Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Extreme Arrogance or Ignorance?

I don't usually republish comments made on this blog but there's a portion of one that is too priceless to be kept hidden in just the comments section.

A fellow who goes under the anonymous moniker of "Floating Abstraction" has been challenging me on my general support of the U.S. and condemnation of Russia's actions in Georgia. Fine, great, super, challenge away. That's what an open discussion/debate is all about.

But included in his recent rant was this gem:

"One needs to view macro-geopolitics with complete impartial objectivity that is free of bias in order to see the whole picture accurately. In doing so, it makes it easier to try to view events from multiple points of view so that one can try to understand the motivations behind the actions taking place."

He then goes on to assert that because he, the righteous, all knowing one, is free of bias, his opinions trump all others.

I meet people like this all the time. You start having a discussion with them, often about politics, and when they realize that they're losing and/or realize you're never going to agree with them, they pull out their "credentials card". It's usually their academic credentials but is sometimes a magazine article they've read or a Michael Moore documentary they've watched. One time a British guy I met in Europe pointed out that he had 3 sets of letters after his name. He insisted that whenever I wrote him a letter that I include those letters when I addressed him. Needless to say, I chose otherwise.

In this particular case, Mr. Abstraction had been making some good points. He's clearly well read and well informed on the subject of Georgia. But the moment a person crosses that tipping point and convinces themselves that they, and they alone, know THE TRUTH is the moment the discussion must end because any further debate is pointless.

Traditionally such knowers of THE TRUTH have been religious zealots. In North America, they're often Fundamentalist Christians. In other parts of the world they're Fundamentalist Muslims. But in recent years there are new strains of this same narrow-minded mindset:

  • Liberal Extremists
  • Environmental Extremists
Examples include Al Gore and David Suzuki, who both declared the debate on global warming to be over and then labeled anyone who disagreed with them as "deniers". Not only are both of them wrong about the debate being over (science doesn't work that way) but they both owe 6 Million Jews and other Nazi Concentration Camp victims a HUGE apology.

Another example is something locally here in Vancouver, where I live. There's an ongoing debate about the pros and cons about the Insite supervised drug injection clinic. Most of the powers at be keep telling us it's a great thing. I disagree. Why? Because I've carefully listened to David Berner, a man with an accomplished track record on drug addiction treatment. I've also listened carefully to what recovered drug addicts have told me. They all think that Insite is a horrific initiative that is only propagating the misery these poor drug addicts are experiencing. But rather than actually debate anyone, the supporters of Insite have taken the same arrogant approach as Mr. Abstraction: "We know THE TRUTH and anyone who disagrees with us is therefore ignorant of THE TRUTH." It's an effective trick to silence all debate. But it's a sadly pathetic trick.

One of the few truths that all mature adults realize is that everyone views the world in a different way. A wise old saying that more people should pay attention to is "not to judge another person until you've walked a mile in their moccasins." Feel free to convince others of your views but the moment you espouse that you are free of bias and thus know THE TRUTH is the moment that you need to go into the corner and take a serious time-out.

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