Books Read in 2021 – 18. How Not To Be Wrong: The Art of Changing Your Mind – James O’Brien.

Genre: cultural comment, autobiography / memoir

Narrative style: first person essay

Rating: 5/5

Published: 2020

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: O’Brien takes the reader through his own process of changing his mind in a deeply personal analysis of the current political situation.

Time on Shelf: About three months.

My relationship with James O’Brien has changed over the years. When I first came across him, he seemed to epitomise the very angry right wing pundits he is so fond of destroying these days. He was clearly a very angry man and angry in a way that was hurtful and mean. I didn’t take a lot of notice of him if truth be told. Then at some point around Brexit, I noticed I was agreeing with him more and more. It didn’t seem that odd. The world had gone insane. James O’Brien becoming the voice of reason was just one more proof of it. I had no idea that he had been through such an intensely personal change of mind. That is what he outlines in this book.

There is no doubt that there are a lot of people in society, in the media, on social media, that are very reluctant to change their minds. You can see it in the people who keep supporting Trump and Johnson even though they have not delivered on their promises and they are clearly prejudiced. It is not just the right either. There are any number of people who still adore Jeremy Corbyn even though he presided over the worst labour loss in the party’s history. The sort of people who when faced with accusations of anti-Semitism in the labour party say but what about islamophobia in the Tory party. As if the one cancelled out the other. You have to examine your own ideas and opinions. It isn’t weakness. It’s the very definition of growth.

O’Brien takes the reader through his own personal journey of learning how to change his mind. He analyses his old opinions and tries to work out where they have come from. It is important, he suggests, to consider, not only the ideas but where they have come from. What is there emotional resonance of this opinion? Does this have anything to do with why people are holding on so tightly to these opinions?

O’Brien lays himself open here. He shares transcripts of old radio conversations from when earlier in his career which are quite hard to read. He takes them apart as if he is one of his own callers. He is willing for the reader to see his weaknesses but also to understand the importance of the process of his personal growth and how examining our opinions could help to change the current, deeply divided world we live in. An excellent read for anyone concerned about the current cultural situation.

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