War lesson #1 (of 2) for my sons: Ground convictions in proper research

people in the street protesting against war

The winds have been kinda weird this past week.

Blowing beautifully one morning, then disappearing altogether the next. Leaving the air dead still, and me sweltering in this island nation’s unrelenting year-round humidity.

In a way, it mirrors the world we now live in; news constantly swinging between good and bad, true and false, hope and despair.

In the midst of all that, I can’t help but wonder how it’s affecting my kids, if at all. And how do I explain to them the winds of change sweeping the globe? How do I talk to them about the current war in Ukraine that’s still raging on? How do I tell them there’s more to the news we’re getting than meets the eye?

Especially when even adults stand hopelessly confused by all the information and disinformation bombarding us on all sides, like the Russian missiles rocking Kyiv these past few days!

Sweltering at the prospect of so challenging a task, I guess the best way to go about it is…

…one war lesson at a time!

black smoke coming from fire
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Now first off, some of the more obvious tragic consequences wars inflict shouldn’t need disputing I hope.

Wars destroy people and properties. They upend livelihoods and liberties. And they cripple infrastructures and economies.

But there is one war lesson arising from this current conflict I wish to highlight today. One not immediately obvious but impossible for me as a dad to ignore.

I call it misplaced convictions.

The famous German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) probably said it best when he said over a century ago: convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”

Imagine, more than 100 years ago someone already knew enough to say something this profound and spot-on! Who says we can’t learn from historians and philosophers from the past to help guide us to better understand the world we live in today?

Scholars and learned men like Nietzsche probably foresaw the potential for harm misinformation and lies can do to foster misguided convictions. For once a conviction takes hold, it’s virtually impossible to extricate it.

But what even those geniuses didn’t count on is today’s speed of advancements in communication technologies to spread knowledge far and wide instantaneously!

And often these are spread unfiltered, or I should say rapidly filtered by ‘bad actors‘. These are the “Loki’s” of our time, who go online (and especially on social media) with the sole intent of spreading mischief and falsehood; to stoke flames of dissent among netizens through manufactured lies.

Diligent and extensive research is the only cure

person getting vaccinated
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I still remember earlier this week a family friend kept sending me private messages of “evidence” why the West, particularly the USA and the Western European countries, were equally complicit in igniting the war now going on as Russia continues assaulting Ukraine.

What I found both amusing and disappointing was that nearly all the “evidence” and conspiracy theories this adult sent me came from (get this) TikTok posts!

Now of course I know there are also credible and responsible media outlets on that platform catching the eyeballs of netizens hooked on the latest trends and cute cat videos.

But when it comes to serious matters like a potential world war?! I really don’t think we should treat it like it’s another social media posting day. We also shouldn’t cherry-pick stuff just ’cause it looks good to us. Or it feeds our preconceived notions about an issue as important and serious as one nation invading another.

These days, unfortunately, it’s obvious both mature adults and impressionable youngsters are alike in this manner! Especially when online discussions tend to happen in echo chambers, where you’re forever pushed opinions you already embrace because the little algorithm gods are programmed to feed you only what you wanna see.

This is why I firmly believe proper, diligent, and extensive research is non-negotiable. Especially when it comes to arriving at credible convictions on serious issues. Issues like a nation’s sovereignty or the rationale for one nation to attack another.

Which, in the case of this family friend and countless others like him, then begs the question…

…why don’t people do proper research?

man wearing black and white stripe shirt looking at white printer papers on the wall
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I think people don’t want to research in-depth for many reasons, though three immediately spring to my mind.

One, it takes too long.

Two, there’s just too much out there.

Three, I don’t want to face the truth cos I may not like it.

All these reasons have always existed of course. But it’s been cranked up several notches now thanks to our internet-connected world.

How ironic! Instead of spreading knowledge and information to make us better informed and the global community more united, we end up not only knowing less but drawing misguided conclusions due to misplaced convictions!

Now just to be clear, I’m not siding the West on this war either. Like Russia, the US too has been guilty of more than one invasion (Iraq in 2003, and Afghanistan in 2001 come to mind).

However, the odds weigh heavier against the current, more obvious aggressor Russia, and much of what has been reported (and is still being reported) makes for mounting, compelling arguments.

Commonsensically speaking, a bigger country and mightier army invading one smaller and less-resourced is textbook playground bully behavior! No need for much research to conclude what we should make of this affair.

And when you read unthinkable stories of victims suffering all manner of atrocities now. Everyday. In real-time.

How could that family friend (and others like him) nit-pick sparse, obscure information in the face of such overwhelming evidence against Putin’s Russia?!

So as I ponder what life lessons to impart to my boys this season, the first one that comes to mind is going to be this:

Sons, learn to build and grow your convictions about major issues in life like war through proper, grounded research and not merely what looks or feels good to you.

And then take the time to show them exactly how.

So they won’t be blown off course by whimsical winds of misplaced convictions.

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