Human beings are stubborn creatures. We don’t enjoy the prospect of relinquishing our power in any way. When we decide something, we often dig in our heels and form an opinion that will weather any attempt to change it. In some cases this is harmless, even necessary. We fuse experience with taste and form opinions on all kinds of subjects from an early age. We have favourite colours, characters from books, race car drivers: we discern, and deduce that one thing is more favourable to us than another. There is nothing wrong with that.
Sometimes we decide things that have ramifications beyond ourselves. Sometimes people, through no fault of their own are driven to hold an opinion on something that is rooted in their mindset, their culture, traditions and values inherited from their family and society. However, when these ideas are in conflict with social norms, they are deemed unacceptable and politically incorrect.
For instance, our society is beginning to change values in regards to gender identity and sexuality. Not long ago in Ireland, 1993 to be exact, it was illegal to be a homosexual. Now, we are voting to legalise gay marriage, a step that twenty years ago would have seemed inconceivable. It is a testament to our ability as a culture to collectively change our mind.
Some people find it very hard to change their minds. The idea of recanting on previously held ideals that have served them well throughout the decades is like giving up. They believe that gay people are unnatural. They will often claim benevolence toward members of the LGBT community, and in some way maybe they do tolerate things that are an affront to their own personal beliefs. They fight to maintain the status quo, which they do not want to change for reasons that are usually rather personal.
The people of Scotland were asked recently if they wanted to change their minds about their relationship with the United Kingdom. As a group they decided not to change their minds just yet, although the referendum in itself was an indication of how much their minds have changed over the decades. The idea of an independent Scotland was radical up until relatively recently. Over time, with slow attrition, people have changed their minds. Following the vote, the UK General election saw English people vehemently refusing to change their minds, but saw Scottish people changing their minds about who they wanted to represent them in the House of Commons.
People are changing their minds about drugs. More than ever before, people are recognising that drug addiction is an illness and that that the issue is a social and medical, but not criminal. This view would regard drug addicts as people who should be in treatment instead of a jail cell. The United States has changed its mind about how it approaches psychedelic and entheogenic drugs, allowing research on the positive therapeutic effects, rather than discounting these because of their history of abuse. The United Nations have convened to discuss drug policy in New York and were petitioned by various NGOs and businesses to revise current law and policy.
Beyond the call for a change in how we deal with drug addicts, the Federal Government of the U.S. has had to deal with individual states changing their minds about one drug in particular. In the United States, 23 states have legalised Marijuana in one form or another, and 4 have legalised for recreational use, with more to follow suit next year. The District of Columbia has also legalised for recreational use, sending a very clear message to the White House. Over the next few years it will be interesting to see if minds are changed at the highest level, or if there will be a federal backlash against this divergence from the status quo. The people in the 1930’s who enacted most of the “reefer madness” laws, were changing their minds also. At the time, they probably thought they were being progressive.
It’s easy to dismiss other folks, especially when their idea of reality conflicts with ours, it can make them seem almost non-human, caricatures of people. So, the next time that you come across a person whose views on an issue you deem mind-numbingly anachronistic, belly-achingly backward or soul-crushingly ill informed, remember, they’re humans like you, they just haven’t changed their mind.