Dangerous Conversations


Do people really talk to each other anymore?

With the constant noise coming through all our high-tech gadgets and with vast audiences available to pretty much everyone through social media, we’ve got more opinions, criticisms, information, misinformation, virtue signaling, intellectual preening, pithy comments, dehumanizing insults, and angry, often pointless arguments being lobbed back and forth than at any other time in human history.

But (again I ask) are people really talking to each other? Are people really listening?

What I’m talking about here are real, honest, open-hearted, and open-minded human-to-human conversations – conversations without agendas to advance or narratives to push or ideological wars to win – just people freely and honestly talking to each other about real-life stuff that really matters.

Now I can’t claim to be any better at this than anyone else, but it seems obvious to me that there is a serious shortage of meaningful communication taking place in our society these days.

So why is that? I suspect there are a number of reasons.

One reason, I would say, is this strange social dynamic that pressures us to keep our conversations closely guarded and relatively shallow. It’s kind of like that invisible force that causes everyone to face forward in an elevator. No one wants to make anyone else uncomfortable or feel uncomfortable themselves – so the general policy is to keep your speech confined inside safe, conventional boundaries.

And the rise of cancel culture has got people walking (and talking) on eggshells more than ever, afraid that anything they say might offend or trigger someone and bring unwanted backlash.

And, forgive me for tossing out conspiracy theories, but it seems pretty clear to me that many of the political, financial, and institutional powers that be in this world have a vested interest in controlling public discourse and preventing people from getting together and talking freely about certain things.

People are easier to control and exploit if they’re kept isolated, stressed out, fearful, disempowered, and divided against each other – and the people who run things figured out how to effectively push those buttons a very long time ago.

But, even with all these obstacles in the way, we humans still have a deep-seated need for meaningful communication and connection with other humans. And I believe society as a whole would benefit from unfettered talk between people from different backgrounds with different beliefs and worldviews.

I know this might be stretching it, but imagine liberals and conservatives actually sitting down together and talking to (rather than about, around, or down to) each other with the genuine goal of better understanding each other’s viewpoints and finding real, workable solutions to our society’s countless problems.

Imagine open discourse between people of different ethnicities regarding racial issues with no one feeling the need to blame or label anyone or subvert the conversation for political ends.

And (not to ruffle anyone’s religious feathers) imagine people from different religious traditions getting together for free, unrestrained discussions about God and faith and spirituality. For that matter, imagine people who go to the same church feeling truly free to talk to each other about their own struggles and questions regarding their faith.

You may think this is all a pipe dream, but I believe this kind of open communication between people can actually happen. I believe it because I have taken part in many such conversations myself over the years – and I know I have benefitted from them.

And, after all, we do have this thing called the First Amendment in this country. As much as some might not like it (or even fear it), free speech is still allowed, and it’s perfectly legal.

So, please, feel free to strike up some dangerous conversations.