Thinking for yourself

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that it’s difficult in an almost tangible, physical way to accept that there are aspects of a situation that not everyone has access to, especially when those particular facts are at the core of the decisionmaking process.  It’s kind of like trying to build a jigsaw puzzle that has had the edge pieces removed and has been mixed in with another half a puzzle, you’re missing the normal guide and you can easily get a hundred pieces in before you realize you’re working on the wrong image.

It occurred to me that a big part of why this is a problem for me and people like me is because as conservatives we’re used to assembling the data at hand and reaching our own conclusions about it, whereas leftists generally like being told what is important and what they ought to know and what to think about it.  Now I will readily admit, the split was not always this way.  The leftist stereotype of the right is that we are a bunch of mind-numbed robots thumping our Bibles, clinging to our guns and chanting whatever Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity tell us.  Like most actual stereotypes (and unlike most lefty fantasy stereotypes) this has some basis in reality.  The shoe definitely used to be on the other foot, back when typically-Christian traditionalists used to try to shut down various forms of questioning and challenges to their doctrines and societal rules by branding people as “heathens” and basically making “God says so” the centerpiece of their arguments.  These were generally the less-intelligent types, and while there’s nothing wrong with that kind of dedication to an all-accepting religion, when that turns into evangelism and the basis for governmental policy decisions the ice gets a lot thinner.  I don’t think “heathen” or “blasphemer” ever reached the status of “racist” as a word slung around to end a losing argument (not in this country anyway–I know further back they definitely could bring some consequences), but they were in the same category.  Folks might not be able to brag about being smarter than their opponents but they could definitely claim to be more pious.

This is, incidentally, why to this day I don’t think it’s a good move at all to even include “because it’s in the Bible” as a part of an argument for or against something.  It gets you precisely nowhere and discredits both you and your religion.  The better approach is to make your argument on external observable merits and then highlight how this is what the Bible or Christian doctrine has been saying all along.  In other words, don’t rest on God’s authority to make an argument, but use the facts and evidence at hand to promote your beliefs.  This is getting off on a tangent though.

So for a long time it was Christians and the church who would discourage critical thinking and try to shut down questions with an appeal to moral authority.  I’m not sure where the shift took place, I want to put it in the basket with the cultural changes in the 60s and 70s, but the fact is that these days the tables have been turned, or at the very least the so-called “free thinkers” of the left have become even more think-for-you than the most committed and least intelligent Christians ever were.  See, while the Christians only ever tried to claim moral authority and piety while sometimes outright acknowledging their lack of “book learnin'” in the face of intellectual challenges, the left DOES claim to have superior intelligence.  In their eyes the dichotomy is not “smart and inquisitive versus simple but righteous,” it’s just “smart versus stupid.”  Which is what makes it patently ridiculous that the ones who want to accept things as they are sold them and want people to believe what they’re told, like Ted Koppel and the dinosaur media bemoaning that they don’t control the “one set of facts” that everyone operates from anymore, they want to claim that they and their followers, who uncritically swallow the facts they are permitted to have and the beliefs they’re told to espouse, are the SMART ones.  That’s not how it works, people.

If your ideas are defensible then you aren’t afraid of questions.  But to the left any question of even their most preposterous ideas is grounds for ridicule.  If you don’t believe the absurd wage gap myth, you’re a misogynist.  If you don’t support Black Lives Matter, you’re a racist.  If you don’t believe in “climate change” fairy tales then you’re a science denier.  If you don’t think homosexuality or being transgendered is completely normal and cause for celebration (no I don’t know how you get both) then you’re a bigot.  If you’re not okay with butchering unborn babies then you’re a neanderthal.  If you don’t want to ban all guns then you’re a psychopath with a “weird” obsession.  The list goes on and on, and the thing is, if you fit into any one category, then they just assume (usually rightly so) that you fit them all.  It does not matter what label they apply to you, they all mean you think differently from them and that makes you not just bad, but stupid enough to just be disregarded.

What they fail to understand is that their caricature of conservatives (like so many other ideas they still cling to) went out decades ago.  We don’t listen to alternative media to be told what to do, we don’t get our marching orders from Breitbart or receive subliminal messages from President Trump telling us that we hate all Mexicans now for some reason.  We do not believe what we believe because we are conservatives, we are conservatives because of what we believe.  We arrived at these conclusions via our own rational thought processes and in spite of the media and many societal establishments telling us these independent thought crimes made us bad people.  We put up with the name calling and endured the derision, we accepted the consequences of our beliefs because the alternative was to deny reality.  Unlike the left, we do not like being told what to think.  The result is we have a hard time deciding to trust someone, because we know we have been and continue to be lied to.  The best we can do is look to people we know to be trustworthy, and that takes more thought and effort than just picking up the morning paper or turning on the network news.

I don’t know about anyone else but I consider a degree of skepticism to be very healthy, and I don’t need anyone to do my thinking for me, thanks.


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