There had been a lot of talk the past month about Github's decision to move away from the name 'master' towards 'main'. Scott Hanselman's writeup on this issue explains both the history of the terminology and how one could easily move away from using it. When I initially had read about the issue I had thought little of it, and had even agreed tongue and cheek with Reddit's sarcastic take on the whole master to main issue.
And then it hit closer to home.
An online discussion among people I know went out of hand. Feathers were ruffled. Some were offended by others who had expressed indifference on the matter. Mediators were needed to calm the situation down and remind everyone to check themselves.
A question was presented to me at the time: when should it matter to us? How could a person express their personal feelings and opinion that "it isn't a big deal" without hurting someone else?
In Facebook, I'm part of many groups that espouse beliefs that are opposite of what I believe in.
Supporters of politicians I don't like. Groups espousing competing religious beliefs. Conspiracy theorists. Anti-intellectuals. Science deniers. I also actively engage, follow, read and comment on friends who have exactly the opposite ideologies as mine. People who are aligned to my beliefs and values ask me how I keep myself from unfriending them.
My answer was simple. If we can listen to people with different political beliefs; if we could suspend our judgment for a moment to consider contrasting facts, we might be able to hear people with weak voices better.
There is a lot of hate and vitriol in social media right now; it marginalizes the actual, valid concerns of many people. We fail to hear the real issues behind their "irrational" beliefs. We fail to hear the pleas for help.
It was very easy to fall into the trap of dismissing the issue of renaming master to main as meaningless, or be cynical and cite the whole matter as another "SJW" overreaction. However, one must realize that being unaffected by an issue can be a sign of privilege, or worse, of ignorance. There are many who are either descended from a heritage of slavery, exploitation, and apartheid, or had undergone discrimination and marginalization.
It's important to them because it hits them close to home.
The fact that it isn't an issue for us means that we are enjoying either the privilege of being unaffected, or have transcended exploitation and abuse. At worst, it means that our ancestors had been the perpetrators or had been complicit in committing atrocities and have benefited from the fact. That means we, indirectly, have benefited from those atrocities too.
It takes a great deal of introspection and listening to others to realize where we stand in these kinds of issues. It takes some practice to be able to truly empathize with the deep implications of issues we think are benign.
It's time we listen deeper, it's apt we listen more.