Individualism or Communitarianism?

individualismBy revealing his ego, Donald Trump has exposed American individualism for what it is: a deadly lie.

Hopefully next week the Democrats will contrast that display with a different American tradition: communitarianism friends and neighbors working together to help others with activities like quilting bees, barn raisings, food banks, and responses to natural disasters.

Tensions between the interests of the individual, family, business, community, nation, all humanity, and the environment are difficult to reconcile. Brian Swimme does so by promoting the “Earth Community.” Buddhists affirm “neither selfishness nor self-sacrifice.” Christians preach, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All religious traditions have some form of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Karen Armstrong and other global religious leaders digested that principle into the Charter for Compassion, which calls us to:

work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

In that spirit, communitarianism insists that individuals who are well-integrated into communities are better able to reason and act in responsible ways — if the social pressure to conform does not become excessive and thereby undermine self-determination. Strong individuals grow strong communities, and strong communities grow strong individuals.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed , “No one is free until we are all free.” So long as others are oppressed by injustice, I feel morally obligated to do what I can to help relieve that injustice. I cannot escape my conscience. Faced with injustice, I am not free.

The line between self-care and self-indulgence is ambiguous. No doubt I’ve crossed it many times, which I regret. Going forward, I can only try to be honest, take care of myself, and do what I can to serve others.

On the other hand, individualism, which America has developed more fully than any other country, asserts that the needs of each person are more important than the needs of the whole society. WIIFM –  what’s in it for me? –  is the American mantra.  Trump is the ultimate personification of that individualism.

Based on their testimony, Trump’s main message to his children was “get ahead.” Three values he apparently did not teach them are the Golden Rule, humility, and service to the less fortunate. It seems his parenting primarily consisted of giving his children feedback on their report cards and inviting them to his workplace. His children are “high achievers,” but that does not mean they are “great,” as the network pundits claim. His children are “successful,” competent worker bees in the Trump Cult. But their ambition to “make it” at the expense of others does not impress me.

That individualistic drive to climb the social ladder fuels “the system.” The “American Dream” is deeply embedded and widely embraced. Parents routinely tell their children, “You can be whatever you want.” A good example is Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech that Melania Trump plagiarized. In that speech, Michelle and Melania said, “Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

That belief is clearly an illusion. Limits on our ability to achieve our dreams are inherent in the human condition.

Seeking a solid sense of self through upward mobility is like a dog chasing its tail. When a whole society does it, the result is a downward spiral. That syndrome has hit America with a plague of increasing selfishness as individuals become evermore isolated.

Aggravated by the explosion of electronic devices, Americans are becoming more self-centered. With spoken communication, it’s natural to listen as much as you talk. But with electronic communication, more time is devoted to typing than to reading. That imbalance seems to be replicated face-to-face. Active listening and compassionate inquiry are becoming a lost art.

One result is that more people have fewer close friends with whom they discuss personal issues. So when they get a chance to talk about themselves, they don’t take the time to listen, which leaves the other feeling a greater need to connect with someone who will listen to them talk. Another downward spiral prompted by individualism.

As described in “How American Politics Went Insane,” the increased use of direct democracy, with individuals voting in primaries and on referenda, has weakened both Congress and political parties. Congress is less able to negotiate compromises collectively and parties are less able to collaborate. The result is more gridlock and an outsider taking over the Republican Party.

American individualism produces downward spirals throughout society. The problem is systemic. Absent countervailing, corrective pressures, “the system” contains the seeds of its own destruction.

Hopefully Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party will help us reverse course so we can be “stronger together.” In her 1969 commencement address to her graduating class, she spoke eloquently about the “responsibility we should have both for our lives as individuals and for our lives as members of a collective group.” Later she wrote the book, It Takes a Village. Early in the Clinton Administration, she embraced Rabbi Michael Lerner and his “politics of meaning.” Now in “Hillary Clinton Wants to Talk with You About Love and Kindness,” Buzzfeed reports:

In the early days of her husband’s administration, Hillary Clinton tried to start a national conversation about basic human decency, only to be mocked. In the midst of the most mean-spirited presidential campaign in memory, she talks with BuzzFeed News about the unchanged way she sees herself — and if she’ll ever be able to communicate it.

