Inside A Debate & Discussion Group
Most of us tend to surround ourselves with people that are similar to us in certain ways. We drift towards people with similar morals and personal ethics. When we discuss things like politics or current events, we are often discussing them with people who feel similarly to us.
So when things happen that going against what we believe, it comes as a bit of a shock to the system to know that many people feel the opposite. I know a fair few Queenslanders would have felt this way seeing Pauline Hanson winning seats in the senate. Did people actually vote for the woman who makes no secret of her intolerance for Muslims, who is pandering to so-called men’s rights groups and who is publicly stating that vaccines are linked to autism, a claim that has been disproved hundreds of times? They sure did.
The comments sections are always a stark reminder that there are a lot of different opinions out there, but I decided to go a step further to see what other people think. I joined a Facebook discussion and debate group. With over 6000 members, I expected some diverse opinions and heated debate. However, a couple of weeks in has made me feel like a lot of my views are actually pretty uncommon. As if I’m in a real minority in some ways. I have no way of knowing what sort of cross-section of Australian society I’m seeing in this group but I know that what I’ve been reading and engaging in has really left me hoping that this group doesn’t represent the majority. If they do, all hope might well be lost. Some of the views I’ve seen expressed have had me reading other articles and their comments sections just to see if many people actually feel this way.
Call me naive…
But I honestly never realised how reviled people on welfare payments were. I have seen extensive debate over whether or not people who rely on welfare payments should then be denied access to cash and given only a card (like the failed “Basics card”), whether they should be forced to surrender their passports if they have one (“My tax dollars shouldn’t fund their holiday!”) as well as comments about forced birth control for women on welfare payments and claims that many women are intentionally having children while on benefits to receive up to $1200 a fortnight. When I pointed out that I live in a working class area and that $1200 would leave me with barely anything for the fortnight once I’d paid rent, instead of people understanding that welfare recipients weren’t actually rolling around in their tax dollars sipping cocktails, I was told I should move.
In short, people in financial difficulty, the unemployed, those that cannot find work? They should be punished. If you punish people enough, they will stop being poor.
Gender in General.
Gender roles being taught to children, toys and clothing divided by gender, any action suggesting gender neutrality in the way we raise children are all hot topics. It amazed me to see how opposed to the removal of gender roles some people are. At one point, I asked why people were so unhappy at the idea of no longer dividing toy sections into boys and girls. It doesn’t harm anyone and kids stand to benefit, so why the outrage? No one could really answer me beyond saying that gender neutrality could lead to children growing up “confused” somehow. Like, they’d know that housework wasn’t the sole domain of women and that men could be active, involved parents. How dreadful.
I found that some people are virulently opposed to the term “cisgender“. If you aren’t familiar with it, it means a person whose gender identity matches their biological sex. In other words, it’s terminology that refers to the majority of people. Some are vehemently opposed to being called cisgender, even though they apparently are. I tried to explain that they don’t have to introduce themselves as cis, that this not so much a label as terminology that is appropriate in discussions of gender and that it exists as the opposite term to trans. If you have the word transgender to refer to people whose gender identity is different to their biological sex, but no word to refer to those whose gender and sex are the same, then cis becomes “normal” while trans remains “other” and “abnormal”.
Nope. Accepting a term that you aren’t required to use on yourself but that is useful in discussing gender is apparently ridiculous. It doesn’t matter why such terms exist.
Political Correctness is a Cardinal Sin.
If you use racist, sexist or any other kind of discriminatory language, I reckon you should probably be prepared to be called on it. It’s not that people being hurt by language is a new thing; I think it’s just that people are finally in a place and time where they feel safe saying so. In this group, though, so many topics are scorned as “PC gone mad!” People defend the use of words like “gay” and “retarded” as slurs because they truly believe it is their right to use them. The right to free speech is always top of the list when it comes to defending the use of these terms. Given this is a primarily Australian group, it’s pretty interesting, since we don’t have absolute rights to free speech like America does. Our rights come with certain responsibilities which boil down to one basic premise, neatly summarised by this article as “don’t be a dick”.
I realised some time ago that you won’t change hearts and minds that are fixed on certain ideas, but I believe it’s still a good idea to bring balance to any debate by sharing different information or points of view for the benefit of people reading along. In this particular forum, I’m not sure if there are many lurkers. I do know that the few times I entered into the fray to drop a link or leave some information, I came across some people who took it pretty personally. “I don’t NEED these links!”, as if information was a contagious illness. That was a new experience!
It wasn’t all bad. There were certain topics and threads where people tried to help each other by answering questions and some topics where there was a lot of support for . After my recent bout of Internet Battle Fatigue, I didn’t engage in much because, frankly, I didn’t have the energy. I can see the value of groups like this as far as having a vent goes, but the close-minded attitudes on many topics were pretty disheartening. It definitely opened my eyes even further to just how many people share values and views that are polar opposites to mine. But I’m not entirely sure that seeing that all the time is going to be particularly helpful, so I think I’ll just quietly see myself out!
Gifs via Giphy.
#IBOT @ Kylie Purtell.