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Individual Struggle

Entry 2090, on 2020-11-20 at 14:27:49 (Rating 2, Politics)

Many people seem very surprised and puzzled about my controversial views, which I often express in this blog and on social media. How can an intelligent (hopefully), educated person like me be so obviously wrong (according to their perceptions) about so many things, and why do I insist on publicising my unfortunate ideas?

Well, in recent years I have found it increasingly important to maintain my individuality, and my own ideas and attitudes. I see too many people who are like puppets and whose attitudes are so predictable, simplistic, and obviously based on a narrative they have fully accepted without putting a lot of thought into. And this happens as much - possibly more so - with intelligent people as with those of more limited cognitive abilities.

I have already talked about this issue over a year ago, in a post titled "Owning Yourself" from 2019-08-20. But nothing has improved since then, so I think I need to reinforce the points I made here.

This is the quote that the 2019 post was based on: "The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself." - Friedrich Nietzsche.

It seems today that people are very tribal, meaning that as well as being unable to perceive the true state of the world from a neutral position, they also lose their individuality, which I think is far more serious.

There is undoubtedly an element of bonding when you find yourself in a crowd of like-minded individuals. It's sort of nice to have people agree with you and to attack your enemies from a position of power. But that word "bonding" could just as easily be replaced with something a bit less positive: "bondage". Because, when you take the easy route and just agree with the crowd, you are nothing more than a slave.

In my on-line debates I'm almost always the individual fighting against the hordes of mindless zombies who are opposing me, but on rare occasions when I am on the side of the majority I don't like it. I just get this feeling that maybe I'm doing what's easy instead of what's right. I stop and re-evaluate what I am saying. Am I taking a particular view just to fit in? Or just to take the easy path? Or just to repeat the most commonly accepted narrative whether it is true or not?

Sometimes I do fall into those traps, but I usually recognise it early and try to proceed from there with a more nuanced view. If I completely agree with another individual or group, that is a major warning sign that I need to check the origins of my attitudes. Is it really me making these comments, or am I just parroting something I've been told to think by the mainstream media, politicians, or other sources?

I really do feel sorry for people who do fall into this trap, and that's not just rhetoric. It is disastrous for them, because they have lost their individuality, but it is also problematic for society as a whole, because we are no longer engaging in a well reasoned debate of different ideas. Too many people just repeat what their group demands instead of being genuinely honest with themselves.

Clearly the most destructive aspect of this is the divisiveness. It seems that no one on the left can admit that an intelligent conservative can have some good ideas - in fact many can't even admit that "intelligent" and "conservative" can be used in the same sentence! But there are many smart conservatives - Ben Shapiro immediately springs to mind - and if you listen to them speaking, and you cannot see that they have some very worthwhile points, even if you don't fully agree, then I think you really are just deceiving yourself.

And the same applies in the opposite direction too. For example, people who reject the scientific consensus on climate change are just fooling themselves. They don't have to accept every political aspect of the climate problem, but they should accept the science of its existence, at least.

So if you are a conservative, don't call anyone to your left a social justice warrior (a crime I have been guilty of on occasions), and if you are liberal, socialist, or leftist in another way please be aware that opinions such as being pro-life (that is, anti-abortion) or being against social engineering around issues of gender, race, etc are entirely reasonable, even if you disagree.

We should be able to accept that other people can be good, even if they have different political views from us. After all, I don't reject people just because they like movies and I don't, or they like beer and I prefer wine (actually, I like both), or they drive a Toyota and I drive a Subaru, or they like country music and I prefer metal. These are just points of individual difference which we should celebrate, not condemn.

Maybe the most problematic thing I hear is something like "I'm a Labour voter" or "I fully support BLM". Note that the opposite views are just as bad, so "I vote Republican" or "I believe what the NRA tells me" are also a concern. But inflexible attitudes on the right are no worse than similar attitudes on the left. They're both wrong.

I prefer this: "I vote for whatever party is offering the best policies at the time" (this is true; I have voted for many different parties), and "I think BLM is based on some real historical issues, but they are completely out of touch with reality now, and are causing more harm than good." (a similar argument applies to metoo, climate action, etc)

Is this really so hard? Apparently, yes. But I would encourage everyone to try rejecting this "groupthink" ideology and trying to be an individual. Remember what Nietzsche said: "no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."


Comment 4 (5860) by OJB on 2020-12-04 at 14:21:43: (view earlier comments)

I agree, there is nothing inherently virtuous about being in a minority view group. The point I was making is that agreeing with the crowd opens you to question whether you agree because you genuinely think that perspective has merit, or you agree because you like being part of the crowd. Being in the minority removes that question, at least.


Comment 5 (5862) by Anonymous on 2020-12-04 at 15:54:02:

No it doesn't. I think I'm quick challenging of my views irrespective of whether they are "mainstream" or minority. I think that's your view, not a truth. I'm sure you have minority views just so you can call yourself a "rebel" or "deep thinker".


Comment 6 (5863) by OJB on 2020-12-04 at 16:19:34:

Well, it's hard to defend that accusation unless you can give me specific examples. I can agree that some people might deliberately choose to go with the minority for effect rather than as a result of a genuinely diverse view, just like some might go with the crowd for disingenuous reasons. But I hope that I could defend my minority views with facts, if necessary.


Comment 7 (5866) by Anonymous on 2020-12-04 at 17:15:30:

You can't talk in generalities and in abstract ways (e.g. "agreeing with the crowd opens you to question whether you agree because you genuinely think that perspective has merit") and then complain when others do the same, demanding concrete examples... you can't have it both ways.


Comment 8 (5882) by OJB on 2020-12-05 at 09:33:40:

I think I can. If it is not clear from the generalities what the issue is, then I think it is fair to ask for examples.


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