In that interview, Clinton said:

I want this campaign, and eventually my administration to be more about inspiring young people, and older ones as well, to find that niche where kindness matters, whether it’s to a friend, a neighbor, a colleague, a fellow student—whether it’s in the classroom, or a doctor’s office, or in a business—we need to do more to help each other. That’s what my campaign is about. I want more kindness.

We can only hope America’s downward spiral of evermore selfishness has hit bottom. If we’re lucky, the ugly spectacle of the Republican Convention will wake up the American people and lead us to join the human family. As flawed as they are, Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party may help us counter American individualism and strengthen our communitarianism.

 

Trump Lies: Acceptance Speech Analysis

The following statements in Donald Trump’s 2016 acceptance speech stand out as lies. Later I may add more lies and include more notes to explain or document my opinions.

If you want to edit this report, let me know and I’ll send you the link. Working together, we could flesh this out and perhaps make it worthy of widespread distribution.

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The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life.

The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon — and I mean very soon come to an end.

But here, at our convention, there will be no lies.

Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement.

The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50 percent compared to this point last year.

President Obama has almost doubled our national debt to more than $19 trillion, and growing. [Congress passes the budget.]

…the Iran deal, which gave back to Iran $150 billion and gave us absolutely nothing.

Hillary Clinton’s message is that things will never change. Never ever.

Big business, elite media and major donors are lining up behind the campaign of my opponent because they know she will keep our rigged system in place. They are throwing money at her because they have total control over every single thing she does. She is their puppet, and they pull the strings.

…when a Secretary of State illegally stores her emails on a private server

…when others who have been far less [criminal] have paid so dearly.

Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.

We will bring the same economic success to America that Mike brought Indiana,…

I will restore law and order to our country.

The irresponsible rhetoric of our president, who has used the pulpit of the presidency to divide us by race and color,…

Instead, we must work with all of our allies who share our goal of destroying ISIS and stamping out Islamic terrorism and doing it now, doing it quickly.

…there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from.

My opponent will never meet with them, or share in their pain.

We are going to build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration….

On on January 20 of 2017, the day I take the oath of office, Americans will finally wake up in a country where the laws of the United States are enforced.

Hillary Clinton is proposing mass amnesty, mass immigration, and mass lawlessness.

Now I’m going to make our country rich again.

I am not going to let companies move to other countries, firing their employees along the way, without consequences.

This includes stopping China’s outrageous theft of intellectual property, along with their illegal product dumping, and their devastating currency manipulation.

Our … miners are going back to work again.

America is one of the highest-taxed nations in the world.

…[Clinton] wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment.

In 2009, pre-Hillary, ISIS was not even on the map.

 

It’s All About Me (and My Family)

egoismDonald Trump and his family have exposed American individualism for what it is: a deadly lie.

We can only hope America’s downward spiral of evermore selfishness has hit bottom. If we’re lucky, the ugly spectacle of the Republican Convention will wake up the American people and lead us to join the human family

Chances are it will not, however, for the American Dream is deeply embedded and widely embraced.

The Obama family, for example, affirms the same myth. In her 2008 speech that Melania Trump plagiarized, Michele said, “Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

That belief is clearly an illusion. The only human beings who have achieved all of their dreams have had no dreams to speak of.

Yet parents tell their children, “You can be whatever you want.” And the corollary to that is: At the expense of others. If you win, others will lose.

Based on his children’s testimony thus far, three values Trump did not teach his children are the Golden Rule, humility, and service to the less fortunate. It seems his primary child care consisted of giving his children feedback on their report cards and inviting them to his workplace. His main message was “get ahead,” which is the narrow-minded dynamic that drives “the system.” His children are “high achievers,” but that does not mean they are “great,” as the network pundits claim.

Bernie Sanders and other economic populists buttress the materialism that is interwoven with American individualism. His proposal for free public college helped Bernie get support from young people. But it also reinforces the dominant social system which is rooted in the desire to climb the social ladder.

Barack Obama reflected and buttressed that individualistic culture when he said that his election would itself “transform America.” Trump’s followers mimic the same individualism when they claim Trump (alone) will “make America great again.” Some even say that merely electing him will work that magic.

