Easter dinner with a conspiracy theorist

The Easter holiday is an opportunity for students to see their families. I am no exception. This year, my family gathered from different corners of the world and sat down for dinner. The conversation covered various topics – from a banal discussion of the food to a more intimate one about plans and dreams.

After some wine, as usual in my multinational family, the conversation shifted into a political discussion. Predictably, it became heated, not due to the opposing views, but due to its participants being from different planets.

I, a young university student who is trained to use known facts, logic, and critical thinking to formulate theses and construct counterarguments, live on the round planet Earth. My beloved and respected family member, who uses ”known facts, logic, and critical thinking” to question everything that exists and protest the system, lives on the flat planet Earth. The Internet has won.

After realizing that, my first instinct, besides an inner scream, was to turn all academic, argue my point relying on scientific sources, and defeat my opponent. Not only did I fail, but it also pulled me in two directions. Normally, the option of winning in a debate would give me a sense of satisfaction, yet here I did not want to win. Here, defeating meant being defeated, as a family I am a part of. 

There’s no point in shouting at someone who doesn’t understand me

If to win means to lose, how can I save my strong beliefs gained and shared within the walls of the openminded academic university, and not lose them to the devastating fights over drastic disagreements within the walls of my loving and caring home? 

I asked some friends who have experience with this. Their answers, ranging from ‘pretend to agree’ and ‘avoid these discussions altogether’ to ‘it is not possible’, did not satisfy me. 

After some thinking, I remembered. There’s no point in shouting at someone who doesn’t understand me and vice versa. We are from different planets! Thus, we have different rules and speak different languages. Respectfully disagreeing, as a student of the university, it is almost my duty to research, ask questions, and listen. I can gain insights into a different planet to improve things on mine. 

Family dinner will be saved. Opposing views within the family won’t divide us. In the end, after a meticulous peeling back of the conspiracy layers, our core values aren’t that different. We want freedom, we want love and we want peace. And who knows, maybe, eventually, my research contribution on this planet will influence things on the other one.



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