I feel for Richard of The Peking Duck. "My site," he lamented over a duck dinner in Beijing last night, "has become the place where people go to fight." The venerable blog--its comment section, at least--has devolved over the last few years into a 24/7 slugfest between dragon slayers and panda huggers, alike in stridency and ill manner. The floors are slick with bile, the air acrid with vitriol and thick with ad hominem attack. Go there at your own peril.
But Richard perseveres at the Pond, out of an optimistic view of human nature I wish I could share but sure do admire. "People shout past one another, and nobody's mind is ever changed," I said to him. "No, I don't believe that," he replied. "People do change their minds. I've changed my mind--changed it about this government, even." This is true: Richard, whose tireless, shrill railings against Party malfeasance I'd come to
find tedious take for granted, has really moderated his tone and his take. "They're even calling me a shill for the Communist Party!" he said. Never thought I'd live to see the day.
Well, as I told him, if you're pissing off the nut-jobs on both extremes, then you're probably doing something right. Here's to you.
This got me thinking: When was the last time I really changed my mind? And not on something trivial, like a rock band or a cooking spice or a favorite web browser (mine's Maxthon, by the way), but on a major issue? I'm still trying to come up with something, and it's bugging me. Have I been "avoiding the contentious" because I'm getting more Taoist in middle age, or because I'm too set in my ways to hear out argument?
So here's a challenge for you: Tell me the last time you've really had your mind changed on something, and how your mind got changed. On something big. The death penalty. The Iraq War. Capital gains tax. Immigration policy. Free trade. National self-determination. Affirmitive action. Open source.