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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Black and White vs. Gray: When rational thought distorts reality to the point of being irrational ...

Fair warning: This one might bore yous to tears ...
Last week I was involved in a heated debate with a group of ultra conservatives over the Lincoln movie. A conservative anarchist and Ayn Rand faithful in the crowd insisted “he (Lincoln) hated blacks.” While it may well have been a possibility that Lincoln felt that way about blacks, I doubted his conclusion based on Lincoln’s ultimate actions/accomplishments. A number of quotes from a book (The Real Lincoln) were hurled my way. Some of them I’d heard before, others I hadn’t, but I refused to acknowledge them as FACTS anymore than the favorable quotes about Lincoln I could hurl back, again pointing to what IN FACT Lincoln did in favor of an enslaved people (whether one believes he hated them or not).
For the record, I do not believe he hated blacks, but I do not know that to be factually true or false. What I do know to be factually true is his ultimate pursuit to end slavery, something a person who “hated blacks” probably wouldn’t have cared to entertain, never mind at the expense of his life. For even if his ultimate goal was to save the union first and foremost, his emancipation proclamation and insistence on pursuing the 13th Amendment, for whatever other reasons, certainly benefited blacks, especially those in the south.
I think SOME conservative anarchists and certainly SOME Ayn Randers will hurl words like “hate” and “despotic” and “usurper of rights,” etc., by the mere fact they abhor government in general. Thus, they are SOMETIMES blinded by the good it (government) can and often does, but that’s another argument for another day.
The Lincoln argument could have gone on forever and nearly did. It turned ugly and I had no problem getting ugly myself, but that’s what happens when people are passionate about their politics. It certainly wasn’t the first time. One pseudo named person took the lead in arguing that Lincoln “hated blacks”. For a site dedicated to freedom and liberty, there are very few there who use their actual names. They claim it is from fear of retribution at the workplace and other areas of their lives.
Isn’t it ironic? Don’t you think?
It’s like Ra-eee-ain on your wedding day ...
The Lincoln argument wasn’t a debate against a pseudo named conservative anarchist and/or an Ayn Rander. It was an argument that posed black and white versus gray; rational thought that precludes shades of gray versus a more inclusive thought process. The always right crowd vs. the I wouldn’t be so sure you’re right crowd.
More often than not, I find discourse with those stuck on “rational thought” more frustrating than being a Buffalo Bills fan. Aside from the hubris such individuals bring to the table, usually because they believe (and I do believe they honestly believe this), their logical/rational thought outweighs any arguments to the contrary, they are blinded by the very narrow world view rational thought often dictates.
When rational thought is completely dependent on assumptions, quite often absurd assumptions, a black and white worldview severely hampers any possibility to see a bigger picture. Tunnel vision precludes gray areas and/or mitigating circumstances; it is either this or it is that, and nothing between or outside; a brick is a brick and not a caboose.
If only the world and all that goes on in it were so simplistic.
In an article titled Target: Old White Men, by Selwyn Duke, I found this sentence factually true, yet absurd: We might also note that while old white men probably weren’t the first to practice slavery, they were the first to eliminate it.
Factually true, yet absurd? What kind of reasoning is that? There is no way it can be both; it is either one or the other, the rational thought crowd insisted.
To wit: This is allowing your “feeling” side to overwhelm your Factual thinking side.
And/or: You claim the statement is factually true and at the same time absurd. How do you rectify that in your mind. Absurd is, quite literally, almost the complete opposite of factually true. Absurd means without relation to reality. Something without relation to reality cannot, by definition, be factually true.
What the Duke statement implies (factually), however, is that “white men” were the first to eliminate it (slavery), somehow bestowing on white men in general (since it is such a HUGE generalization) the benevolent action of “ending slavery.”
Factually true? Really?
If I’m not mistaken (and I’m not, although these figures are approximates), there were 72,524 killed in action, 260,000 total dead and another 137,000+ wounded, southerners all; men who fought to maintain slave states (and thus slavery).
Were they not white? Or don’t they count?
One would have to believe (and not assume) that those statistics alone would necessitate an editing of the Duke generalization to read: We might also note that while old white men probably weren’t the first to practice slavery, “SOME WHITE MEN were the first to eliminate it.”
Let’s count that as chink number ONE in the rational thought armor.
Number TWO is self-evident (although trying to get the rational thought crowd to acknowledge it can be as difficult as pissing into a hurricane). I say: If it was white men who put a race into slavery, how can they be credited with ending such slavery?
Applying the generalization inherent to the Duke quote (“We might also note that while old white men probably weren’t the first to practice slavery, THEY (i.e., ALL WHITE MEN) were the first to eliminate it (SLAVERY).”), slavery is akin to a criminal act where, say, a rapist kidnaps a victim, repeatedly abuses them (sexually or otherwise), and then lets them go.
Is the rapist then the savior of the victim (by the mere fact he/she let the victim go)?
Of course not. And therefore the Duke generalization/statement is as absurd as some part of it is factually true. Getting the rational thought crowd to a) admit they backed the wrong horse and/or b) to admit they were at the least PARTLY WRONG, is pretty much an impossibility.
The fact they are often adamant about the virtue of their “rational reasoning” is scary; there is no room for outside argument, mitigating circumstances, or anything other than their assumptions. They believe the counterarguments to the Duke statement above to be VERY WRONG.
Later another “rational argument” was brought to the same conversation, suggesting there were still slaves in the north, even though slavery had been abolished in the northern states, and therefore, ASSUMING the premise true, the civil war could not have been fought over slavery; that if the north could tolerate slavery within its own borders, how could slavery have been an issue regarding the south?
Turning the absurdity of that assumption around, one might respond: So, therefore, if there were southerners opposed to slavery (and there were), none in the south could have been fighting to maintain slave states ... and we know that at least SOME (and probably many), southerners did fight to maintain slavery.
One has to wonder how the rational thought crowd can maintain they are so right and everyone else is so wrong all of the time. The truth of the matter is they do, especially when they are reinforced with the camaraderie of their own ilk (for there is strength in numbers). The fact they will hold to it no matter how foolish their arguments are is a testament to how limited their thought process is; restricting thought to a blindness they can never acknowledge, whereby reality is turned on its head and serves no purpose; for reality is full of mitigating circumstances, the undeniable gray areas inherent to life.
This is not to say all or any rational thought should be dismissed, but that it should be, must be, weighed against all the factors leading to conclusions. Nothing can be dismissed because it doesn’t fit into a narrow worldview. The world, life in general, is too complicated to deduce one way or another in so simplistic a manner.
The more I wondered how they rectify that in their minds, to borrow a phrase, the more clear this became: For the rational thought crowd to admit they are wrong is a defeat of their entire Raison d'être.

So cling to their infallibility they will, I suspect, because nobody wants to admit they’re living a lie.

All things Alanis, amici ... all things Alanis ...