Saturday, July 13, 2013

Social Truth III

"To see what is in front of one's nose requires a constant struggle." George Orwell, Collected Essays, 1946
"At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas of which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is "not done" to say it... Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the high-brow periodicals" George Orwell, original introduction to Animal Farm.
Why you fool, it's the educated reader who can be gulled. All our difficulty comes with the others. When did you meet a workman who believes the papers? He takes it for granted that they're all propaganda and skips the leading articles....He's our problem. We have to recondition him. But the educated public, the people who read the high-brow weeklies, don't need reconditioning. They're all right already. They'll believe anything. That Hideous Strength, C S Lewis
I get very superior sometimes about claiming to see the obvious, the simple but elusive truths that others fail to see. The site is called Assistant Village Idiot mostly because calling it That-Kid-Who-Said-The-Emperor-Has-No-Clothes-Blog is unwieldy. A lot of the sites I read fall prey to this same temptation, congratulating themselves on their plain, no-nonsense, just-the-facts-ma'am intelligence.

When people cannot see the obvious, there's a reason for that. It's worth considering what that might be.

(Hey, that's like obvious, right, and I just pointed it out, scoring major Orwell/Lewis/your-ad-could-be-here points so...okay, I'll stop now.)

The excuses why people cannot see the obvious are many, and stupidity or cowardice are not the only reasons. There are personal costs, fear that the opposite half-truth will gain dominance, embarrassment, and a host of others.  As few of us can change the world we live in that much, it may be wisest to just believe what everyone else does and go about one's business.  The Epicureans believed that worshiping the local gods was a reasonable way to limit discomfort and happily participate in one's community (not the only Greeks going that route), and something similar is part of Confucianism.

We wiseguys may be the stupid ones, convinced we should persevere in order to make a difference.


Sam L. said...

Sometimes we don't pay enough attention or take the time to examine something beyond the surface, which may be an illusion. Hey, I got a life to lead, here.

james said...

"We wiseguys may be the stupid ones, convinced we should persevere in order to make a difference."

That's not obvious.

Assistant Village Idiot said...


Luke Lea said...

This post stuck with me and I had to come back and find it, after searching all over the web.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Thank you greatly.