. Overall, even communicating with someone who doesn’t support your basic human rights is next to impossible, so being friends is just a no go zone.

I think in situations such as this, you get those people who think that just because identity politics doesn’t impact them, they don’t have to worry. If you’re a white heterosexual man, society was built for you to thrive, there’s a fat chance you’ve never thought about your identity or your place in society, because it’s never impacted a decision you’ve had to make. Due to this mindset, thinking about other peoples rights may not cross your mind, you don’t have to worry because it doesn’t affect your life. But, other peoples lives are affected. Even if you don’t need to worry about your own rights, you should worry about others. You don’t have to be a part of the minority to care about the rights of the minority. If you don’t and your friends are part of that minority, it is not okay to not support their rights just because ‘you don’t have to worry’, open your eyes and support other people in society, not just yourself. It’s not a good enough reason to not have to think about how political policy impacts other peoples lives just because it doesn’t impact yours. If you have friends that are oppressed or restricted by a party your vote for, your a bad friend.

Do not be friends with people who do not support your basic rights, this shouldn’t even be political. This is not a debate topic. You can’t compromise when it comes to human rights. You definitely can’t be friends with people who disagree with your rights, that’s for sure.

But what about small disagreements about politics, that aren’t close to our identity?

When it comes to politics or areas in policy we aren’t so passionate about or focused on, we can have a fairly healthy debate and even disagreement with friends. The likelihood of this discussion is that you will still be friends at the end because your identity is not so closely attached to the policy, or you have less passion associated to the area.

Let’s imagine you are talking to your friend about an area in current political discourse that neither of you have strong opinions about, if they were to object to your opinion you would not feel particularly upset or attacked by their disagreement. If you and your friend do not strongly lean either way you may end up being convinced by your friends opinion or you may mutually agree to disagree. Either way you carry on the friendship with that person because you both respect eachothers opinion, even when you have minor disagreements.

The main reason this communication was successful was because you and your friend were both fairly neutral about the topic anyway, you may not agree, but you were not on polar opposite ends of the political spectrum. If however, your friend was to say they didn’t think the recent transgender rights reform was important and you or a close friend or family member was transgender and this topic was important to you, you would feel very attacked by this comment. You are no longer discussing a part of politics that you feel neutral about. You feel strongly about this topic and a friend disagreeing with transgender reform feels like an attack on values that you deem important.

We see this in multiple different scenarios. You may not feel bothered about the way the UK trades with other countries, but you care strongly about protecting low income families. In that case, when someone debates with you about foreign policy you are fairly neutral and engage in healthy debate with friends or family, but when someone challenges you about free school meals or argues that we should increase the charge of transport for kids to get to school, you will not want to entertain a debate such as this because you are passionate about it and you are not willing to compromise on something that is so important to you.

When things are close to our identity or our political values they aren’t up for debate and in some cases, we are not willing to entertain an opponent because, like in the last example, having free school meals is simply essential. There are things we view as ‘not up for debate’ and when someone tries to challenge this, it attacks our literal political identity. We take it very personally.

In that case, if our friends disagree with some of our opinions about politics that we don’t prioritise highly, that friendship can continue, but if a friend doesn’t support the same core values as us, we can find it very hard to be friends with them because our political values and identity are too different. The way we live our lives and the values we hold close to our hearts should be supported by our friends, not challenged.

Concluding thoughts

I think we can debate about policy we don’t hold close to our political identity and if a friend doesn’t agree about a policy that isn’t a number one priority to us, then that’s okay, as long as they do support what is important to us. A friend can’t be your friend but also not support policy that determines your rights as an individual and your freedom in society.

Surrounding yourself with friends that have the same core values as you is important. Especially when those values are so closely tied to your identity. This is why we surround ourselves with people who support or vote for the same party as we do, because we share important values about how society should be and the livelihood of others. However, this is also the reason why polarisation continues to divide us.

Pro-life supporters signs.

