Billy Beck strikes a nerve with something. The underlying elements of this is something I was just pondering the other day.
In fact, a lot of this goes a long way to answering my question below. In a time when people are not learning to think, episodes like The Great Island Paradise of Gas Experiment are the routine order of the day. There are no principles to refer to, and what good would they be, anyway?
Just make sure everybody gets the right to vote. That’s really important. It doesn’t matter that they’re stone imbeciles.
Generally, I was wondering how it is that people think the way they do. Specifically, I concluded that it was because, like I, they were taught from the moment of birth to submit to some authority or the other at all times and without question. Of course, that’s appropriate for infants and small children. I’m aware that there are many who go to great lengths to push their children into independent problem solving, but that’s not the same. How about: what problem? Why does it exist? And who says it’s a problem, anyway, why do they say it, and why is it of any importance to me whatsoever? That, we don’t seem to do very well.
I thought of how I learned about Abraham Lincoln. Why, he freed the slaves. That’s a good thing. He’s a good guy. And I recall assertions to the effect that slavery was wrong, unjust, but never a peep about why it was wrong, and if so, how is it that is was in practice for so long. It’s as if the fact of slavery was a metaphysical fact of reality, without cause or explanation. Lincoln was then a virtual God for having changed what was the equivalent of nature.
When I consider my own Enlightenment some 15 years ago, I realize that the fundamental part of it was a process of integrating human history from beginning to end and building confidence in my own competence to judge the proclamations and actions of our ancestors. Once you do that, you see history not as some endless chain of static events without apparent cause or reason, but as a chronology of causes and effects directly related to human willful action: some good, some evil, some heroic. You also see how easily humans have been led to their own unhappy enslavement and slaughter for no other reason than that they believed in and obeyed their appointed authorities.
But there was never any valid authority in any of it. Throughout the ages, people submitted to false authorities all their lives because they were taught to do so and thought they had to. They were schooled in the way that things were: including owning other men; including sacrificing their best interest to the proclaimed collective needs of others. Most never realized once in their entire lives that their mind and conscience was just as competent as anyone to judge the propriety and validity of such practices. They believed in and worshiped fairy tales because they were taught to–never even allowing themselves to question.
Perhaps we’re hard-wired with a tendency to seek out some authority and obey it. But even if so, that natural tendency was superseded thousands of years ago when the homo sapiens gained a conscious capacity and a free will.