Aggravated by the explosion of electronic devices, Americans are on a downward spiral of ever increasing self-centeredness. Active listening and compassionate inquiry are becoming a lost art. People seem to think they’re being a good listener when they reply, “Yes. I had the same experience,” and proceed to talk about themselves at length. With spoken communication, it’s natural to listen as much as you talk. But with electronic communication, more time is devoted to typing than to reading. That pattern seems to be replicated face-to-face.

One result is that more people have fewer close friends with whom they can discuss personal issues. So when they get a chance to talk about themselves, they don’t take the time to listen, which leaves the other feeling a greater need to connect with someone who will listen to them, leading to a downward spiral of increasing isolation.

Perhaps Hillary Clinton, who wrote “It Takes a Village,” will help us reverse course so we can be “stronger together.”

Hillary, Be Vulnerable and Be Positive

The ability to admit mistakes is a virtue. You’ve demonstrated that capacity to some degree. I encourage to do so even more. Many Americans who have mixed feelings about you will respect you for it.

Sit down with 60 minutes to “clear the air.” Hold a town-hall meeting with a commitment to answer any question. Do so directly without side-stepping. Hold more press conferences. Conduct more interviews. Be transparent.

Donald Trump has demonstrated a remarkable refusal to admit mistakes or accept criticism. His typical response is to crush the critic. That trait ill suits him for the White House. You can highlight that weakness by being more vulnerable.

You can also draw a contrast with Trump by including in your speeches and the convention at least as much positivity as negativity. Some pundits have criticized your “stronger together” theme, but I like it.  I believe it may reflect your inner core — the communitarianism you reflected in your commencement speech and the community service you have demonstrated since. Your entrenchment in politics and the world of unseemly compromise may have obscured that commitment. Let us know if that dedication is truly in your heart.

Based on his children’s testimony thus far, three values Trump did not teach his children are the Golden Rule, humility, and service to the less fortunate. “High achievers” does not necessarily mean “great.” It seems his primary child care consisted of giving his children feedback on their report cards and inviting them to his workplace. His main message was “get ahead,” which is the narrow-minded dynamic that drives “the system.”

I believe you hold to higher values. If that is true, let the American people know.

Revealing your humanity will help us win a landslide. The RCP “no toss ups” map shows you winning by a 2-to1 margin. We need to do even better than that, and we can.

Only a Pawn in Their Game

bob dylan 2A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man’s brain
But he can’t be blamed
He’s only a pawn in their game.

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than blacks, don’t complain
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin” they explain
And the Negro’s name
Is used it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
‘Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

From the powerty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks
And the hoof beats pound in his brain
And he’s taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide ‘neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain’t got no name
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.
–Bob Dylan

From The Transcendentalist

EmersonFrom The Transcendalist, by Ralph Waldo Emerson

NOTE: It’s been a rough week. At times like this, I occasionally seek inspiration and solace from this Emerson essay. These are excerpts that stuck me tonight.

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…It is a sign of our times, conspicuous to the coarsest observer, that many intelligent and religious persons withdraw themselves from the common labors and competitions of the market and the caucus, and betake themselves to a certain solitary and critical way of living, from which no solid fruit has yet appeared to justify their separation. They hold themselves aloof: they feel the disproportion between their faculties and the work offered them, and they prefer to ramble in the country and perish of ennui, to the degradation of such charities and such ambitions as the city can propose to them. They are … crying out for somewhat worthy to do!

…Whoso knows these seething brains, these admirable radicals, these unsocial worshippers, these talkers who talk the sun and moon away, will believe that this heresy cannot pass away without leaving its mark.

They are lonely; the spirit of their writing and conversation is lonely; they repel influences; they shun general society; they incline to shut themselves in their chamber in the house, to live in the country rather than in the town, and to find their tasks and amusements in solitude.

Society, to be sure, does not like this very well; it saith, Whoso goes to walk alone, accuses the whole world; he declareth all to be unfit to be his companions; it is very uncivil, nay, insulting; Society will retaliate.

Meantime, this retirement does not proceed from any whim on the part of these separators; but if any one will take pains to talk with them, he will find that this part is chosen both from temperament and from principle; with some unwillingness, too, and as a choice of the less of two evils; for these persons are not by nature melancholy, sour, and unsocial, — they are not stockish or brute, — but joyous; susceptible, affectionate; they have even more than others a great wish to be loved.

