Last week's political post garnered a comment that bothered me. Not because it was derogatory (it wasn't), not because it shot holes in my premise (it didn't do that either) but because it revealed a certain close-mindedness that is all too prevalent; an unwillingness to read a conservative opinion or a opinion from Foxnews.com.
This close-mindedness is not limited to the Left or the Right, it is found throughout all ideological perspectives. It is way too evident in all of society today. It has been with us throughout the history of the world. It has an impediment to advancement, it has allowed the dictators of the world to achieve control and fortify their positions.
It is a refusal to acknowledge that the other side may have a valid point.
Now, before you say how open minded you are and how you always listen to both (or more) sides, let me remind you that I understand that you believe that. And many of you may well be open minded. But not all of those who claim that status really are. I am beginning to suspect very few of us actually are.
I have written before about how we are "herd animals" [here] and how we choose our friends because they are like us, because they agree with us, because they believe the things we do. Our circle of friends tend to reinforce our perception of the world around us. This gives us a comfortable feeling, one of belonging, that we have value. I have mentioned more than a few times how advertisers use that herd mentality to get us to buy products. They also use that desire to be unique in the herd. Ever hear your child tell you how "I have to be me" as he or she dresses, talks, and acts like all of his or her friends?
I noted it once a long time ago as I was crossing the country with my 11 year old son and his childhood friend. I realized they looked, talked, and acted alike. I jokingly referred to them as the "California Clones." There were differences but the differences were so subtle that they may as well not have existed.
I have also written about the growing division in the US [here] which I think is still growing. (especially read the comments for that piece) I worry about that division. It may be that I am paranoid and reading too much into it. I hope I am.
Sometime, when I was 12 or 13, I learned about something called "The scientific method." It's a simple process and the steps are these:
- Ask a Question
- Do Background Research
- Construct a Hypothesis
- Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
- Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
- Communicate Your Results
It was the 4th step that began to open my eyes. You see, you were supposed to try to disprove your own hypothesis, not try to confirm it. In other words, the experiments were to find flaws in your hypothesis, not simply bolster it. It is the part of the process which is so important and yet which eludes many minds. If you set out to confirm a hypothesis rather than disprove it, you are likely to overlook its flaws in the process.
I grew up to be conservative. When I was in my teens and twenties, I was liberal. Quite liberal. My friends were liberal. My teachers were liberal. It felt "right" to be liberal. Liberalism was reinforced by everything around me. I didn't question it. Why should I? No one else was. Then, for reasons I do not recall or understand, I began to apply that scientific method to my belief system. I began to observe closely and began to question my friends and teachers to test the strength of their convictions. I began testing them. And that's when I began to change. Because instead of answers that came from their own logic and intellect, they repeated what they had been taught or heard over and over again.
You can get the liberal viewpoint anywhere. It's all over the place. In the newspapers, in the TV news, in the talk shows. Just about everywhere you look. It seems to be the majority viewpoint, doesn't it? But what is it really?
You won't know until you start looking for its antithesis and paying attention to it. You won't know until you begin to question its veracity, until you match the words with the actions (if you can).
The United States is an amazing country. It was founded when some men began to question authority. It incorporated that concept, question authority, into its primal fabric. That is the principle behind Freedom of Speech.
Watch Fox News now and then, read a conservative viewpoint daily, even listen to Rush Limbaugh when you get the chance. You don't have to believe what you read or hear or see. All you have to do is evaluate it objectively. Look past the rhetoric, the talking points and such, and discern what facts you can. Then question those facts, seek out answers. And then do the same with the usual places you get your news and commentary. And then challenge everything.... question authority!
You may not change your mind, you may find you are comfortable with the viewpoint you already have. But don't dismiss the idea that you could be wrong.