Friday, August 07, 2009

Post 2000 - Unlearning

I thought of doing some massive summation for Post 2000 - some key idea that threads through all my other posts. Nothing was on the hot list of things just about to be posted in anticipation of going on vacation, so I sat back and pondered what might be most appropriate.

I have chosen instead a humble topic, because I'm better at that. I can sometimes come up with a new idea, or find the central idea in a mass of rhetoric, or read something that others might miss, but there are folks all over the internet who do that better than I. What I most hope to provide is preliminary answers to the question "What is the obvious thing here that we're all missing?" As in my immediately previous post, I believe just thinking, in and of itself, favors the religious and social ideas I hold to. Not that I have attained, as St. Paul says, but I press on.

Tonight is a good time for a dose of my own medicine. I don't think I have been standing back and blurring my eyes to see the obvious much lately. I have gotten caught up in the temptation to be sharp-eyed and find the telling detail. I'm okay at that, but it's not my strongest suit.

So looking over my allies instead of my opponents might be a good idea. Let others illustrate for you how Obama and the Democrats are showing shoddy reasoning, or imperiousness, or manipulativeness. What of the conservatives, libertarians, and evangelicals, eh?

The nirthers are getting a lot of press, and I thought at first the attention focused on them was an attempt to make a small group look like the heart of the GOP. Polls suggest there are more of them than I thought. I think it's a low-percentage cause. It's unlikely to be true, and unlikely to be provable even if true. The fantasy that somehow overlooked point is going to bring down a president and usher in a period of small-government conservatism is the same sort of wishful thinking a certain type of mind always gravitates to. I recall the Buchananites getting worked up a few NH primaries ago: the evangelical vote will coalesce around him, then the union Democrats, and that will create a lot of conservative Catholic groundswell... Or similarly, the tax protesters, or the Libertarian Party, or the Ron Paul supporters, all falling prey to the same unlikely hopes.

It sounds exactly like the 911 Truthers, alternative medicine extremists, antiglobalists, and whatever on the left. If we can just get the word out to a certain level, then people will see, and wake up, and we'll get critical mass...

I don't know what drives this entirely, but I sense that these folks just have an exaggerated case of what we've all got - an inability to unlearn what we "know." It's a brain structure thing, and folks with schizophrenia have particularly impaired ability to hold their thoughts at arm's length and consider other possibilities. But for all of us, once a belief is in place, it takes a lot of counterevidence to knock it out. I point out incredibly stupid things that Obama says to my more liberal friends, frustrated that even after several solid pieces of evidence they can't shake the idea that he's a smooth and persuasive speaker.

This is because I am expecting them to start from a neutral point, a zero point. The evidence I provide should be enough to make the case that he's really pretty thoughtless, cockily flying by the seat of his pants in situations he should think through. But the human mind doesn't work that way. They're not starting from a zero point. Just as importantly, neither am I. There are ideas it would cost me a lot emotionally to give up. I've done that inventory at least twice in my life, neither time quite voluntarily, and I don't know if I've got the ruthlessness to do it again.

Much easier to just say what I think more loudly, eh?

I'll be away for a week, reading nothing that bears directly on current issues. Let's see if I am able to unlearn some little thing.


Jonathan said...

"I have chosen instead a humble topic, because I'm better at that."

I'm going to refrain from comment here.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

You think I do difficult topics better?