Red Yellow Blue

When you dislike someone strongly, it’s really tempting to see anyone else who also dislikes them as a wise, thoughtful ally. To say the very least, that’s super dumb – and of course you know it’s super dumb, but that won’t stop you from being tempted in that direction the next time it happens.

Movies reinforce this stereotype all the time. If you have two bad guys in a movie franchise and they fight, it’s always because one of them is “turning good.” Hell, people do this with real world history! People cite the fact that Stalin fought Hitler as evidence that Stalin was a good guy.

So our brains try to trick us into black/white thinking. And if someone thinks they’re really enlightened, they might say something like “the world’s not black and white, there are shades of grey!”

But even that’s nonsense. “Shades of grey” thinking still assumes that there is such a thing as black and white, and just allows that some people may be at different points on the spectrum between them. But that isn’t true at all.

A more true view off the world is “Red/Yellow/Blue” thinking. First, it establishes a truth – there are a bare minimum of three viewpoints on any topic. There is pro, con, and neutral/unaware/don’t care. And with those three primary colors, you can mix into literally infinite viewpoints.

There is a spectrum between “red” and “blue” that contains an infinite number of “shades of purple.” But none of those shades contain an ounce of “yellow.” If you’re “yellow,” then movement along that spectrum never makes someone closer to or further from your point of view.

With Black/White/Grey thinking, if you think about Hitler and Stalin, you’ll be forced to conclude that there’s a better case for one of them to be a “good guy.” Since they fought, they can’t be identical. And if they’re not identical, then one must be a different shade than the other, but with a single line like that, “different shades” naturally means that one of them is closer to your shade than the other. So then you start to let your tribal impulses take over and start to think of dumb justifications why one isn’t so bad, because he fought someone you think is the worst.

But with RYB thinking, you can recognize that one might be red and one might be blue, and that there are infinite shades of purple between those two, but none of those shades contain an ounce of yellow. And no matter where someone is on that spectrum of purples, they don’t get any closer to or further from where you are.

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