Don’t confuse nuance with hypocrisy

If your car’s air conditioning stops, what would you do? Would you try and have it fixed? Or would you discard it to buy another car?

The problem here is a broken A/C unit, and not the entire car. So we take the car to the mechanic with the hopes of fixing this problem. But we don’t treat several of our arguments with the same clarity and nuance.

Digital technology that is “always on” has its advantages and its disadvantages. Yet, any elucidation of its drawbacks leads people to point fingers and call out “hypocrite”. “If you think technology is evil and problematic, do not use it”, they say.

Living abroad teaches you several things about your own country – both the good and the bad. One may miss the rich and diverse cuisine of one’s home country, as well as the warmth of its collectivistic society. At the same time, one could also see sense several problems that are the result of inequality and the systematic disenfranchisement of certain social groups. Yet, pointing those things out leads your fellow countrymen to call out “expat”, and shame you into silence.

Our brains are prone to two problematic tendencies here. The first is to seize upon the negative and ignore the positive – of having a bias towards negativity. The second is to try and neatly classify people into two camps: the proposition and the opposition. That is why we go around saying things like “you’re either part of the solution or your part of the problem”.

The world is a complex place, made wonderful and inclusive thanks to its nuances. Destroying this nuance through oversimplification is akin to sending your car straight to the scrapyard when its air-conditioning shuts down.

2 thoughts on “Don’t confuse nuance with hypocrisy

  1. Regarding the “expat” shaming note, a couple of nuances (:D) within that –

    1. It is possible that the shaming tone arises out of envy, despondency or a host of other negative emotions which manifest as indignation or outright denouncement. It might appear that a person living abroad (presumably in the relative material comforts of the West) has no inkling of the psychological trauma that one has had to endure by living through said systemic disenfranchisement (regardless of whichever side one stands). Unless the observer can sufficiently speak to that trauma _before_ making the observations as a “neutral outsider”, the narrative will inevitably get hijacked. In my experience, this is actually quite common in many high-voltage issues (especially gender inequality).

    2. Living as an expat is a double edged sword. On one hand, it provides the mental luxury to think about issues deeply and intellectually. On the other hand, we live in extraordinary times when it comes to the media. News media has devolved into a highly polarized, high-decibel situation and social media is far too anecdotal. Therefore, observations about a geographically distant place makes one vulnerable to the firewalls and echo chambers of the information medium. Trying to include substantial clarifications that one’s observations are not subject to today’s media biases (fake news etc.) takes too much effort, both to produce and to consume. It then runs the risk of completely derailing and missing the original point or intention behind the observation.


    1. Great perspective here, based on your own experience!

      With point 1, the fact that the observer is seen as an “outsider” blinds people to the objectivity that they are able to bring to the situation.

      With point 2, the double-edged sword is actually the terrific reach coupled with the terrible quality that information has today. In order to retain our ability to think deeply and objectively about issues, we need to completely tune out from news and “current affairs”.


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