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Recently I had a conversation with a friend with whom I rarely have political conversations. They generally don’t end well. In this situation, I was able to make my point without ripping out my hair, but I’m sure my friend found our discussion deeply unsatisfying. I found, however, that I became much clearer about the mindset of the Left, to which she belongs, and although it was discouraging, it was revealing. What was that clarity?
The Left believes that anecdotes, particularly their personal experiences, can be generalized to life. And I don’t think there’s a way to talk them out of that belief, because it is central to their worldview.
I’m not sure how we veered into such dangerous territory, but we ended up focusing on the statement that “one in five women on college campuses are raped or will be raped.” It’s important to note that the word rape is the descriptive word we used. My friend said she believed this information was true; I did not.
I spent most of my explanation on the fact that there are endless ways to define the meaning of this statement. “Rape” morphs into sexual assault, which morphs into various kinds of interactions between the “victim” and the “perpetrator.” It’s an understatement to suggest that the premise of rape on college campuses has been used and abused, particularly by the feminist Left, who have repeatedly demonstrated their disdain, if not hatred, for men.
I discovered that my friend was not interested in data or facts. She was reaching her conclusion based on her own personal experiences. Over the years she was assaulted (not raped) by two different men; she even slapped one of them in response to his behavior. That means she was assaulted twice over many years. She also believed that society never believed that women were raped, and only believed the men. I pointed out the Brett Kavanaugh hearings where many on the Left believed the lies of the woman. (I didn’t ask my friend her beliefs about those hearings, because I was pretty sure she would side with the woman, and that would have been too much to bear.)
The way I tried to address her conclusions were (1) that I’m sure her personal experiences were traumatic and difficult; (2) that I didn’t think it was fair to draw conclusions about men in general from her two lifetime experiences, regardless of how horrible they were for her; (3) that data trumped anecdotes, especially when the analyses were complex and conflicting.
Yet based on her own experiences and her own “instincts,” she basically believed that most men were scum.
How was this information helpful to me?
First, I didn’t know about the two incidents in her own life which colored her perceptions. I realized that for many people, “Perception is reality”; and most of the time that conclusion is harmless. For example, if I have a handful of friends that tell me a restaurant is not very good, I may still try out the restaurant, but with reservations (pun intended!) Or if someone discourages me from reading a particular book, I may still read it because I have read other books by the author or have a special interest in the topic. My actions are not life-changing and have little impact, if any, on my view of the world.
But when anecdotes are involved, I assess them as “stories.” They will include perceptions, memories, preferences, biases, and a myriad of other factors. If I am serious about making an objective assessment, I will not only consider the anecdotes of others but make my own evaluation. An excellent example is my personal doctor/internist whom some women don’t like, but he and I get along fine and have had a great relationship for many years. I don’t try to talk them out of their experiences with him, nor do they try to criticize mine.
I believe that one of the biggest roadblocks we will encounter in bringing the Left to our way of thinking (never mind factors like confirmation bias, personal history, lack of critical thinking, and pressure to conform), will be their reliance on anecdotes. I’m convinced that they believe their personal experience is a valid substitute for facts. To challenge that mindset threatens their worldview, their very existence, and for the Left, it is simply not worth risking everything they might lose.
That may include the basis of who they think they are, and it would be too costly.
What can we do about the anecdotes that are so deeply woven into Leftist thinking?Published in