December 16, 2004
Too late to be fashionably late
A couple of thoughts on thought. Thoughts are too often like fashion. I hate fashion, but I don't hate thought, which means I hate most thought even though I love thought.
How the hell can I hope to explain a nonsensical utterance like the above? Might as well start somewhere.
A few weeks ago, I was reminded of something I had seen decades ago as a student at UC Berkeley: that many young people do not actually think what they say they think. Rather, they parrot the thoughts of others. Usually, those whose thoughts are parroted are deemed to be cool, and no one in college wants to be uncool, so in order to be cool (which means to fit in), one must parrot the cool thoughts of the cooler people.
Of course, if the cooler people are deemed more intelligent, this confers on the imitators the right to claim they're more intelligent than the people who might happen to disagree with the cooler people.
As I was reminded, if you were in college and were for Bush, you were definitely stupid and definitely not cool. Therefore, students faced enormous peer pressure not to be for Bush, lest they not get invited to cool things, maybe even not get laid. Of course, it's also cool to be for socialism and to believe in victim theories -- regardless of whether you can justify or explain them.
Logic, reason, and independent thought set in years later, when coolness is no longer a primary consideration.
In any event, it has always perplexed me to attempt to get involved in a serious discussion with someone whose thoughts are not their own, because you quickly find they can't follow their thoughts out and explain them in a logical manner. All too quickly, the discussion becomes loaded with ad hominem references about class, race, or sociological and economic status of those disagreeing -- as if these are the issues under discussion.
Many years ago I reached a sort of turning point when, in the midst of horrendous personal problems (including watching the slow and tortuous deaths of longtime lovers, deciding to kill myself, etc.), I was told that I had never known suffering because I was white. This was just one of the things which made me stop and think -- really think -- and the result is that my life has not been quite the same since. I am one of the lucky ones, because most people never experience that sort of clarifying event. To put it mildly, I was way past the "fashion" stage.
(I'm still trying to explain in a more articulate manner why it took actually being a victim to learn to stop being one. It might have something to do with the fact that in the game of victimhood, pretense and reality are irreconcilable. Yet as some of the most honest people have found, honesty can spawn dishonesty in its own defense.)
posted by Eric on 12.16.04 at 09:30 AM
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