On debating and learning

TL;DR: If I want your opinion, I will ask for it, and I probably don’t right now.

Dedicated mostly to Chris, who intentionally or unintentionally inspired this. Thank you for the lift to the train station, for the impassioned conversation, and all of the things it taught me.

Alright. So. Ahem.

I am not interested in debating you right now.

Don’t get me wrong — I love debates. I affirm them as tremendously important in swaying hearts and minds and opening up ideas and giving people a chance to defend their points and understand why they feel what they do and question themselves and others. I’ve had a whole hell of a lot of them and they’ve changed me and made me a better person and I’ve maybe changed others and hopefully helped them to become better people in turn. I imagine I will go onto have many more debates in my life. Like they are so fucking useful and important and I validate them.

But I’m just not that interested in having them about most things at this time.

I’m at a place where I’m pretty good with where I’m at and what I’m about. I’ve got a really solid framework for the world, be it societally or spiritually or in terms of myself. I’m not interested in debating it at this point in my life. I just want to do it, live it, do me, be me, in the world, and figure out for myself what that means. I’m trying really hard to put my own moral code into action. I’m starting with myself, and with the interactions I have directly with other people, and then, hopefully, I’ll come back for society in some way.

But I’m not there yet.

Even interacting with other people is not my primary motivation right now. I will do it when I have to and sometimes outside of that when I want to, but trying to interact completely consciously and figure out how to implement my own morality in my actions and interactions in each moment is like goddamn exhausting and it’s hard to do all the time. I’d rather be alone than interact in a way I don’t want to. So I’m taking a lot of space from people and a lot of time in solitude.

Hmm, you may say. Not wanting to listen to my opinions and not wanting to share yours? Sounds like you’re not giving yourself a chance to connect! Errr, yeah. That’s pretty much it. Scroll up to the previous paragraph for clarification.

If you come to me wanting to learn what I think, I may tell you. But please don’t stop me every five seconds and tell me why you disagree. If I haven’t asked, I don’t care. I’m not interested. If I want to know, trust me, I will ask. If you share your opinion without me asking for it, you can reasonably expect me to tell you if I think you’re wrong, or to ask you to stop talking, or to walk away. I may or may not explain why, and from now on, I’m making a conscious decision not to butt in with explanations without being asked.

In the mean time, I’ve compiled a list of things I am not interested in debating right now. Some of these things I’m not even interested in talking about or hearing about. Some of them I will happily express my views on if asked. Some of them I will sometimes listen to your opinion on, but only if I ask for it, and I may consider your words on my own time, but I’m not interested in having the debate right now.

