We live in suburbs filled with people of similar incomes and political leanings and consumer choices.
We create and re-post memes that aim, not to convince, but purely to reinforce people's sense that their own convictions are unimpeachable and their opponents' baffling and reprehensible.
The limitless smorgasbord of online news shrinks in practice to silos of selective reading or, alternatively, "hate-reading".
No wonder that those who disagree with us become distant, indistinct, an undifferentiated bloc of idiots or reactionaries.
Not only are we unable definitively to judge which opinions are absolutely true or false, but to kill off discussion of even the most widely-accepted and deeply-held verity, Mill argues, is only to weaken it.
If our convictions are not to be tested and contested, held up to the most thorough scrutiny, pitted against the strongest of contrary convictions, how can they become properly robust?Using a recently published book as a peg, he would hang onto it a biography of the subject, incorporating many of his own theories and ideas.In 1837 appeared a six-volume Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Baronet by John G. On the theory of "Set a Scot to appreciate a Scott," Carlyle was asked to review it.It will encourage open debate instead of angry calls to silence opposing views, because those who hold them will seem worth trying to convince instead of trying to exclude and bully and coerce. Context: One of the means Carlyle had to earn a living was as a book reviewer for a number of periodicals.In a laughably provocative recent article, entitled "It's time to put an end to anti-choice speech", a self-proclaimed Australian human rights activist made a long, repetitive case for legislating against "oppressive speech".What counts as "oppressive" started out as any opposition to abortion, but by the conclusion of the article the category had gotten considerably out of hand: Not only should anti-choice speech be banned, but so should all speech that voices approval of reactionary, hateful, bigoted, or anti-human rights ideologies.Every time we find ourselves starting a sentence with the immortal and deeply satisfying phrase "I just don't understand how could..." - followed by anything from "vote Liberal" to "vote Green" to "still participate in organised religion" to "think that vaccines are harmful" - alarm bells should be ringing internally.To declare that a significant minority (or in some cases, a majority) of my fellow Australians are simply incomprehensible to me - to airily dismiss them with a convenient label ("racist", "leftie", "elitist", even "stupid") - is an admission of defeat or, more precisely, surrender in terms of the whole enterprise of living together peaceably and productively.The growing social and political segregation of our lives, then - how easy it has become to surround ourselves with people who are pretty much like us - is a big deal.Political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell have written about the phenomenon they've dubbed the "Aunt Susan effect" to describe the comfortable diversity of American religious life.