Something amazing happened just the other day. I changed my mind. No, I didn’t order the fish and change to the chicken. I engaged into a vigorous discussion with someone, and they presented an alternate view, which I rejected. Later, I did some further research on it, realised that they were correct after all, and changed my position.
Yes, this is news because it doesn’t happen often these days, for anyone. What usually happens instead is that we dig in or ‘double down’ on a position, and are driven by ‘confirmation bias’ to find others who agree or support our view.
But guess what? People are capable of change. The proverb “a leopard never changes its spots” refers to character, rather than opinion. Character traits are burned into us during our formative years, and are therefore very difficult to change (yes, you might say stubbornness is a character trait). But opinions ought to be based on assumptions and circumstance, and over time they change, and therefore opinions can change with them.
“They are not the person I married”, says the unhappy spouse of many years. I should hope not! The idea that once we commit to live our life with another person, we must lock in to be the same person is absurd. Rather, we should embrace a growth mindset and seek always to become better versions of ourselves. Our ability to change should be celebrated.
But how about sacked Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony show director Kentaro Kobayashi, who made jokes about the Holocaust some 23 years ago? Or Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, who appeared in blackface in a school yearbook 37 years ago? These are just two examples of deeply offensive behaviour from a long time ago with consequences (enacted much later) that seem entirely disproportionate. That is not to defend their offensive past actions. Rather, to question whether we should assume they maintain the same views for decades unless they make a public apology and retraction. Is the mere absence of repeated offensive behaviour over a period of time sufficient to indicate someone has changed?
Over the years, I’ve written some 400 articles across a number of platforms. Do all of them represent my current thinking? I hope not, and indeed I may look back at some of them and cringe. But that doesn’t mean I would delete them, and even if I did, the online elephant that never forgets ensures they will remain in cyberspace forever.
It’s quite possible that some malevolent soul will trawl through them, looking to find something that offends them. If they do, I can almost guarantee that they will find what they are looking for. But so what? That was my opinion then; not necessarily my opinion now.
Those who advocate “cancellation” for past sins are usually self-appointed, and operating with no objective standard as to what justifies it, nor how anyone can be rehabilitated. That is anarchy.
The cancel culture movement assumes (among other things) that people cannot change, but our ability to change is what separates us from animals.
Originally published on https://davidwerdiger.substack.com/p/i-changed-my-mind