Sunday, January 8, 2012

Dim Bulbs

Might  just leave the Xmas lights up all year
We've got a lot to say, don't we? We say it with enthusiasm and conviction. Other people believe us, because we believe our own words. Often they don't give much thought to what we've said before they accept it as truth, and we too accept other people's versions of reality without any examination at all. We're a bunch of sheep who don't want to think too hard, and we make up our minds without digging up all the information needed to make a balanced and fair judgment.

There is no better example of this than the comments pages at the bottom of internet news stories. If you want to see how ignorant and uneducated your fellow citizens are, take a gander. You will be shocked at the low level of intelligence displayed there. I'm guessing that most people with brains don't bother leaving comments at these sites, or waste their time reading the comments.

"But we must have discussion and free speech!" the newspaper editors say, and they're right, we must. It's just that there is some discussion and free speech that lowers the level of exchange so far that it's not really discussion at all; it's no more than providing a forum for opinionated blowhards to spread their contempt and hatred for others. They're given a soapbox to stand on and wave their self-righteous know-it-all flags, when clearly they don't have a friggin' clue.

Many of my friends and family say I'm outspoken and direct, and to a point I am; I won't, to keep the peace, agree or go along with something I'm sure is wrong, and if you're obnoxiously out of line there is every possibility I will say so rather than keeping my mouth shut to avoid a confrontation. But not always; not anymore. I may think someone is a total twit, but don't necessarily feel any need to say so. I've come to believe "It's more important to be kind than to be right" and I'd rather feel sorry for a fool in private than correct him in public. The effort to assert my opinion isn't always worth it. More often than not, engaging with a jerk just opens you up to abuse, and who needs that? What is to be gained? I've learned to choose my battles in many ways, and not to waste my energy talking when others are not really listening and when it isn't going to make a damn bit of difference. Even when people bait me, as some have been known to do, I just don't bother. I let it slide. They're welcome to their beliefs and as long as I don't see anyone being hurt, I'll usually stay out of it.

In the past I've tried to make myself understood, even when it was unlikely a person would even hear what I was saying, let alone agree with me. I've begun to think that being understood is overrated, and that if I continue to care about being understood, I will continue to be disappointed. None of us can comprehend beyond our own open- or close-mindedness, our inability to face our shortcomings (fears, blindness and weaknesses) honestly, and our refusal to admit we don't know everything and that — gasp — we have not only been wrong, but we have acted like dickheads. (I cringe to recall times I have spoken or acted with self-righteous conviction without realizing there were other, better, wiser options.)

There are articulate people who can respond to an asshole in such a way that the logic of their reaction is unassailable. I wish I was one of those people, but I'm not. I don't think fast enough. I usually hear a crock of shit and sit there frozen in my disbelief that anyone could say such a ridiculous thing. I don't know what to say, or how to say it in a sensible way that makes an impact, and so I say nothing, and I don't pursue conversation with the other person any longer.

I recognized a like-minded individual a while ago when he was interviewed on CBC radio about his book called You Are Not So Smart, which is all about the phenomenon of human self-delusion. His website is here.