Ignorance of Bliss

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Column by Blake Bengtson.

Exclusive to STR

The cascading nature of human events is truly a sight to behold, amplified tenfold by the advent of technology's current level. We are simultaneously connected and disjointed from one another unlike any other time in history. There is division. There is camaraderie. Fear, love, anger and pain. All for the world to see at any given moment through social media and the chattering of state-controlled networks. We are spoon-fed a dialectic of idiocy. People are trained to lack the ability to reason, never mind identify any logical missteps in their own argument.

Many times in debates on the Internet or face to face, I am confronted by the same sorry, tired thoughts again and again. Guns kill people, immigrants are illegal and taking a finite amount of jobs, we can tax ourselves into prosperity, taxation is a necessary evil. Every time, these arguments are flimsy at best and rely on evidence such as “my uncle got shot,” “they stole my contract job,” “I don't mind paying more, think of the children!” and my personal favorite “but what about the roads?” No amount of reasoning or pointing out their argument's inherent flaws makes any headway. They will say it never happened to you. They will say you don't know what it's like, so are wrong, because surely if my uncle were shot, if my job was lost, or if I were poor, I would advocate all the same.

This blatant societal appeal to emotion permeates discussions about almost any topic. Every time a dissenting opinion is brought forth, the grotesque summoned dogma rears its bitter head ready to shout down the competing idea, with punishing “nuh-uhs” and ad hominem attacks the likes of which every playground has heard ad nauseum. Dogma is a key tenet to the religion of statism, and those who don't practice it are all but stoned to death in the arena that is living rooms and break rooms around the world. The inability to address an issue without personal narratives and basic feelings is pivotal to the state's health.

I was at a local mall several months ago, and decided to ask some people who were panhandling for Bernie Sanders some questions. I asked simple questions. What are his platforms? How will they work? They didn't seem to know, and I ended up explaining how the Electoral College works since they hadn't heard of it. At one point I inquired to the middle-aged man with a cowrie shell necklace and his friendly but oblivious female companion, the coup-de-grace to any argument regarding socialist programs, “How will Bernie pay for this?”

The reaction was instant anger from the man, who immediately started rubbing his face and head and went as far as throwing a tirade of curses in my general direction. By holding a belief so sacred that simply questioning it elicits such a response, can be traced to the dogmatism and dissonance in the man's own head. He was unable to coalesce his thoughts into any semblance of an argument that made sense, and the uncomfortable feeling of knowing you are wrong but refusing to admit it results in a visceral response of anger. This began to draw somewhat of a crowd, and to my fiancée's chagrin, she missed the chance to film the encounter. I explained some key points about the morality and failure of taxation to the confused older woman while her comrade stomped around. This ended with me taking a stack of buttons and a bumper sticker from the women, who remained amicable throughout, although she didn't seem to grasp a single thing I said.

What does this lead to? A malleable society ready to adhere to any base thesis, relying on their own emotions and personal encumbrance rather than any appeal to reason. The saddest part about this fetid state of affairs is how close the key of reason lies to the masses' chained hand. The Internet could easily free (and has freed a great many) society form its yokes put on them by others. All that is needed is a little bit of introspection, and courage to look at your own thoughts as if they are wrong, and admit when they don't hold up to scrutiny. The last obstacle lies within the minds of those sorry, lost individuals.

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Anarchoblake's picture
Columns on STR: 2

Historian/Political scientist living in a police state who writes for fun on the side.

Comments

Jim Davies's picture

"People are trained to lack the ability to reason..."
 
Spot-on, Blake. Excellent piece.
 
Reason is, however, a basic human attribute. It can be awoken, as your avatar suggests.

Mark Davis's picture

Excellent. Ain't it the truth.

Samarami's picture
    "...We are simultaneously connected (to) and disjointed from one another unlike any other time in history. There is division. There is camaraderie. Fear, love, anger and pain. All for the world to see at any given moment through social media and the chattering of state-controlled networks. We are spoon-fed a dialectic of idiocy. People are trained to lack the ability to reason, never mind identify any logical missteps in their own argument..."

Good to see you back, Blake. So, I'll keep my "devil's advocate" stance low:

I've said for a time now that this is truly a fun time to be alive. Never before have the likes of me had the opportunity to watch things happen and to experience people change. And to feel like a part of that change.

The milieu is exciting -- even the crassness is riveting. Partly because I've had to learn to react in a less combative manner to belligerence toward my opinions. I once thought I had been wrong, but found friends on the web who were willing to correct that error. :-)

Neither Ron Paul nor Donald Trump (for better or for worse) could have happened in 1964, last time I voted or participated in a bread-and-circus event called "election". Barry Goldwater of 1964 (my hero of the hour) might have come close to Trump of 2016 -- but not quite such a clown, and not as likely to randomly spew political incorrectness. Mainstream media were still in vogue, the internet a good distance in the future, and conventional wisdom the only viable option.

    "...The saddest part about this fetid state of affairs is how close the key of reason lies to the masses' chained hand..."

I steer clear of "facebook" and other "social" networking. Partly because I've never learned (read: do not want to learn) how to navigate them. And partly because the tweeter, the twatter, and the twitter are so bovine. Ignorant one-liners seem all that's there. Individuals capable of placing one sentence in front of another to form anything sensible (even in opposition to my dogmas) are indeed a rare species -- and not too popular at that.

    "...All that is needed is a little bit of introspection, and courage to look at your own thoughts as if they are wrong, and admit when they don't hold up to scrutiny. The last obstacle lies within the minds of those sorry, lost individuals..."

That's where you, and I, and Jim, and Mark come in.

Embedded within those "...sorry, lost individuals..." could be a remnant. That remnant is listening.

Sam

Paul's picture

The indoctrination is hard to break, even among the more aware.

And as Sam points out, you will never make much headway among the masses. Political economy is far outside their area of expertise.

Strangely though, with all these problems, human life does improve over time. I suppose the truth manages somehow to sink in, over the decades. I have noticed some of these trends on forums, especially lately.

"My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them, nor indisposed me to serve them; nor, in spite of failures, which I lament, of errors, which I now see and acknowledge, or, of the present state of affairs, do I despair of the future. The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient, the work of progress is so immense, and our means of aiding it so feeble, the life of humanity is so long, and that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave, and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope."
-- Robert E. Lee