I’m going to use a quote I’ve used before, for good reason, which, if you keep reading, I’ll explain.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought (idea) without accepting it.” ~Aristotle
The world is full of peeps who seem to adamantly believe that if I disagree with them, there’s something wrong with my intelligence (I have none), my values (I wasn’t raised right), or my beliefs (I’m one step away from sleeping with the Devil …or possibly I already have and that’s my problem). Sometimes there’s rationalisation… I don’t agree with them because I was dropped on my head as a baby… I’ve had a traumatic life… I’m a recovering addict… I’ve smoked too much crack… I’ve been educated by liberals/conservatives/extremists/nuns/atheists/fundamentalists/hippies/[insert vilified group here]… or I’ve …gotten above my raising and no longer have a moral compass.
It doesn’t matter what idea or concept we’re actually talking about here. If liberal, the conservatives are the next best thing to the Devil and anyone who agrees with, espouses, or doesn’t publicly diss their philosophical values is suspect. And certainly to be trolled, beaten down, insulted, dismissed, and otherwise silenced. Same if one happens to be conservative and doesn’t violently object to a liberal perspective during a conversation with adherents to the liberal faction.
Since when did we, as human beings, become so small-minded?
In this Global Village, where it’s possible for me to actually learn what someone of the Masai Mara thinks about poaching in his part of the world, or how a working class friend in Lunca Ilvae Romania feels about World Bank policies, or what someone in the Patagonia suggests as a solution for oceanic pollution, it has become more and more difficult to have a real debate about anything. Peeps get up on a particular soapbox, and then expect the WHOLE WORLD to stand on that little platform with them. Yes. ‘Everyone get up here and shout like me or I am going to call down flaming tongues of fire (or at least swarms of flies) on your head for daring to disagree with even one syllable of what I’ve just said because it is “THE Right Way.”‘
Crap, crap, and more crap.
In the ages before the Internet (and there were many of them) people debated ideas. There would be able representation of two or more opposing perspectives and the discussion/conversation/argument would proceed with more-or-less passion to a mutually agreed point of disengagement. Admittedly, this sometimes meant a duel at dawn with flintlock pistols and stuffy men acting as Seconds, but usually, the discussion was suspended before this point. Everyone lived to debate another day. Sometimes people changed their minds on an issue, sometimes perspectives shifted a little, and sometimes, one’s conviction on an issue was solidified and validated. In any case the debate happened.
Today, the polarisation of positions has encouraged or fostered “If you’re not one of us, you’re the enemy,” and clearly, in this violent, aggressive, territorial age, the “enemy” is only ever worthy of death, whether metaphorically, or literally. This highlights the paradoxical nature of our global connection. We have never been more connected than we are today, and at the same time, we have never been more individually anonymous. Marshal McLuhan had it right when he said, “Anonymity breeds violence.” The root of ‘violence’ means “…with words” and in general, digital peeps have that one mastered.
This post started in the summer as a seed idea when my boss, Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of The99 superheroes became the subject of a fatwa, first from the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and more worryingly, by ISIL/ISIS/IS/Daesha …you know… those bearded dudes trying take over the world by beheading everyone sans beard, balls, or bigotry (the Holy Trinity of extremists everywhere). He (Naif) is apparently not permitted to promote the ideals of Islam in any way other than the approved format. Lest I be accused of leaving out “…half the world’s population,” this is also an issue for people like Christina Hoff Sommers, (The Factual Feminist) who has logically explained why she cannot espouse the intemperate position of extreme feminists, and as a result, has been vilified, trolled, castigated and threatened by those who disagree with her. The violence of the responses made me speculate about beards, balls, & bigoted females …possibly Freud was right? (It appears that when logic and facts are in short supply, personalisation and profanity are the standard second choice) That seed began to germinate and grew into a full blown tree yesterday after reading Mike Rowe’s responses to the storm of criticism he’s received for appearing on both liberal and conservative media programs to promote his foundation, MikeRoweWORKS.
Mike Rowe is promoting a concept that is near and dear to my heart. That is, the TRUTH that it is (and has been) a short-sighted, ridiculous, elitist, profoundly STUPID practice for the past few generations to sell, push, promote, and otherwise promulgate the idea that a four year degree is the only real route to a life worth living. According to prevailing wisdom (and I use the term very loosely), one must aspire to get out of “blue collar hell” and into “white collar paradise.” Because, as we all know, working with one’s hands in a trade is sooooooooo not cool.
Crap, crap, and more crap.
So. Mike is out promoting the reality that the trades are a noble, worthy pursuit. Along with that, he’s passing on the truth that not everyone aspires to sit behind a desk, or stand on the trading floor, or wear a suit and tie to work every day. Some people – make that millions of peeps – want to build stuff. With their OWN hands. They want to be working outside… rain, shine, cold, snow, hail, whatever. My own experience as an educator has demonstrated over and over and over again that ‘one-size-fits-all’ education does no one any favours, and the academic elitists who control the shape and flavour of education have made the trades – working with one’s hands – an unacceptable pursuit. For years, and years, and years it has been subtly and not-so-subtly drummed into kids’ heads that ‘shop’ is something the jocks and dumbheads do. Anyone with ‘brains’ takes maths and sciences, and if there’s a spark of genius evident, the Arts are an acceptable second choice. But never, ever, ever was it acceptable for a student with good grades and evidently on the academic ball to say, “I want to be a mechanic.” *stepsdownfoldsupsoapbox*
So, Mike is trying to rectify this oversight, and in the process, he’s earning accolades and censure in equal measure from opposing camps. As are Naif Al-Mutawa and Christina Hoff Sommers in their respective spheres. This in itself isn’t the issue. In a free and functioning world, disagreement, and the opportunity to express that disagreement is a fundamental hallmark of thinking individuals in society as a whole. Where this gets ugly… pear-shaped… goes South… screws the pooch… is when that disagreement becomes personal. As if there is something fundamentally wrong with Naif, or Christina, or Mike because what they think is different than me, or you, or even half of society. This a dangerous, slippery slope. The personalisation of another’s perspective regarding any idea, value, creed, thought, or event is the first step to the reality of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, taking the Blue Pill, or drinking the Kool-aid. Without dissent, debate, or diversity, we are nothing more than automatons, toeing the party line …the line of whichever party happens to wield the most power at the moment.
There’s many amazing reasons to love living in this digital age of instant, global communication, and a few reasons to despise what is happening as a result. Disagreement is healthy and fosters debate, thinking, growth, progress, and often problem-solving. Personalising does none of the above. Defaming someone’s character is de facto proof that one is unable to refute an idea with logic, facts, or rational alternatives. (I guess, in a funny sort of way, this might be a compliment to the one being insulted?)
When did we lose the ability to really thoughtfully consider another’s position without feeling threatened?