Like the young Mozart, they are rather ready to cry ten times a day, “But are you sure you love me?” Nay, if they tell you their whole thought, they will own that love seems to them the last and highest gift of nature;

…To behold the beauty of another character, which inspires a new interest in our own; to behold the beauty lodged in a human being, with such vivacity of apprehension, that I am instantly forced home to inquire if I am not deformity itself: to behold in another the expression of a love so high that it assures itself, — assures itself also to me against every possible casualty except my unworthiness; — these are degrees on the scale of human happiness, to which they have ascended; and it is a fidelity to this sentiment which has made common association distasteful to them.

They wish a just and [equal] fellowship, or none. They cannot gossip with you, and they do not wish, as they are sincere and religious, to gratify any mere curiosity which you may entertain. …Love me, they say, but do not ask who is my cousin and my uncle. If you do not need to hear my thought, because you can read it in my face and behavior, then I will tell it you from sunrise to sunset. If you cannot divine it, you would not understand what I say. I will not molest myself for you. I do not wish to be profaned.

And yet, it seems as if this loneliness, and not this love, would prevail in their circumstances, because of the extravagant demand they make on human nature. That, indeed, constitutes a new feature in their portrait, that they are the most exacting and extortionate critics. Their quarrel with every man they meet, is not with his kind, but with his degree.

…These youths bring us a rough but effectual aid. By their unconcealed dissatisfaction, they expose our poverty, and the insignificance of man to man. ….

… Life and their faculty seem to them gifts too rich to be squandered on such trifles as you propose to them….By no means happy, is our condition: if you want the aid of our labor, we ourselves stand in greater want of the labor. We are miserable with inaction. We perish of rest and rust: but we do not like your work…. To the general course of living, and the daily employments of men, they cannot see much virtue in these, since they are parts of this vicious circle;…

They have made the experiment, and found that, from the liberal professions to the coarsest manual labor, and from the courtesies of the academy and the college to the conventions of the cotillon-room and the morning call, there is a spirit of cowardly compromise and seeming, which intimates a frightful skepticism, a life without love, and an activity without an aim.

It is the quality of the moment, not the number of days, of events, or of actors, that imports.

…The justice which is now claimed for the black, and the pauper, and the drunkard is for Beauty, — is for a necessity to the soul of the agent, not of the beneficiary. ….

…The strong spirits overpower those around them without effort. Their thought and emotion comes in like a flood, quite withdraws them from all notice of these carping critics; they surrender themselves with glad heart to the heavenly guide, and only by implication reject the clamorous nonsense of the hour. …

…To him who looks at his life from these moments of illumination, it will seem that he skulks and plays a mean, shiftless, and subaltern part in the world…. Yet we retain the belief that this petty web we weave will at last be overshot and reticulated with veins of the blue, and that the moments will characterize the days. Patience, then, is for us, is it not?…

…Amidst the downward tendency and proneness of things, when every voice is raised for a new road or another statute, or a subscription of stock, for an improvement in dress, or in dentistry, for a new house or a larger business, for a political party, or the division of an estate, — will you not tolerate one or two solitary voices in the land, speaking for thoughts and principles not marketable or perishable?

Soon these improvements and mechanical inventions will be superseded; these modes of living lost out of memory; these cities rotted, ruined by war, by new inventions, by new seats of trade, or the geologic changes: — all gone, like the shells which sprinkle the seabeach with a white colony today, forever renewed to be forever destroyed. But the thoughts which these few hermits strove to proclaim by silence, as well as by speech, not only by what they did, but by what they forbore to do, shall abide in beauty and strength, to reorganize themselves in nature, to invest themselves anew in other, perhaps higher endowed and happier mixed clay than ours, in fuller union with the surrounding system.

 

Engage Swing States with Precinct-Based Clubs

unityWe the people need a national organization that can quickly mobilize massive pressure on Congress to implement improvements in national policy that are backed by a majority of the American people.

Over the years, I’ve joined in efforts to help create a strong national coalition, including the Rainbow Coalition, the Alliance for Democracy, the Campaign to Abolish Poverty, the Progressive Challenge, and the Obama campaign organization.

Those efforts did not flourish, but Obama paved a path for Bernie Sanders. Now the Democratic Party is taking its platform seriously. The New Republic reported that this year’s platform may be “foundational” rather than an “afterthought.” The Party may not forget about its platform after the convention.

