Tuesday, April 12, 2016

One More Friendship

We can get an illusion that our bubbles are bigger than they actually are. People seem more different than they actually are. Those who we rage against often have remarkably similar ideas about the world to us. It is the fact that they are slightly different that drives us bonkers. Scott Alexander talks about this in a must read essay titled 'I can tolerate anything but the outgroup'. A liberal society seems like it should be a tolerant society. Instead we end up being an angry society raising our pitchforks against people who are mostly the same as us.

We should only use Pitchforks to burst bubbles

I am trying to think about how I would go about building a community of 150 people who represent the demographics of the world. It is incredibly hard! It also makes me realise that I am like a child who insists on only eating on spaghetti with tomato sauce but hates tomatoes. I have barely tasted the world. In a group of 150, I would be the only South African. Most of the people I know are South African. In a group of 150, I would be the only English speaking, male, aged 25-54 with internet access. That is hardly a prescriptive group and makes up a huge chunk of the people I know. Only 7 people in the group would be English first language. 2 of those would be under 25. 2 would be over the age of 55. So I would only get three adults (half men, half women) to represent the entire English speaking world in my age band.

Adding almost anyone I know would mean a particular group of the world's demographics is over-represented. That is how much variety there is in the world, and yet we spend a lot of energy trying to debate issues within our micro-groups. Blue and Red States both part of the ridiculously awesome United States. All 11 languages of South Africa share a history and overlaps that bind them.

In Investment, this is called 'Home Bias'. It is impossible for us to see the world in any other way other through through a lens coloured by our experiences. Our home is our world. The only way we can get a fuller picture is by consciously de-constructing our barriers. Taking down our walls brick by brick.

Berlin Wall pieces from the Newseum (Washington DC)

The great part is it starts slowly. Friendship by friendship. We don't know what we don't know, but we can still start. I am busy teasing this idea of a '150 group' with anyone who will speak to me about it. If you are keen, send me a message. I would love it if others started on the journey too. Unfortunately, if you know me and share a lot of interest with me, we would have to be in different groups! The 'large' Twitter community I am a part of is almost 98% English Speaking. That is not the real world.

I don't see building this community as separate from other communities of which I am a part. I can carry on building my other friendships. Spending time with people I love. What I know I am missing is glue. I find the challenges facing the world daunting at times, and I think a big part of that angst is because the problems are too abstract. With friends, we can chat about meaningful issues in their lives. We can share. We can learn from each other. We don't even necessarily have to do anything. Listening may be enough. Without that relationship, I think it is very difficult to truly experience each others worlds.

It starts with one more friendship.

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