“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” -Sherlock Holmes, A Scandal in Bohemia
“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Proverbs 18:13
I’m tempted to just leave it at that. The Bible really nails it. If you don’t take time to listen to the other side then you’re being foolish, and it’s to your shame. I think the truth of this Proverb is evident, we can all agree that it’s foolish to make up one’s mind about an argument or an issue before listening to all the facts and some opposing views. If we can all agree this is foolish then why do we continue being such fools? We keep making our minds up without using our minds… somehow! We don’t think for ourselves, we don’t appraise arguments and look up facts. We side with the Republican’s argument because well.. That’s what Republicans do. We fight for Liberal ideals because we’ve labeled ourselves Liberals and well at least we’re not those scumbag conservatives.
This is our problem. We give rash answers, we jump to conclusions, we hear one of our trigger words and we immediately shoot from the hip. I think my people are lazy and arrogant. Let me explain, I’m not just name calling I really think this is the proper diagnosis.
We’re lazy, we side with people who seem to align with what we believe but many of us haven’t sought to examine our sides critically. Our favoritism results in a critical appraisal of our “enemies” but if we’re honest, we really don’t give much thought to charges brought up against our own side. Much debate today is settled before it even begins. Today it’s based on who’s colors are flying. “Well they can’t be right because they’re from that side” “I don’t even want to waste my time with someone who believes that”. That’s just lazy, stop doing that. This laziness is the enemy of discourse, we don’t talk things out, we don’t seek to understand, we just lob grenades from our trenches and dig down further. We don’t do the hard work of researching our opinions and winsomely persuading our opponents, we use ad hominem attacks to make caricatures. We build up straw men because those are easy to knock down. It takes way too much effort to actually represent the other side honestly and take their actual arguments to task.
We’re arrogant, we all have to have an opinion about everything.. Always. Why do we think that we already have an opinion about every subject ever? It’s almost part of the American air we breathe. Most of us have opinions about things that are way over our heads but we’re too proud to admit it. It’s very rare to hear something like: “I don’t think I know enough about that topic to give a well formed opinion”. When you hear someone say that shake their hand! That person deserves a cookie(or like a gluten free kale equivalent, I don’t know, they deserve something!). A little honestly is so refreshing. Proverbs tells us that humility comes before honor. And again it’s right on the money. When you humble yourself and admit you might not know everything about everything, people’s walls go down and usually they’re happy to help you understand the topic or the situation. The way up is down, when you have a realistic view of yourself you can humbly ask questions and start learning more.
I could continue my rant but Chris Rock does it so much better so I’ll just quote him sans the swears:
The whole country’s got a messed up mentality, man. We all got a gang mentality. Republican’s are idiots and Democrats are idiots and conservatives are idiots and liberals are idiots! Anyone that makes up they mind before they hear the issue is a fool ok? Everybody, everybody’s so busy wanting to be down with a gang, “oh, I’m a conservative”, “oh, I’m a liberal”, it’s bullcrap! Be a fricken person!! Listen! Let it swirl around your head. Then form your opinion. No normal decent person is one thing, Ok? I got some stuff I’m conservative about, I got some stuff I’m liberal about. – Chris Rock, Never Scared 2004 (I cleaned it up a lot)
I know it’s easy to read this and think I’m just talking politics but really this applies to our whole thought process, our whole conceptual framework, our worldview. Give thought to your thoughts, it’ll be better for you and better for all of us.
I’ll leave with one last piece of truth from King Solomon: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Proverbs 18:17
Being reasonable is much better than having a gang mentality, but don’t just take my word for it 😉