Finding a common ground between people who disagree on core political values can be difficult, some policies completely contradict the other, for example, pro-choice and pro-life, wealth inequality and lowering taxes for the richer of society. These different sides of policy often struggle to find a middle ground because they are both on the opposite end of the debate. I’m going to look into this a little more in a post to come with the help of the YouTube channel Jubilee and their series called ‘Middle Ground’ where they put people in the same room with completely different opinions and make them debate, some outcomes are really not what you expect.

Pro-choice supporters signs.

That being said, realistically we can’t be friends with someone who is polar opposite to our political beliefs because we both would impose values onto eachother that don’t correlate with the way we want to live our life. I myself could not be friends with someone who doesn’t believe in LGBTQ+ rights, racial equality or women’s rights because that means the other person is willing to oppress those communities, even giving them the time of day sends shivers down my spine. Learning how to communicate with people who don’t believe in the same thing as we do is important if we are to see change in our society, so I am hoping that looking at how people do find middle ground when they disagree on so much will be insightful, so make sure to come back to that article!

Today’s post felt a little like a ramble of my never ending thoughts since writing my dissertation and how we can reconcile communication with such different people when they really are sooo different, but I hope you still enjoyed it! 🙂

Political polarisation and the future of democracy

Today I’m going to be discussing a topic that has become part of mainstream conversation recently, and in the last couple of years in political discourse, polarisation. This is a hugely important topic to be talking about, especially in today’s political climate. The reason why political polarisation is so necessary for us to talk about is because it threatens the longevity of democracy and the way we communicate with eachother. I have been planning on writing this post since I created this blog and I think with the recent US election, the idea of polarisation could not be more prevalent right now.

At university I focused a lot of my learning around political philosophy so naturally when the time came for me to pick a dissertation topic…I choose politics. My dissertation was about voter ignorance and the effects political polarisation has on our ability to communicate and engage in political discourse. I looked into an argument that critically evaluated the sustainability of democracy in our current political climate. I assessed how valid this argument was and explored ways to combat ignorance and to limit polarisation. Political philosophy was, and still is one of my favourite areas to read, write and talk about, so I hope you find todays article interesting and insightful!

What is polarisation and why does it happen?

Polarisation is when we intensify our beliefs and values because we are surrounded by likeminded people. When we communicate with like-minded people, we begin to hold our beliefs and political opinions in a higher regard. We become a more extreme version of ourselves.

In some cases, we have a strong reason to shift in intensity of our view, we may have been supplied with actual facts and information that gives us a reason to intensify our beliefs.

In other cases, we are merely surrounding ourselves with people who have the same opinion as our own, for obvious reasons this will increase our confidence. We place ourselves into an echo-chamber that is biased towards what we already believe. People are affirming our opinion instead of challenging it.

Another reason why our opinions can polarise is due to the internet and our social environment. Our environments are organised around our lifestyle, identity, and preferences. Politics has worked its way into our identity, because of this, we are more likely to socialise with people who share the same political beliefs as us, meaning we are constantly communicating with people who agree with us. We aren’t being challenged to revaluate our views; we are merely confirming what we already believe. A study I looked into for my dissertation even suggested that people who share the same political opinions are likely to shop at the same places, creating an even bigger divide between us and our opponents, even in the way we live out our daily lives.

As for online, this environment is personalised to what we support. Imagine you come across a tweet that has over 50k likes and is supporting your political belief. This will affirm to you that the belief is worth holding because other people agree with you. You will then hold the belief in a higher regard, making you more extreme. The internet has become a polarisation machine of other people online affirming their original beliefs. We know that our social media suggests certain content to us that we like, so when this comes to our political opinions, we are constantly suggested posts and tweets that are similar to our political values. We agree more and more, without being challenged, furthering our extremity. We live in our own personalised bubbles.

How does polarisation influence the way we communicate?

