10/5/16: on the nature of reality

A lot of us throw around the term “brainwashing” when we talk to those who like something that we don’t. We operate from the basic premise that we are smart, rational people, and that therefore, if someone disagrees, they are either not also a smart, rational person or they have been somehow tricked, bamboozled, or outright brainwashed. (We do this especially often when it comes to religion and culture, ignoring entirely whether the person is actually happy.)

In reason‘s October 2016 issue, Trevor Burrus makes the following observation:

What do we achieve by arguing that parts of American culture are somehow fake? The music industry took a band called the Pendletones, renamed them the Beach Boys, recorded a few dozen songs about surfing, and then pushed a saccharine vision of California beach culture…. Should [that] therefore be looked upon with skepticism? Can the “fake” ever turn into something “genuine”?

The answer, simply put, is yes. And vice-versa: something we’ve long held as a truism can eventually erode to the point at which we see it as the fraud it’s long been. (Politics comes to mind, but also, on a gentler point, certain scientific facts like the “geocentric” model that have been revised over time.) Skepticism has a very healthy place in allowing us to personally decide an object’s sincerity and worth, but it is as irrelevant to another person as a debate over a color or Magic Eye print that we might view with differing degrees of depth. We should freely, often, and readily express the things that we disagree with and be ready to make a hearty defense of them, but it serves nobody to insist that someone else’s opinion or interpretation is wrong. For all that “we” might see the flaws and frauds of a Donald J. Trump, there are also many who are convinced that his inability to self-edit or recollect basic facts somehow makes him more genuine. Rather than discussing him, let us look at how his policies would actually affect us, and let that motivate us to act.

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