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Dear Fifi: How do I deal with a family member's shitty political opinions?

Dear Foofers.

dearfifiheader

Struggling through January? Think about it this way: every day is a little closer to brighter mornings and longer evenings, a little closer to payday, and a little further from the season of frantic self-flagellation. We can get through this. We’ve done it before. Why would this time be different?

Got a question? Ask me something serious or ask me something stupid. I’m here to answer them all.

dearfifibar

Dear Fifi,

My younger brother, who is 20, has turned into a terrible, men’s rights activist, the-wage-gap-is-a-myth, Reddit lunatic. He will not listen to anything anyone who he disagrees with says, worshipping Red Pill YouTubers and ignoring everyone else. Growing up he was such a normal, chill kid. Is there anything I can do about this?

I feel for you, because this is complicated and to a certain degree beyond your control. In fact, I think this is really two separate questions so I’ll address them separately.

The first is relatively unique to you – how do I stop my little brother from going down the wrong path? And the second is one that almost everyone reading this will understand to greater or lesser degrees – how do I continue to love (or perhaps just tolerate) a close family member who holds truly objectionable views?

Let’s kick off with your brother. You say he consumes a lot of MRA media, like Reddit and YouTube. One approach to tackle this one-lane view of the world might be offering to give him articles, books, videos, comic strips or whatever else that hold opposing views. Look at it like this: if he’s so sure of his worldview, then why not have a look at something else just to see? Don’t provide this material as a means to change his mind, just to expand his understanding of topics.

Take the stance that you accept he faithfully believes these things. But put it to him that anyone’s understanding of the world is better interrogated if they give airtime to the other side, in order to understand the full spectrum. Don’t make this about him being wrong and you being right. Just make it about the bigger picture. Maybe offer to watch some of his MRA media as a fair exchange, quid pro quo. Then discuss it afterwards together, and try – really do try – not to get personal. Hectoring him is unlikely to work, so try legitimately engaging and go from there.

And look. This might be a phase that passes. Sometimes a sibling disagreeing with what you’re saying is the surest fire way to make sure you commit whole hog, because family dynamics are strange. He might already feel like your kid brother who you don’t take seriously, which is causing a doubling down on these toxic but intoxicating political standpoints. Try to remember you’re the older sibling. Sometimes that means letting him think he’s won a battle, while knowing you’re working towards a more important goal.

Now onto the real puzzler… How do we tolerate family members with whom we fundamentally disagree with? About the big stuff – religion, politics, race, history, economics?

Firstly, pick your battles. Preserve your own mental health. Decide which hill you want to die on, and what can be overcome with a well-timed exit from the room. Vent privately to friends and put on a good face if that helps.

Figure out what the goal is. Changing their minds? Or simply coexisting for the period of time you have to be together? Your response will vary based on what you want out of this.

You might feel an obligation to be a family member’s teacher or feel an internal compulsion of guilt to correct them on something you think is simply wrong or potentially harmful. Do that, if you can, gently and kindly. Disengage if tempers flare. Try not to be pious, as that’s sometimes as bad as temper.

Try to understand, as baffling and enraging as it might be, that they came to their views as earnestly as you and will dislike being made to feel wrong or stupid just as you would. There are no prizes for taking the high road, but you’ll often feel better in the long run if you make it your default.

This is all far, far easier said than done. Go with your conscience on correcting outright lies or misleading facts, but also go easy on yourself – you’re not at a family event or your own living room to be someone’s unsolicited lecturer. Weigh up a situation, consider their feelings and your own, the likelihood of construction conversation rather than instant nasty argument.

Think of your history with this person. Make a conscious choice on how you want to handle their comments, rather than get drawn in and feel frustrated at yourself afterwards. You’ll also feel calmer going into a situation if you’ve made a plan for how to handle it.

It is also acceptable sometimes to leave the room and scream into a pillow for a while. Last time I checked, that’s still very effective.

dearfifibar

Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always. 

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