Effective argumentation and communication cannot exist in a society where its citizens are polarised. Polarisation leads to deep divides. If our opinion is challenged when we are polarised, we cannot effectively compromise or communicate with our opponent. We view these people as completely absurd. In my dissertation, I referenced a recent Pew study from the US, in that study people described their political opponents as ‘misguided, unintelligent, dishonest and immoral.” Even further than this ‘a threat to the nation’. We don’t even want to engage with our opponents. We view our opposition as almost dumb or naïve to have the opinions that they hold. For me personally, in what world would you want to remove access to healthcare or protection for the transgender community? To think that way appears oppressive and malignant to me, but to my opponents they are their ideologies. When we view someone in this way there is absolutely no way, we would want to productively communicate with them or compromise. This only furthers us into our group identity and bridges an even greater gap between those with opposing ideals.

These graphs above and below, show that overtime in the US polarisation had let to even further shifts in the divide between republicans and democrats in their ideology. The republican party becomes even more far-right and the democratic party becomes even more far-left. This is because the parties have adapted to the increase in polarisation; democrats are aiming to become way more progressive to keep up with Black Lives Matter, women’s reproductive rights, gender pay gaps, transgender rights, ending wealth inequality etc. Whilst republicans have become far more right leaning and conservative with immigration laws, white supremacy, lower taxes and actively working against progressive rights. As these two parties continue to shift apart it becomes even harder for them to communicate because their values and ideology could not be more different. The other party works directly against the other.

Something I found particularly interesting in my dissertation is that polarisation even affects the way people interpret information. We don’t even believe the facts that are given to us, we are so stubborn and stuck to our view, we will believe anything that supports our belief, even if it is baseless claims and we will reject everything that supports our opposition, even if it is hard evidence. We see this right now in America with people believing baseless claims of voter fraud, purely because it will protect their own views and discourage the opposing one. If we don’t even believe hard facts, then how are we supposed to reason with people?

Reasoned communication is something we cannot properly do when we are polarised. Reasons are not required for people to shift in extremity of their views; by merely agreeing with someone’s views they can hold their belief with more confidence. Consequently, we are left with a society of people who hold their political belief with a huge amount of confidence, yet cannot adequately provide reasons as to why, nor can they competently reason with other individuals to defend their unjustified views. All we end up having is an abundance of baseless claims and assumptions that cannot further a conversation or any productive political discourse. We have two radicalising sides of the political spectrum that are furthering away from one another, leading to growing resentment and division.

Where does this leave us and democracy?

If we can’t fix this it will only get worse, we will divide even further, which is the conclusion I made in my dissertation. Communication is everything and unfortunately, we are in a very toxic relationship with our democracy and our political discourse. If we can’t learn how to communicate with people who disagree with us and compromise, democracy will fail us.

Polarisation is becoming rapidly uncontrollable; it completely limits our democratic capacity and does create harsh political divides and these divides do undermine democracy. Whether or not we can reconcile is a whole other matter but as we continue to become more extreme and further leaning in our beliefs, communication will only get worse and so will the divide.

Democracy can only function when citizens reason and engage with each other and are open to criticism. In our political climate people are in no way open to criticism or opposing views. We can only hope that changes in administrations and governmental practices will allow us to heal and steer towards a place where we can communicate effectively and reason with eachother.

If we look at the US election, Biden’s win does bring hope that the US can steer towards a place where productive communication can happen, and everyone’s voices can be heard. But the election was tight, Trumpism has not gone away and the divide between democrats and republicans is a bitter one. There are still millions of people in the US who essentially hate democrats and vice versa, they both believe that the other party will destroy the country. These types of people cannot effectively communicate, and it has led to a sour division is America. Without healing that division, it will get violent and democracy won’t be able to support everyone anymore. The way we communicate must get better for the sake of democracy.

But how do you reconcile with someone who doesn’t even support your rights as a human being? Can we effectively communicate with people who have such different political opinions and values to our own? Have we already become too polarised? Politics is very personal; we all have our own political identity. I’ll be looking into this possibility of reconciliation in my next article, so be sure to return or follow to check that out!

I hope you enjoyed todays post and found it informative. Maybe you’ll walk away from this with slightly more of an open mind and a readiness to communicate with someone who challenges your own views. Unless they completely disagree with your basic human rights, in which case…we do not negotiate with terrorists, but I’ll save that for next time!