The Pyramid of Humanity

Pearls Before Swine is a syndicated comic strip [by Stephan Pastis] that runs in over 800 newspapers around the world.  The strip pairs an angry, arrogant Rat with a sweet but dumb Pig, the latter of whom is protected by a violent, albeit delusional Guard Duck.  Pig and Rat’s friends also include a bookish, intelligent Goat, and a poor, besieged Zebra whose only goal is to keep from being eaten by his inept and inarticulate next-door neighbors, the Fraternity of Zeeba Zeeba Eata crocodiles.”

https://stephanpastis.wordpress.com/about/

I particularly liked how this comic captures in-group / out-group dynamics. You’re either cop, cyclist, vegan, Republican, pick your in-group of choice, or you are “little people”, scum, exotic, and so forth and so on.

Shut Out or Shut In

“Thinking is difficult, that’s why most people judge.”

—C.G. Jung

People like to tell the same stories, over and over again. The truth of those stories is changed, imperceptibly, in each telling. Our identities are a lacquer, painted on by the stories we tell ourselves and others.

Identity accrual and world building are our principal occupations. I’m this and that, signaling to society my tribe and allegiances. One thing that seems less common is people capable of admitting that they were wrong or made a mistake. It’s partly because doing so means we are open to change. Or, our connections with the rest of the world are open to reconfiguration. And people really don’t want that from themselves, or from others.

People want consistency. They want to be right. It’s difficult to be these things in a world that is always changing and where we make decisions with imperfect information.

Easier to misremember that we were right all the time, adding on another layer of our identity. Brittle, but bright.

Civilization is Savage

“In speeches, Glied seemed to urge his audiences to embrace the qualities of empathy and independent-mindedness and to reject a world view that emphasizes superficial differences between people over their shared humanity. This is not always easy, argues Waller, given that humans have evolved to be tribal. Xenophobia, ethnocentrism, and the desire for one’s group to be socially dominant are not merely the characteristics of fascistic ideologies. They are, evolutionary psychologists suggest, latent feelings that evolution has ingrained into humans over many thousands of years during which we competed against each other in groups for limited resources—sometimes to the death. Groups with xenophobic, ethnocentric, and domineering tendencies likely outcompeted—or eradicated—groups whose members were not as xenophobic and ethnocentric.”

—Max Binks-Collier, “What Can One Nazi’s Act of Decency Teach Us about Good and Evil?The Walrus. January 10, 2019.

The Uselessness of Discussion to Find Truth

“‘Every philosopher runs away when he or she hears say ‘Let’s discuss this.’ Discussion, they claimed ‘are fine for roundabout talks, but philosophy throws its dice on another table. The best one can say about discussions is that they take things no farther, since the participants never talk about the same thing.’”

—Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari quoted in Richard Marshall, “HowTheLightGetsIn Festival, London 2018,” 3:AM Magazine. October 14, 2018.

Discussion is about building relationships and expressing our feelings. A discussion creates the bonds that bind a social set or tribe. It’s expressing an agreed upon shared truth and signals belonging, or not.

Even if we are expressing a personal truth, it is a small part of it. The personal truth worth hearing is often the secret we keep to ourselves. Speaking it to another would wound our self-conception and social standing. Typically, we only share the part that enhances those things.

We are rarely interested in hearing another’s truth, much less be changed by it because the truth shared by “discussion” is rarely worth hearing.

My Affair With the Intellectual Dark Web – Great Escape – Medium

“If the idea is that I piss people off by being disloyal to my likely tribes, well, I don’t think that makes me unusual. I think it just makes me a good intellectual.”

—Alice Dreger quoted in Meghan Daum. “My Affair With the Intellectual Dark Web.” Medium. August 24, 2018.

Easy test to see if you (or others) are thinking for yourself is whether your ideas easily conform to a political orthodoxy.

The Daum article is interesting throughout.