…and then get offended when you decline to accept their opinion.
After a recent conversation, it occurs to me that it might be useful to explain one of my metrics, in this case an automatic means of deciding between two arguments when both sides present mazes of conflicting evidence. While certainly not foolproof, it is useful as heck, and an example of the practical application of non-dualistic thought.
Specifically, it applies when members of group X describe why they support a position, describing its benefits to group Y. If the members of group Y disagree, I will assume that they know what is good for Y, on average, better than members of group X do…or will admit to.
It seems to me that within groups of equals, the only reasonable assumption is that people have to be given the respect to know what is best for them. If you say differently, there are one of two basic reasons:
- you do not consider the groups equal. X’s consider themselves smarter and better than Y’s, and therefore take a paternal role and tell them what they should want.
- you might consider the groups equal, but wish to conceal your true motivations and not seem “selfish”–by claiming that you are doing it “for them.”
In essence, any time there is a dualism: conservative/liberal, male/female, gay/straight, black/white, rich/poor, capitalist/communist, employer/employee, or whatever, I am very very suspicious of someone who is a member of X who claims that they want something for the benefit of Y…especially if Y disagrees, and the action would give more power and control to X.
In fact, it seems like a con job. Examples: men telling women that it is to women’s benefit for their reproductive rights be restricted. Straights telling gays that no, it isn’t good for them to have marriage equality. Masters telling slaves that freedom is not desirable. Employers telling employees that organizing it to their disadvantage. Whites telling blacks they don’t want to vote or integrate.
A great one is the “free market” folks. Now, that strikes me as a great philosophy if you’re looking at the game from the top. Do whatever I want? Screw minimum wage: set whatever prices or wages I want and (snicker) the market will sort it out? Great!
This is, to me, precisely the mirror image of Communism. Take all the power from the top? Divvy it up between the “powerless” and tell everyone every price they can set, and what wages will be paid and what it will buy and (snicker) all animals will be equal.
Yeah, right. One makes sense if you are at the top or figure on getting there, or believe that those at the top, the wealthy and powerful, are literally better, smarter and more moral. The other only makes sense if you believe that the powerless and oppressed are intrinsically better, wiser, and more moral than those at the top, and if THEY have the power, everyone will join hands and sing Kum-bay-yah.
And since I believe neither is true, I could not possibly take either side. I believe that there is tension from the top, and tension from the bottom, and those who don’t see that if either side wins the other loses is simply taking sides. Fine. But those who hold those positions and claim they hold them for the benefit of the other side are either deluded, dishonest, or believe their group is better, wiser, and smarter.
There are partial exceptions. When adults disagree with what children want, they aren’t smarter or better, but they ARE generally wiser: they have actually walked the life path that those kids merely speculate and dream about. They are at a different point in the same life-cycle. In essence, they are saying: “this is what I am glad (or wish) adults did/would have done for me.” And even in this case, psychologists say we need to listen to what the children say they need, want, and are experiencing. You might decide against it…but you need to hear.
But in the other cases? No. If you are a member of group X, and your theories about what is good for Y differ from their own, you might be an honest person who really believes Y’s aren’t so smart. Fair enough.
But what is suspect is when you claim to give them equal humanity and capacity AND know what is better for them. That it is better for them and please ignore the fact that you happen to be giving your own group more authority and power.
You see, selfishness is just a fact of existence: the only difference between the “selfish” and the “altruistic” is that they expand their own sense of “self” to include others and thereby derive pleasure from service. No intrinsic sin here.
And hierarchical thinking is another simple fact of existence. I’d guess that the average person of any group thinks “we” are a little better than “they.” This has nothing to do with the quality of human being you are, or how you treat people. One can have the “nobless oblige” attitude (also known as the “Spiderman Motto”–with great power comes great responsibility.) If you have been given more, it increases your obligations to others. I’ve known people like this: people who will admit to believing there are general hierarchies to race, gender, or whatever, but still admit that individuals in those groups can be exceptional and totally worthy, and that all human beings should be treated with compassion. In other words, it is a perceptual position, not a moral stance–until it is put into action in dealings with other humans.
But if you believe you are better or smarter than the other group, but conceal that behind dishonest or political rhetoric? You are being dishonest–at the very least with yourself. Possibly you know damned well you think Y’s aren’t as good, but won’t come right out and say it, and hide your position behind weasel words. That is a different matter from the merely selfish (“yeah, I’m taking your rights, but I want what I want”), or the genteel dualistic thinker (“we’re better/smarter than you, but I have an obligation to protect your rights and acknowledge your humanity. And if you are one of the smart ones? Sure you can marry my daughter! Welcome to the family: you’re one of `us’, not one of `them.’”)
But the “I think you’re less, but will pretend I want this oppressive law, or wish to remove protections for YOUR benefit” attitude is like people who illegally download movies, books, or music and claim that they’re doing it for the benefit of the artists who scream at them to stop. A child molester who says he buggered little Tommy to teach him about love.
An honest thief earns a certain amount of my respect.
The latin phrase “Cui Bono” means: “who does it benefit”? Roughly the same as “follow the money.” If group X wants something for group Y that Y does not want, and that action also benefits or gives more power, freedom, money, or authority than the opposite action would provide…I’m sorry, but if you are a member of X and say you’re doing or promoting it for the sake of Y, then despite the fact that you, as an individual, may well have the best of intentions (or even be correct!) I’m going to assume you are unconscious at the very best, and a dishonest, manipulative person at the worst.
And while, yes, that might seem unfair…if you can’t understand what it feels like to be a Y and hear this nonsense every day, you don’t have enough compassion for me to believe that no, you are not vulnerable to selfish impulses. A person who genuinely thinks something is good for Y, and listens to Y’s wonder at your motivations for saying such things, will understand the reason for the distrust and take no offense at all, merely make their arguments, and understand that monsters also hide behind the mask of: “I’m doing this for YOU.”
A person who begins with self-interest and loves themselves, and then expands that love, compassion and humanity for others may disagree with you…but they will understand why you don’t trust them more than you trust the members of “your own” group and those who ally with them. If they say they don’t understand…they either don’t understand themselves well enough to know they do the precise same thing…
Or they are lying to manipulate you.
Cui Bono. Follow the money. And power. And privilege. Reserve 1% possibility that they might be right…but stand your ground unless there is inarguable evidence. You’ll be right far more often than you’re wrong.