August 10, 2017

The Opposite of Wisdom

Wednesday Wisdom #24: Courage

I'm not sure what to call it, but I think we've all seen a trend where people dismiss anyone who disagrees with them as uninformed, a "denier," or just plain stupid. Some will go so far as to label the person "evil" as well, although most seem to prefer to use proxies that have come to symbolize evil for their tribe (e.g., "racist," "sexist," "Nazi"). This appears to permit the accuser to avoid interacting with contrary ideas.

I see this behavior not just on social media and personal blogs where it might be expected but in countless articles on popular politically-biased websites across the political spectrum. I fear it is on the rise and is spreading from places where one would expect it (e.g., individuals' personal social media accounts, blogs, news organizations with a strong political bias) to more mainstream ones where it used to be much less common.

This post was prompted by a post appearing on the website of a popular libertarian source in which the question posed to readers was whether it is time to start calling those who disagree with libertarian economic views "deniers." The author's position appeared to be "we have the truth" and so anyone who does not share our truth should be discredited and dismissed. They are mere "deniers" and shouldn't be taken seriously. I wish this sort of thing was limited to one author or to libertarians, but it isn't. I think we've seen this sort of thing in too many different contexts to claim that it is limited to any religious or political ideology.

I think that we all pay a high price for dismissing those who disagree with us in this manner or for dismissing those who express views with which we ourselves disagree. How are we supposed to learn anything new when we won't consider information that is not already part of our worldview? Are we really arrogant enough to think that we have nothing more to learn? What sort of checks and balances can help us correct our own mistakes or improve our ability to successfully navigate our environments when we hastily dismiss those who could provide them? Are we unwilling to acknowledge that we make mistakes?

I don't know if I'm ready to go as far as labeling the tendency to dismiss anyone who expresses views with which one disagrees as a form of stupidity, but I think a case could be made for doing so. I am comfortable saying that is at the very least the opposite of wisdom. If it was not detrimental to our progress, we could ignore it. I worry that it is detrimental and that it is becoming more common. As for what you and I should do about it, I wish I knew.