  1. Myself. Who I am, what I value, where I’m at right now, why I’m doing what I’m doing, the way I behave, the things I need. Even how I dress or the color of my hair. If you want to know about me, you can ask. I’ll tell you now, I’m not that interested in explaining myself. I’m not feeling a tremendously strong need to connect and be understood right now, I’m just trying to do me. If I feel what I’m doing needs an explanation, I’ll explain myself. But who I am is not something I want your feedback on unless I specifically ask for it.
  2. Spiritual/moral philosophy. Again, happy to tell you mine if you want to know. If I’m in the mood, sometimes I’m happy to hear yours. But I’m not interested in debates.
  3. White male ‘oppression.’ Just, no. I may explain what I think if you want to listen, but I am openly Not Interested in hearing why you think white men are oppressed. For the most part, I’ve heard all the arguments already. Maybe you’ve got a whole new take on it that would totally blow my mind? Maybe. Probably not. I still don’t care either way. If you want to hear why I think you’re wrong, ask and I may tell you. But I do not want to debate this.
  4. The importance of respecting gender pronouns/trans issues ‘not being important’. See above.
  5. Anarchism and communism. You think communism doesn’t work in practice and anarchism is a bullshit dream? That’s a thing that you can think. Do I want to hear about why? I don’t. Same with your judgments of my own ideas of anarcho-communism. Like I just don’t care if you think I’m a real anarchist or communist or not or how far you think that goes into personal interactions or how much should be strictly political. If I want to listen to your opinion, I will ask you for it. If you want to listen to mine, I may tell you about it. Not gonna debate this with you.
  6. Rape being rape. Are we even still talking about this?
  7. Political correctness as ‘oppressive.’ Oh Jesus, no. I don’t want to hear your opinions on this. You think you’re being oppressed by political correctness? I don’t. I’ll tell you that, but I’m not interested in hearing your take. I’ll happily walk away or change the subject. If you want to listen, I’ll speak. But, spoiler alert, I don’t want to debate this.
  8. Trigger warnings. I think they’re important. Want to know why? Ask me and I’ll tell ya. Do I want to hear why you think they’re wrong or unimportant? Nope!
  9. “Blue lives matter” and criticisms of the ideas behind Black Lives Matter. Ugh. I don’t want to explain this to you. I don’t want to hear what you have to say on it. Go read if you want to understand where I’m coming from, the founders of BLM have a lot to say and they can explain better than me (and they already have), and it’s all there if you want to learn about it. There’s a hell of a lot out there on the racial dynamics of policing in the US, and of the prison system. I’m happy to recommend books or articles or talks to you. I can give you the low down on what all of this is about, why we use terms like mass incarceration and institutionalized racism and police brutality. But no, I don’t want to debate this with you.
  10. Your spiritual or personal guidance. If I want it, I will ask for it. If you want mine, you’re welcome to ask for it, and I may tell it to you. Beyond that, nope. Not interested.
  11. The importance of debate. Like I know it’s important. That doesn’t mean it is my duty to debate with everyone about everything in every moment. You think that is my duty? Hey, guess what! I don’t want to debate about that either. The good news is, you’re not me so you don’t have to account for my morality and decisions! For the most part, I’m in a place of walking away while maintaining a loose duty of care. If I think your views are fucked up and making the world a worse place, I may tell you that. If you ask why, I’m sometimes happy to explain, but I don’t want to debate! I may well just walk away from the interaction altogether.

It’s just like — Guys. People with privilege in particular, like the work’s been done. It’s out there. You may not agree with it, and that’s on you to decide. But do your own homework before you jump down someone’s throat or expect them to explain things to you, and if you ask for someone else’s opinion, listen to it. I’m not listening to your opinion? Yeah, I didn’t ask for it.

And there’s a whole lot of homework I haven’t done, and perspectives I don’t know about, and like, that’s totally true. I’m not trying to force myself down anyone else’s throat either. Remember what I said about my primary energy not being connecting to other people right now? Ding ding!

I don’t want to dialogue much these days. I’m just tired of it. See  above on “white male oppression.” TL;DR: Chances are, I’ve heard your argument, and I’m not interested in hearing it again. I’ve probably already heard it and thought about it and still think you’re wrong.

I may be wrong about everything. It’s also possible that you disagree with me and have a totally different perspective than the mainstream critiques on any of the above issues. Alright, good for you. I accept that possibility. Does that mean I want to hear it? Nope! Not unless I ask. Likewise, I’m not trying to go shouting the gospel of my truth from the rooftops and forcing everyone to listen. TL;DR: If you ask me, I may tell you. I may say, Not right now. If you want to listen to me, listen to me. If I want to listen to you, I’ll ask.

Boom. Done. That simple.

On the flip side, here is a list of things I do want to hear about right now:

