Saturday, 19 February 2005

the Unknown vs the Illogical

O.T. Ford, in one of his many fine essays over at The Stewardship Project, suggests:
Humans are basically conservative, and want familiarity in their lives, comfort, ease, a lack of challenge. This comes of being animals. It is easier to know what to expect, comforting to have routines, difficult and disconcerting to be faced with the new and the foreign. The new and the foreign are frightening; they are to be shunned.

But humans (at least humans, and possibly other animals) have individual minds capable of thought. They have the capacity to understand, and they have the desire as well. That which does not make sense will get their attention, and they will make efforts to change it. They will study the problem and attempt to understand it, and if the situation still does not make sense they will try to change the situation itself.

The instinctive fear of the unknown versus the cognitive dissonance of the illogical. The emotional peace of familiarity versus the emotional peace of sensibility. Humanity is being pulled in two directions, backwards and forwards, down and up. It is my personal conviction that humans are slowly becoming something better, that the rational pursuit of truth and understanding is a natural function of the mind, and the mind will eventually demand the freedom to pursue it. More importantly, the mind will eventually sacrifice comfort and familiarity, and risk social isolation and retribution, to pursue truth and understanding.

So the historical trend of liberalism is not just the quest for a better life. It is the movement towards an intellectual destiny. The practice of dominion in its many forms is the counterforce, the enemy, of liberalism and rationalism. It may be that some practitioners of dominion are themselves afraid of the unfamiliar, and oppose change because they are feeble-minded. But some are clearly just self-interested liars who will say or do anything to get their way. For them, the fear of the unfamiliar is a powerful ally in their efforts to control the world. They need only convince people to listen to their own fear, hype up the threat that change poses, and they have a ready army of uncritical supporters who will fight the battles that the dons cannot win on their own.
It is easy to become impatient waiting on 'eventually', but as Martin Luther King pointed out, "the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

4 comments:

-epm said...

I fear the moral arc is turning into a moral boomerang. I can't think of any time in the past century where there was such an institutional push to reverse social gains and to deny personal liberties.

In all other cases, the social activists were working for civil liberties, not against them, and religion was used as the champion of justice, not war. And all this is being done with ethically dishonest arguments by conservative groups with a sociopathic (dare I say paranoid) sense of victimization.

It's like the civil rights movement in reverse.

Walker said...

Eric said:
I fear the moral arc is turning into a moral boomerang.Yeah, but if I give in to that notion then I'd have to change the name of my blog. ;) There's no question that the dangers of the current age are very grave, and very real. Sanguine optimism is no better than paralyzing despair at rectifying our dilemma. I find myself continually returning to the words of Vaclav Havel who said "hope is not prognostication, it is an orientation of the spirit." Bad things will happen, but it still is better to have been hopeful on their eve than bitter and despairing. We never know which bad things will come to pass, and when we will be surpised.

-epm said...

I must think happy thoughts.... I must think happy thoughts...

I find myself shifting from shock to anger when I listen to some of the ideas the extreme right has for this country. I need to focus on positive action, rather than angry reaction.

And if I can make sure the moral boomerang doesn't hit anyone, well then, I've done my job.

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