Those developments led me to propose to the San Francisco Democratic Party that they engage in year-round precinct organizing as a model for how to rebuild the Democratic Party into an activist organization that fights for its platform throughout the year.

Several Party leaders in the San Francisco Democratic Party have voiced support for those ideas. When I discuss the concept with my taxi passengers, the response has been enthusiastic. Recently I started reaching out to fellow residents in my apartment complex and interest has surfaced.

Yesterday Mary Jung, the outgoing chair of the San Francisco Democratic Party, told me that, prior to the Party’s July 20 meeting, she will email to the Central Committee members my proposal.

Following is the latest draft and “cover letter” that I asked Mary to send. Your feedback and suggested changes are welcome. The latest draft will always be at: https://goo.gl/sE9RON.

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Dear SF County Central Committee Members:

I’d very much appreciate your feedback and suggested changes concerning the following. In particular, do you support this proposal?

Might you be able to place it on the July 20 agenda for action?

If not, should I encourage year-round precinct organizing during Public Comment?

Thanks,
Wade Hudson
wade@wadehudon.net

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Engage Swing States with Precinct-Based Clubs (7/10/16 Draft)

To: The San Francisco Democratic Party

Here’s a suggestion for your consideration.

Organize precinct-based clubs to:

  • Engage in online conversations with undecided voters in other regions.
  • Help elect Clinton in November.
  • Influence national policy after the election.
  • Create a model the Party could use throughout the country.
  • Help the Party become an activist organization that fights for its platform year-round.

The Democratic Party already has a bottom-up structure. By uniting to implement a precinct organizing project, like-minded Democrats could rebuild the Party into a powerful, national, inclusive, democratic, multi-issue, activist coalition. That approach could help address the problems associated with weak political parties as described in Jonathan Rauch’s excellent Atlantic cover story, “How American Politics Went Insane.”

Five or more Democrats who live in the same precinct could form self-organizing clubs and engage in some of the following activities (and others not listed here):

  1. Meet in a member’s home, a nearby community center, or a coffee house.
  2. Share food and drink and socialize informally.
  3. Study and discuss the national platform.
  4. Engage in online conversations with undecided voters in other regions.
  5. Participate in phone banks when the Party organizes them.
  6. Discuss the results and how to most effectively talk with others.
  7. Share information about other opportunities for engagement, such as online petitions.
  8. Meet with Democrats from other precinct-based clubs and compare notes.
  9. Use NextDoor and Meetup to connect with neighbors.
  10. Go together to volunteer at a soup kitchen or otherwise serve unmet local needs.

A city-wide kick-off meeting could launch this project. Local leaders, including elected officials, could set an example by meeting monthly with their neighbors.

Precinct-based clubs could nurture a meaningful sense of community, thereby helping to fill a void felt by many Americans. Developing stronger personal bonds would enable neighbors to learn from one another and help sustain ongoing political activism.

The Internet enables engagement with voters in other regions. How to connect with those voters could be a learning process. Asking questions, for example, can be more effective than lecturing.

Google Groups could enable precinct club members to discuss what works. Google Docs could enable clubs to post reports. City-wide gatherings could serve to motivate participation and exchange information.

In those and other ways, San Francisco could pave new ground for how to reach beyond the choir and rebuild the Democratic Party.  

Wade Hudson
wade@wadehudson.net

Fact Finding

factsHow can we determine what is true?

In Dogmatism, I asked: How can we guard against dogmatism, the expression of strong opinions as if they were facts?

In response, Don MacLaren commented:

In a democracy a free and vigilant press should be the tool that keeps the government/politicians in check/prevents them from relying on dogma to further their agenda(s). On a personal level, in a debate enter with an open mind and realize you may learn something from someone who disagrees with you, but insist on documented evidence whenever your counterpart makes an assertion you have an issue with (and ensure that your own assertions are backed up with solid evidence).

Tom Ferguson replied:

As for my own dogmatism, that might arise when the ego slips into a state of wanting to be right, getting uptight when out argued, when some clever person out thinks me, catches me in careless or sloppy thinking, when ego resists owning up to this.

Another respondent also recommended keeping an open mind in trying to distinguish between what we know and do not know, and pointed out that some “facts” are more reliable than others.

