In a recent Monday email one of my current favorite authors, Mark Manson, was reacting to the unrest following the shock and sadness of the George Floyd tragedy. What he had to say is not only some of the best writing on the subject I've read, it includes some very practical advice for dealing with the strangeness of humanity and the difficulty of dealing with the contradictions and paradoxes our times, perhaps of all human times. I'm reprinting the following from his email for you to appreciate, too.
[W]hen approaching any difficult subject, before even starting, I try to remind myself of a few things:
There is little evil in the world, but lots of stupidity and selfishness
With the exception of truly heinous shit, most people are not motivated by evil intentions. In fact, it’s usually the opposite – most people do awful things with the best of intentions. Therefore, we should not assume people’s intentions to be evil, but rather try to understand why they believe what they are doing is good.
Everyone suffers. The question is, for what reason are they suffering?
It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that nobody should ever be insulted, attacked, hurt, threatened, etc. Not only is this unrealistic, but if we are going to stand up to dangerous groups, individuals or ideas, we have to be willing to sacrifice. Therefore, the question isn’t whether people should suffer or not, rather it’s a question of whether they are suffering for a good reason.
Prepare to sit with the contradictions
People and groups can be both good and bad simultaneously. In fact, they usually are. Two opposing viewpoints can each be partially correct and partially incorrect. Evidence can be complicated and suggest contradictory conclusions. Be prepared to sit with these. Your mind will try to push you to be comfortable on one side of the fence or the other, but do not let yourself fall into mental complacency. Life is complicated. Issues are complex. Sit with the uncertainty.
Action Requires Real Understanding
Whatever it is you hold true, whatever it is you hold dear, please take the time to ponder these three principles. When you find yourself rushing to judgment and ready with quick simple answers to life's challenges and other people's weak solutions or bad behavior, remember that it rarely if ever accomplishes anything. Somehow, we're going to have to find a way to talk to each other again. You and I can make a difference if we start listening and taking measured, sensible action. We will never solve our problems if we simply impose on or bully others into doing what we believe is right. To make any actions we take stick, we have to change hearts and minds, too.