  1. Taoism. I don’t know a lot about it, I’ve been thinking more and more about it and how it relates to where I’m at, and if you’re really educated on Taoism and want to tell me about it, I’ll so happily listen and ask clarifying questions.
  2. Concrete tools to overcome possessiveness. You’re super polyamorous and totally good with it or have no attachment to material possessions or don’t feel possessive over your ideas? Dude, please, impart your wisdom. This is something I’m really working on right now and have gotten a lot of vague ideas about but not a lot of actual, tangible steps. What worked for you? What worked for others you know? Tell me!
  3. Experiences of living consciously. Again, tell me what’s worked for you! I want to know! How did you start? What does that mean for you? How did you struggle and overcome? How successful have you been? Ohmygod talk to me about this, I’ll listen.
  4. Experiences of building community. See above.
  5. Tools and tricks for communicating non-coercively, consciously, and authentically. Got ideas? I’d love to hear them! Tell me what worked for you. Please don’t tell me what will necessarily work for me, because it may not, and you’re not me, and you don’t know.
  6. Gardening. I want to learn how to grow food! Talk to me about gardening!
  7. Living without money. How did you do it? Can it be done? What’s worked for you? What’s been easier than you thought it was? What’s been harder?
  8. Methods of breaking down internalized white supremacy/misogyny/homophobia/class dynamics. You’re a rich white person who’s learned in some ways how not to buy into this shit? Talk to me! What helped you? How did you start the process of unlearning your own privilege? I want to know!
  9. How you’re doing. Emotionally, mentally, energetically. If I ask you, it’s because I want to know. You’re welcome to go as deep into the answer or as shallow and automatic as you feel in that moment. But I won’t ask if I’m not at least open to a serious answer.
  10. If I’ve been a positive influence in your life or you like me and stuff. Like that shit’s just nice to hear. Send the good vibes if you’ve got them, they make me smile.
  11. Ways in which I’ve actively hurt you. Likewise, if I’ve fucked it up, please let me know. I’ll extend the same courtesy to you. If you think I fucked up or wronged you, tell me! Say “You fucked up” or “you wronged me” and I’ll probably ask why and what you thought was wrong or should be changed. But probably does not mean always. Because if I’m pretty sure I haven’t broken my own moral code, I’m not gonna apologize. What is my moral code? Once again, a thing I’m (usually) happy to explain but not interested in debating! Also, a thing that’s out there on the rest of this blog and you can do your own homework! See: Hypocrisy and Hippocrates, On Human Relationships, A Guide Explained, this essay on Jesus from when I was in Galway… Ok pretty  much most of the shit I’ve written recently is about this.
  12. Questions on any of the things I don’t want to debate along the lines of ‘where can I learn more about this?’ Oh my god how wonderful it is to hear things like this! Like fellow white people who are all, “I saw a BLM protest and don’t really get it where can I learn more?” Dude! Yes! Go you! I’ll so happily recommend things I’ve read or heard that shaped my understanding if that’s something you want to know about! Not gonna shove them down your throat, but if you wanna know, Yes! I’ll go compile as long of a list of readings and talks as you want and enjoy the fuck out of it.

So yeah. I think that’s about it.

One last thing. An FAQ section of the kinds of reactions I’ve had from various people recently to talking the way I’ve been talking.

Q: What if I don’t want to talk about anything on the list of things you want to hear about?
A: Lucky for you, you don’t have to talk to me!

Q: What if I want to debate something on the list of things you don’t want to debate?
A: It takes two to tango. Unlucky for you, I don’t have to talk to you. And I’m, on the whole, probably happy not to talk to you at all, or really anyone right now.

Q: You’re not respecting my opinions, Anna!
A: Okay I know that’s not really a question but I get this one a lot, so let’s go with it. First, let’s break that down. What do we mean by respect? We both know ‘respect’ does not mean ‘agree with.’ I can respect that you have an opinion. That doesn’t mean I have to listen to it. That doesn’t mean I find it to be of equal righteousness to my own opinion. If I did, I wouldn’t have the opinion I have… Duh? I’ve done a lot of reading and a lot of talking and a lot of listening and a lot of thinking about a lot of stuff. Do I have plenty more to learn? You betcha! Am I an authority on everything (or really even anything)? Nope. Except on myself. I would say I’m the world’s leading authority on myself and what I need right now, which, at the moment, isn’t to debate this shit with you. Are there things you can teach me? Probably! Does that mean I have to learn from you right now in this moment? Absolutely fucking not.

Q: What if I don’t want to hear your opinions, Anna?
A: Aight. Don’t listen. Don’t ask for them. Don’t read this blog. Sorted.

Q: So we’re not going to connect right now as humans?
A: Dunno, maybe not. Sorry not sorry. Not my primary goal right now.

Q: What if I want to connect with you?
A: What you want from me is not my problem unless I choose to make it so. What I want from you is not your problem unless you choose to make it so. That’s like, how being different people works. You have every right to walk away from me or anyone you don’t want to interact with. And so do I. So yeah, if our conversation or interaction is not serving my needs, I’m probably gonna just dip out, sometimes without explanation.

Q: Why?
A: Because I’m tired. I’m working really hard to live consciously all the time and it’s kinda difficult, for me at least. So I’m starting small and simple, in small doses. And that is what I need right now. And you don’t need to understand it. You don’t even need to ‘respect’ it as an idea or opinion. I just ask that you don’t actively inhibit me from doing it.


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