Those responses led me to wonder: How we can determine what is a “fact.”

Google sometimes reports facts at the top of their results on health-related searches and is trying to develop a way to rank more search results by their factual accuracy.

In the meantime, we must rely on other methods.

In “What the Fact-Checkers Get Wrong,” the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) warns against relying uncritically on “fact-checking” websites, such as Politifact, the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s Factcheck.org, the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” blog, and The Associated Press. The CJR analysis concluded:

Fact-checking, as practiced, is in part an effort to shape the public political discourse; the fact-checkers have set their sights on identifying not only which statements are true, but which are legitimate. The argument about the legitimacy of that language is ultimately political, not journalistic, in nature. By insisting otherwise, and acting as if journalistic methods can resolve the argument, the fact-checkers weaken the morally freighted language that’s designed to give their work power—language that all journalists who are able to report their way to authority on a particular subject need to employ when it is justified…. In fact, many “fact-checking” pieces actually contain counterarguments—many of which are solid, some shoddy or tendentious, but few of which really fit in a “fact-check” frame.

The CJR piece evaluates many specific examples, but perhaps the clearest example of a questionable conclusion was the rejection of Sarah Palin’s claim in her memoir that she was beckoned by purpose, rather than driven by ambition. Who can read her mind?

So it seems that we must be careful when we use the fact checkers.

Lifehacker offers some useful guidance in “How to Determine If A Controversial Statement Is Scientifically True.

To discover the truth of any statement, they recommend:

  • Develop a healthy dose of skepticism.
  • Learn to avoid “confirmation bias,” which involves finding an answer you already believe. Employ  critical thinking to evaluate without bias. Be aware that confirmation bias exists, shake yourself of your natural tendency to draw a conclusion before you’ve researched a topic, and be open to information that falls on either side of a statement. Don’t just demand someone else present studies that support their assertion—go looking for them yourself. Keep an open mind, seek evidence to the contrary for every opinion (especially ones you believe), and don’t treat your research like a crusade.
  • Search Google, Snopes, Wikipedia, and other popular web sites. Try some Google-fu that includes the word “skeptic” or “hoax” or “bogus” or “rumor” or “urban legend” with your search term.
  • Search public journals and contact advocates
  • Visit your local library and consult librarians and reference materials.
  • Approach the question honestly and openly. Read up on opinions for and against. Watch out for anecdotal evidence.

All facts are not a matter of opinion. Some information is true.

One way to test the veracity of your beliefs is to engage in dialog with others who disagree, really try to understand them, summarize your understanding of their position, and then ask, “Am I correct?” Then really reflect on that other perspective and explore whether the difference of opinion is rooted in a different moral judgment.

What do you think? Do you have other suggestions for how to distinguish facts from opinions?

“In Search of the Present”

PazFrom the Nobel Prize for Literature Lecture by Octavio Paz, December 8, 1990

…In any case, the collapse of Utopian schemes has left a great void, not in the countries where this ideology has proved to have failed but in those where many embraced it with enthusiasm and hope. For the first time in history mankind lives in a sort of spiritual wilderness and not, as before, in the shadow of those religious and political systems that consoled us at the same time as they oppressed us. Although all societies are historical, each one has lived under the guidance and inspiration of a set of metahistorical beliefs and ideas. Ours is the first age that is ready to live without a metahistorical doctrine; whether they be religious or philosophical, moral or aesthetic, our absolutes are not collective but private. It is a dangerous experience. It is also impossible to know whether the tensions and conflicts unleashed in this privatization of ideas, practices and beliefs that belonged traditionally to the public domain will not end up by destroying the social fabric. Men could then become possessed once more by ancient religious fury or by fanatical nationalism. It would be terrible if the fall of the abstract idol of ideology were to foreshadow the resurrection of the buried passions of tribes, sects and churches. The signs, unfortunately, are disturbing….

 

Dogmatism

dogmatismDo you have a problem when others are dogmatic — that is, when they express strong opinions as if they were facts?

Should we care whether someone is stating an authoritative belief without adequate justification?

Do we need to guard against dogmatism? Why?

If yes, how can we best do so?

Are you sometimes dogmatic?

What do you think?

Your thoughts would be appreciated. I’ll report on responses and identify the author unless you request anonymity.