Welcome to Fearless Curious

It’s finally here. For years I’d been meeting people longing for a place to shelter from the Age of Outrage. And now they’ve got it (as long as they’re in Sydney. For now).

I’ve uncovered them in cautious, then relieved confessions at parties, or a surprising paragraph or quote in a journalism colleague’s story. They’ve emerged in chats with friends who I had assumed had never cared much for politics, but were simply keeping their heads down while incendiary insults and abuse in the culture wars whistled overhead.

Minorities within minorities

Not just the white social conservatives you might have been led to believe, the “exhausted majority” described in a 2018 article from The Atlantic come from a diversity of backgrounds and opinions. Women and ethnic minorities often object to both racism and social justice warfare. Many have seen their share of challenges or even discrimination, and want a fair shake in the workplace, but cringe at “special treatment” diversity policies and campaigns. They sigh or even worry about being represented by brethren and sisters known and feted for their hypersensitive, us-versus-them outrage on Twitter, news and conference panel chats.

And even those who do believe women and minorities need special treatment quietly question whether the “call-out culture” that focuses on digital mob justice for any critic could actually be making things worse for their group because it prompts division or backlash.

Such concerns about political correctness and its backlash alike cross more than gender and race lines. Despite modern stereotypes that diversity officers, journalists and academics are all increasingly allergic to differing opinions, many hope to improve things from within their institutions. Veterans in particular often struggle with younger colleagues who harness a company, university or media brand’s historical credibility and power in their more adversarial, black-and-white view of the world.

A new hope

Whatever their background, those eager for a more civil and nuanced public debate need and are now finding their voice. The Intellectual Dark Web are a loose collection of opinion-diverse thinkers including Dr Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Joe Rogan and Australia’s own Claire Lehman who often disagree but whose popularity has soared in in podcasts, non-social media websites and live events because of their commitment to nuanced, respectful dialogue and disagreement (with each other, if not always to both their progressive and conservative critics outside the “IDW”).

Think Inc. regularly packs the Enmore theatre in Sydney’s supposed PC heartland with intellectual events, including those featuring respectful protagonists and academics such as Jonathan Haidt who analyse our increasingly sensitive and angry culture.

But sometimes you just need to meet like-minded (if not like-opinionated) people for dinner and a couple of drinks, while listening to some intelligent but accessible speakers explore tricky topics with nuance. Welcome to Fearless Curious.

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Ky Chow