If you find yourself in agreement with a dominant belief - the most popular religion in your culture, a love of the favored local sports team, or the belief that life is mostly neat and people are mostly good-hearted - you may occasionally have trouble distinguishing someone who doesn’t lick your butt in agreement from someone who is actually attacking you. This post includes tips on how to tell various members of “Them” apart.
First of all, let’s discuss the source of your confusion. The most common reason for thinking people are either with you or against you is that you don’t realize that some people actually arrive at their own opinions rather than just adopting other people’s opinions in a show of solidarity. If you’re an opinion adopter, you may tend to assume another person’s shifting opinions are meant to passively-aggressively signal shifting loyalties. You may feel the person is abandoning your team for another team. In fact, some people engage in a process called “thinking” by which they evaluate how much logical sense an idea makes. They may re-evaluate the idea when they obtain new life experience or knowledge. It doesn’t mean they hate you or want your beliefs to fail or want you to stop believing as you do.
Remember: there are other ways for a person to be a good and loyal friend or colleague to you than by mirroring your beliefs back to make you feel good about yourself.
When your adopted opinions and beliefs are mainstream, you feel safe. You believe that everyone feels the same pressure you felt to conform, and that everyone is shares the weakness that forced you to conform. Therefore when someone doesn’t conform, you think they’re some kind of crazed monster - a dangerously fucked up nutjob. You feel entitled to lash out in attack. In fact, some people have a trait called strength which enables them to feel pressure from others without giving in. They know people want them to echo their beliefs back to them like a tape recorder, but they have their own ideas. They’re (usually) not doing it to spite you; they just really see things differently.
Critics break down ideas into chains of logical thought, then evaluate how sound that logic is. For example, the critic will not accept that “the hole in the ozone is for Jesus to come through” as a logical precept because there is no logic: it’s just an idea you’ve chosen to embrace. The critic is not saying you can’t embrace it, nor is the critic (necessarily) saying it’s a stupid thing to believe (though I have made the argument that if Jesus needs help from hairspray manufacturers to make His Second Coming, perhaps He is not All That). The critic is merely saying you have offered no persuasive reason or fact to compel him to agree with you. It would be absolutely inappropriate at this point to spray paint his car with the word “Fornicator” or similar.
Boy, these guys have it rough. They don’t even want to criticize your beliefs or debate with you. They just want to live and let live. Unfortunately, they’re a Democrap in a Repubican region or vice versa. Or they’re a Muslim in Christian redneck heaven. Or they’re a woman/person of color/gay person/etc. who, when asked for an opinion, gives one instead of saying cheerily, “Gosh, I dunno, but I sure trust Mr. Cracker to know what’s best for me. I’ll just go over here and be harmless, ‘kay?”
My advice here, based on years of personal experience and careful consideration, is simply leave these people the fuck alone. I mean, what damage do you actually think they’re doing to you? They don’t even want to talk to you! You just come over and start telling them your opinions with the expectation that because everything you think is mainstream they will say, “Oh yeah, me too!” and when they don’t, you’re so bothered by the fact there’s somebody on this earth who just blithely doesn’t have to agree with everyone else to function, you can’t stand it, so you decide to harass them daily. And even if they say they agree with you to make you go away, you know it’s not true, so you keep harassing them for no other reason than punishment.
Can you not see that you need psychiatric help? You do. Not them - you.
Now, there are indeed people who are hostile to mainstream beliefs just to irritate you, or to maintain the belief they are cool, or whatever. These people are rare, but they exist. These are the people you can feel entitled to fight with or dislike, and you will recognize them because:
- Unlike critics, they can’t offer logical arguments about their beliefs/opinions, i.e., can’t tell you why they think what they think.
- Unlike non-supporters, they change their beliefs again if everyone starts agreeing with them
- Unlike both critics and non-supporters, they harass you with their beliefs all the time in order to irritate you. (Note: “harass” doesn’t mean “expresses their weirdass beliefs right out in public instead of in darkened basements, where such ideas belong”; it refers to an actual pattern of intentionally bugging the hell out of you, specifically, on a regular basis.)
In other words, they’re exactly like you. Except they feel they’ve got a score to settle, and their chosen method is rebellion. It’s not a sincere rebellion, it’s just rebelling to annoy people. Because they’re pricks and you’re a prick too, I highly recommend that you guys engage in an escalating pattern of violence until you remove each other from the overburdened ecosystem.