“As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naïve and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are too”—Dostoyevsky
I think that the second sentence really makes this remark really hit home more. It’s tremendously easy (especially on the Internet) to make the jump from wondering why Joe Bob doesn’t agree with me to concluding that the answer is so totally obvious that his disagreement cannot possibly result from anything other than bad faith, stupidity, or culpable ignorance. But when I go down that road I ignore at least two other explanations: I’m wrong myself, or Joe Bob is just simply mistaken: not devious, not doltish, and not uninformed.
I think that Dostoyevsky’s observation gets at the root of the thing. Sure, it’s possible that Joe Bob is Satan’s bagman. Yeah, he might be as dumb as a bag of hammers. Yeah, he might not have read all the coolest books like I have. But in the end it’s far more likely that Joe Bob is doing his best, and he happens to have reached different conclusions than I have. No malice, doltishness, or ignorance necessary. After all, if we look around the world we find smart and well-informed people on opposite sides of practically any question that you might happen to ask. Yet it’s tremendously easy to just be a jerk and think the worst of the other guy.
I don’t want to be a jerk. I’m going to try hard not to be. And I don’t want to waste my time bickering with jerks. There are better things to do.