Our Wishful Thinking Era (Newsletter 063)
We live in a time when hope has triumphed over reason, when wishful thinking has supplanted rational thinking.
We are awash in examples, all of which have staunch defenders. People willing to say that because they fervently wish it to be so, reality cannot possibly hold up.
- We value diversity in all its forms and celebrate the different perspectives different people bring. And yet, it is inherently racist or bigoted to identify differences between people when making decisions.
- People have different abilities, experience, and motivations. And yet, any difference in outcomes that is harmful to a minority group can only be the result of discrimination.
- It is correct to hold people responsible for their actions. And yet, any disparity in outcomes that is harmful to a minority group must be the result of systemic racism.
- We do not hold people responsible for things they did not do. And yet, people many generations removed from slaveholding by others are morally obligated to pay reparations to people many generations removed from other persons having been enslaved.
- You cannot tell anything meaningful about a person from their skin color or gender. And yet, everyone suffers from unconscious biases they are neither aware of nor control. And further, you can identify a person's unconscious bias by their skin color and gender.
- We protect freedom of speech. And yet, speech is violence. Furthermore, the intent of the speaker is irrelevant. It is the listener who reliably identifies offense, bias, and racism regardless of the speaker's intent. Thus, it is acceptable for any individual to shut down what they feel is offensive speech.
- Facts are something that can be objectively determined. And yet, your "lived truth" is as valid as any external truths. Thus, gender is something you can choose, and change, because of how you feel.
- Math is based on axioms and logical principles that allow for absolute proofs of certain statements. And yet, focusing on the correct answers in math is racist.
- Group A contains within it a subset B. If something is true for all of group A, then it is true for subset B. And yet, while it is praiseworthy to say Black Lives Matter it is unacceptable to say All Lives Matter.
- Every group of people contains liars, because when the incentives are strong enough, people act in their self-interest. This includes presidents, priests, politicians, and everyone who's ever been to trial. And yet, we must believe all women when it comes to all accusations against men.
These are all examples of beliefs people hold strongly, contradictory and inconsistent though they may be.
Our actions also demonstrate we are living in the Wishful Thinking Era.
- If we defund the police, we will see less crime. Similarly, if we free criminals without bail, we will see less crime. And, if we prosecute fewer crimes, we will see less crime.
- If we let biological men who say they identify as women compete in women's sports, the biological women will be just fine. Likewise, if we put biological men who say they identify as women in women's prisons, everything will be just fine.
- If we pay people a similar amount to be unemployed as we do to work, who could have foreseen that companies would struggle to fill jobs?
- If we add six trillion dollars in new deficit spending in just a few years, who could have foreseen that inflation would result? Luckily, if we just keep issuing new debt to replace the old debt, there are no limits on what we can spend!
- If we publicly commit to destroying the fossil fuel industry and supplanting it with renewables, who could have foreseen that companies would invest less in new oil and gas production? Thank goodness we cannot anticipate any problems if we seek to replace fossil fuels with renewables that currently cannot cover more than 20% of our needs.
If we pretend unpleasant facts don't exist, then for all practical purposes they don't exist. Isn't that great?
Feeling down about your weight? First of all, don't worry. You are in the majority of citizens overweight or obese. Body positivity to the rescue. Love your shape, whatever shape it is. Studiously ignore anyone who natters on about adverse health consequences. Better yet, call them a fat-shamer to make them go away and leave you alone.
In our Wishful Thinking Era, there is only one thing more harmful than the lies we willingly believe, and that is pointing out the truth. It doesn't matter which of the items above or abundant others you may disagree with. If you point out the obvious flaws in logic or the fact that a particular wish flies in the face of reality itself, prepare for indignant pushback.
What kind of monster tells people things that make them feel bad about themselves? What kind of sadist delights in hurting people's feelings when the fantasy is what sustains their daily existence? And by the way, what gives you the right to take away another's peace of mind? If they are happy in their delusions, who are you to pop the bubble?
I'd say we're well primed as a society for spending time in the Metaverse. Who needs the outside world intruding with its sharp edges to bump up against our pleasant thoughts?
And so was ushered in the Wishful Thinking Era.
Although we are surrounded by outrages, we do not have to become outraged. When people say what seem to be hurtful and insulting things, remember that they represent only one part of the equation. We represent by far the more important part. How we respond to our environment is within our control. Call to mind the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, who advised us to
Remember no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
I know many people who rail at the unfairness of the world. Whether it is a sexist remark at the office, an emotional misunderstanding on social media, or any of the many indignities that life daily presents us, The Parable of the Stinky Shoe as related by Master Wu is an excellent lesson. If you want to be happy in life, I can only recommend it to you.
PS – For a few other takes on how we are ignoring reality, see these July editorials from Mitt Romney (America is in Denial) and Josh Hawkins (Americans are in Denial About the Fact That Our Nation is Headed Toward Suicide).
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