Age and Ideology

Someone asked me the other day to provide discourse about my own political ideology. For most people, at least those who follow politics, the answer is pretty simple. Democrat or Republican. Conservative or Liberal. Those simple designations wrap matters up, allowing life to go on, and the safe belonging in a electoral family to generate warmth. It’s OK, because I’m with the good guys, the affiliation assures.

But life is a tad more complicated. When you sit down and begin hashing things out, the talking points prototypically spewed by earnest partisans sound rather hypocritical and contradictory, even if they seem backed by absolute belief and conviction. I know because they used to be my own words. During the healthcare debate of 2009-2010, I proudly wrote discussion posts for my business class advocating against “socialized healthcare,” citing whatever source available (funded by insurance companies) that would indicate such a model was disastrous. I seldom looked at anything on the other aside, assuming it was made up of lazy leftists who wanted to control people’s lives.

Why? Because the GOP said so, and conservative talk radio chimed in agreement. Furthermore, I had been exposed to enough Ayn Rand to know that the private sector entailed everything good – while the State was pure evil. Just like a young liberal might blindly support the Democrats going to war as long as they are Democrats, I was passionately committed to my personal version of the truth, because I wanted to know it was true.

It is crucial to understand how the youthful mind of the ideologue works. During those first years of development, I was forming a wall of confirmation around myself that would help preserve the comfortable pod of experience I assume life should be. It was only when I started looking at sources of every different persuasion, including those previously dismissed as the byproduct of “loser liberalism,” that my perspective changed. I began to understand how complex issues happen to be, and the wisdom in examining them not from the standpoint of kneejerk and glib outrage, but a holistic, inquisitive approach.

Ideally, age will naturally bring about this change, but it is no hard guarantee. With our hectic work schedules and social commitments, the lull of stagnant thinking can be rather sultry, even as the greying nears. Find a quick explanation and be done is the standard, much as before. Thus we see the importance of aging bound inseparably to learning. To free your mind, you must be always curious, and consistently humble, not just now, but throughout life.

Go on, and explore.    

Culturalism · Self-Improvement

Out of Time

When we are young, viewpoints tend to be informed but whatever structure or experience is immediately surrounding us. This might include features such as religion, class level, familial structure, or household setting. Over time we (hopefully) get the chance to expand our sphere of understanding through education and the pursuit of association with a wide variety of experiences which can serve to dislodge or strengthen prior opinions, depending on the impact. Ideally, the typical person will evolve gradually into a well-rounded individual with personal drive for learning and the humility to continue growing throughout life.

That is, ideally. In the torrid reality of our existence, few people bother venturing past the “Drop Off,” where  they might actually face challenges to long-held opinions. Instead, what has been known and accepted for years is simply reinforced, not forcibly through validating scenarios, but a general inability to scrap together the time needed for such change to occur. Busyness, or the impression thereof, simply lays the foundation of contended indifference towards the unknown frontier.

As noted before, this severe shortage of hours (or lack of access) can prove radically dehabilitating to the anxious mind. Millennials are the first generation to have steady means of getting on the Internet dot com, yet even there the pockets of time available for superficial research – let alone critical reading—are minor between work and digital socialization routines.   One almost has to demand the blocked out portion of a given day or weekend to ensure it occurs, and even in that case the guarantee falls less than confidently.

Now, should the research get started in earnest, the relative speed of accrual can still present a bedeviling reality for curious learners. Books take time to finish if they are going to be covered concretely, and certainly note-taking can extend this process. Then there is the question of which others to read, and the specific order of tackling, plus the overall reliability of the authors. Things can swiftly become a minefield of careful assessment and budgeting to determine precisely what writers are worthy of attention, or the most generic respect.

Perhaps more crucially, the aforementioned debate over order could serve to delay access of an important source. Taking the example of dieting books, if a person avoids reading a particular title for one or two years due to time constraints, they are likely to have gone that entire period potentially eating foods that are unhelpful to bodily prosperity. There is no basis to indict their ignorance, as it remains unwilling, yet the long-term consequences stay grim. Thus we are all victims of what we do not  yet know, and may never until it is too late.  

Is there any more saddening realization?

Self-Improvement · Uncategorized

Don’t Outsource Your Mind

A sad casualty of the information age has been the general dumbing down of arguments made by people, especially on the internet dot com In days past, those who were motivated could read and craft arguments from such sources, with few SparkNotes, 5-minute histories, or other shortcuts available. Less-informed folks might mouth off in a tavern debate, but they had to conjure up wild claims without the generous assistance of a search engine. Faking it took some effort, despite the imperfections.

Today we sense a different horizon. Every Jermaine, Reese, and Zephyr can simply pop a question into Google, hit the search button, and copy-paste a hyperlink purporting to back their claims – even if it comes from the likes of Quora, Yahoo Answers, or perhaps “Ask Jeeves,” if the latter even exists. There’s no prerogative to read the actual body text or explore citations, because  what supports them MUST be accurate and beyond reproach.

On the surface level this dynamic is not so problematic, yet it renders a larger-than-life proportion of the national population quite confident in their own opinions, no matter how incomplete those thoughts might be. The internet’s affordance of little introspection for their purposes means those fragile links serve to enhance the ego, and assure a diminished likelihood of further investigation of the material. After all, with that argument remanded to the “settled science” cranial bin, what more is needed?

Perhaps a great deal. Unfortunately, the people who bother to distill petty emotions and look at raw information are left victims of fellow internet people and their mindless bloviation. Since the former group tends to be humbler and more patient, discussions typically end with their voice being drowned out by a million smug cries from the effectively illiterate. Ambition to change the norm shatters upon a weathered hill where the shallow brains defecate pure dopamine satisfaction, while always thirsting for more.

In the interest of not becoming one of these said gremlins, it is imperative to be illiberal with the surrender of your mind. Before wading into a debate, pause to consider how thoroughly the concept has been understood. Failing to do so can result in a situation where bluster and invented facts are necessary to remain credible, methods avoidable when adequate preparation is undertaken. Sure, the appeal is significantly less wonderful, but  at least time is not wasted by lowering ethical standards merely to survive.

Just a (measured and researched) thought.