Yesterday I listened to this CBC tapestry episode: I’m Right, Your Wrong. I encourage you to go listen to it, but if you don’t have the time or energy, the gist is essentially that as groups we make some topics ‘sacred’, and in doing so we make it so we can’t really talk about those things. There is one brilliant moment in the episode where Mary asks if part of why we fight in debates is because we aren’t skilled enough, and Jonathan responds by asking “do you think the purpose of debate is to persuade others?” Mary says “yes”, and he asks, “Has it ever happened?”
There are some things that Jonathan says that I disagree with (I more disagree with the spirit of his words then anything he actually says, I would say), but I think that his assessment of human debate is spot on. The difficulty with debate and discussion is that everyone thinks they are right about everything. Why would we argue about something if we didn’t think we were right? I would take this line of thinking even further though – I would say that we all consider ourselves ‘special’. That is to say, we each take ourselves as the most monumental thing to step onto the world stage since… I don’t know… Genghis Khan.
I’m just going to pause to dwell on this point here. Do we all really take ourselves to be great? It seems like there are a lot of people with low self-esteem people. My assessment would be that low self-esteem doesn’t actually mean that a person doesn’t think they’re ‘all that’. I would tend to think that low self-esteem is more a phenomenon of the person feeling like they’re ‘failing at being all that’. I know this isn’t a rigorous justification of us all being full of ourselves, but there is a lot of psychological research to back me up – the list of ways that we are biased in our own favour is immense. I find it hard to imagine how we could be otherwise, given how we are so utterly and completely caught up in ourselves – we are each the locus of our own own experience. Everything ‘is’ to each of us only to ‘us’ – we have no medium of contact other then our own minds and senses.
So we each think we’re ‘all that’. Each of us believes that everything we believe is ‘true’ (for isn’t that what it means to have beliefs?) It is no wonder that the world is so full of stupid people – the world is full of people who disagree with the centre of the universe (ourselves)!
It is one of if not the hurdle of the human condition – our complete and utter involvement with ourselves. In my next post, I am going to talk about my ideas and observations about how we can try to overcome this barrier.
Thank you for reading,