Choosing Sides in Debates and Gluing Our Hands to Our Faces

Bit of a ramble about choosing sides in debates.

We often think of one of the sides in an argument as the side to which we belong and the side which belongs to us. People tend to affiliate with one of the two, either chocolate or vanilla, conservative or liberal, painting the bike shed or knitting the bike shed a tea cozy. The issues of our day both big and small.

But if we take ownership, it’s much more likely we will be unwilling to see the light of day in the opposition’s arguments. That is, once we establish our archetype as persons includes an unfaltering belief in some position, we have glued our hands to our faces. We will be very wary of changing after that. Any change will have to be gradual rather than abrupt.

That’s not what we see from politicians, but it does seem to be how most people shift from strong, firm beliefs. With politicians, the game is to pick the right position first and figure out the details later. Flippancy.

One interesting scenario is what happens if you glue one hand to your face, and your other hand to the first, but then tear off the first hand. We saw that happen in the United States back in the 1960s with the whole of the south switching abruptly to the Republican party. It’s about equal to de-clothing a table in a swift motion, in that it appears to make no difference to the table or the items on top. But that’s an analysis for another time, of a change notable both in its abruptness and its staying power.

Choosing sides should not be a matter of membership. We confuse it with membership in a club, sometimes, due to the need to form clubs for advocacy, or if everyone on one side of the issue has some common characteristic, etc.

But in some cases the other side doesn’t really exist, yet we still have the club and membership. Nobody is creating a ‘save the cancer’ foundation. A non-agent (and in some ways a non-entity, depending on how you define these things) is the opposition in that fight. Nobody wants the bulls to win in the running of the bulls.

For many issues we face in the world, especially the big issues that threaten us collectively, polarization leads nowhere. The status quo maintains, which is usually in the interest of one of the sides. Ah, but at some point the inevitable happens, and the balance reverses. That is the moment when Wall Street shits its collective pants some five years back. Only it turned out that cronyism and complete incompetence had stability much higher than any sane person would have guessed.

But that’s notable in itself, because despite Wall Street being left basically to run amok, they still took that attitude of the persecuted, still believed the POTUS constituted a threat to them and heavily favored his opponent last year.

In any case, I plant my flag firmly in the camp against gluing our hands to our faces.


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