Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In General: The Dangerous Problem with ‘Everyone All the Time’ Thinking (Part One)

“Liberals want to see the country destroyed.”

“Socialized medicine doesn’t work.”

“Capitalism is evil.”

All of these should sound familiar, because each one has been “ripped from the headlines.” They represent the way far too many of us think now, which is to say, they represent shortcut thinking. It’s a lot easier to say “liberals” than to say “a certain segment of far-left activists,” isn't it? And it's easier to simply use the word we than to say “far too many of us," which is still abstract — but more precise.

The problem is, we means we all. One hundred percent; no exceptions. And logic dictates that in a society of three hundred million people or a world of nearly seven billion people, at least one person will not be part of that hundred-percent group.

Fringe haters and Sam Harris want to argue that “Muslims are dangerous.” Al-Qaeda leaders want to counter that “Americans believe everything their President tells them.” The kid with the bent bicycle rim complains that “Chinese bikes are junk,” and the white tourist who sees one tribal representative leaning unsteadily against a wall decides that “Indians are drunks.”

It’s not just that all of these are dangerous—and, for sensitive readers, uncomfortable—ways of thinking, but also that none of them is logical. Or, if you don’t care too much about logic, then none of them is realistic. Granted, some people don’t care about reality, either, but most do, and if it could be proven that you prefer to exist in a fantasyland where everything comes in a neat, convenient package, you’d want to prove otherwise, right?

Luckily, it doesn’t take money to mount a strong defense against charges of dangerous, illogical, unrealistic thinking. But it does take time. And it takes… well, more thought to correct old thought with new thought. We'll pick that point up in Part Two.

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