Leaving your Comfort Zone

“… suppose you managed it. Solidarity. So solid not a tonne of grain is delivered to catapult head. Forget ice; it’s grain that makes Authority important and not just neutral agency it was set up to be. No grain. What happens?”
“Why, they have to negotiate a fair price, that’s what!”
“My dear, you and your comrades listen to each other too much.”
“The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert A. Heinlein

One way to be creative is to be open to ideas, to different perspectives, to new voices. That seems obvious, however, in one of the most important areas of creativity — activism — this seems to be strangely absent.

It’s just an observation made by looking at feminists on the net for a few months, and debating atheism online for couple of years a decade ago, but many movements seem to be closed to outside perspectives.

In a way, this is beneficial. Any social movement needs to confirm their own narrative, develop their own way of thinking, even their own jargon, achieve a high cohesion, which enables them to put the necessary force/will behind their movement.

If you propose change, which nearly always means that those invested in the status quo lose, you need to be prepared for resistance and you cannot afford doubt.

Doubt kills.

On the other hand, that in-group bias, that inward-looking self-confirming view, might lead movements to miss a lot. I think it can even lead them to Pyrrhic victories. You might only ‘achieve’ your goal on the surface, while deep below there is no support for your ideas. Many people do not see the other position, they do not use perspective taking, thus rendering unable to really communicate and achieve common ground. Other problems or views do not exist, because they have never encountered them.

The term “leave your comfort zone” is usually regarded positively. I would like to propose it to political, social, environmental and other kinds of movement: Write down your position. Then find out which position or counter-argument you do not agree with — keep it real, something otherwise sane people propose. Now think about the kind of evidence that you would need to admit that this position/counter-argument does have a point. And then leave your comfort zone — go and really try to find it.

If you are a woman you cannot know how it is to be a man, or vice versa. As a strong atheist it’s hard to see what a religious person feels, and vice versa. But you can try — and I think you should. It’s easy to see only the illogical aspects (e.g., of religion) or the benefits (e.g., of being a man). But this is only part of the issue. Look at the other aspects as well.

This is nothing you can do when you are on the extreme end. An extremist cannot do this. But if you are near the middle of the scale, it might help you to put things into perspective and stay open for new ideas.