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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why it took actually being a victim to learn to stop being one

I don't think that is necessary requirement; however, it does allow for the possibility of acquiring maturity and gleenings of wisdom at an earlier stage.

Your epiphany at the casually racist remark aimed in your direction produced the opposite reaction then, IMHO, what the person who uttered it intended. Such type remarks ("you can't possibly understand because you [aren't, have never] ....") are conversation enders. The speaker is telling the listener his/her role is to shutup and feel guilty. It's the triumph of feelings over rationality.

I recall in the midst of an argument with one of my daughters when she was about 16 she tossed out the classic "But mom, you CAN'T understand..teens today are DIFFERENT, you NEVER went through what WE go through TODAY!" ... Took all I could not to burst out laughing. I recall saying something very similar to my mother, too.

But we forgive such outbursts from youngsters because they ARE youngsters. They are all raw nerves and hormones and lifes has been confined to a few years and a few miles.

It's just a bit grotesque to see the same "arguments" being used by adults.

Darleen   ·  December 16, 2004 2:11 PM

"...that many young people do not actually think what they say they think. Rather, they parrot the thoughts of others."

Of course, many of us weren't thinking anything at all. I had what seemed like profound (though now, I realize they were just silly) thoughts on physics and philosophy, but wasn't aware enough to even realize how little I thought about politics. So I was liberal, because everyone else was, and hey, a bunch of Harvard students can't be wrong, yes? (Except about grapes. But that is another story.)

This lasted until I graduated from graduate school and started thinking it was about time to become politically literate, at which point I flipped to libertarian.

Interesting comment, Darleen; maybe it took me so long because I was never a victim.

ca   ·  December 16, 2004 2:29 PM

I have had it with conformists, faddists, and the Politically Correct. The reason I read Classical Values is because Eric Scheie is such an independent thinker. His _style_!

Be sure to inform your kids that the best way to be cool is to wear light clothing, turn on the air conditioner, and eat a lot of ice cream. A nice glass of iced lemonade helps keep you cool, too.

In the winter, particularly in northern latitudes, you might want to keep warm instead. Sweaters, heating, a cup of hot mocha, might help.

Heh ... defining moments in life ... damn they are vicious. I was sheltered and stupid and leaching off the parents, so I was liberal. Then I got a good job and started paying absurd taxes ... I leaned right a bit. I got married ... a little more right ... I bought a house and paid more tax (got nothing for it) ... a wee bit more right, nearly a moderate now. I had children, POW! BAM! ZZZTTT!!! Friggin hard core Vast Right Wing Consipracy Member FOR LIFE! Never trust anyone over 30 because they have seen the light.

mdmhvonpa   ·  December 16, 2004 11:30 PM

I've zig-zagged all over the spectrum(s), from a polytheist to a socialist to a Rightist to a feminist and various syntheses of Left and Right to a Rightist polytheist. I'm glad I don't have any children or else I'd be even more Right-Wing, an extremely stringent disciplinarian. I have an Authoritarian Personality. And yet I am also a Sovereign Individual. The tension within Dawn's soul mirrors my own. Right now, I'm reading a book on the history of Romanticism, one of the influences that has most shaped me.

In discussions I had while I worked for the University of Vermont the below was all too common. What was even worse was that not only were their beliefs not their own, but it was invariably the case that they were strangly proud of having such advanced and evolved positions. In reality they were just uncritical members of the herd. I was rendered speechless one time when it became clear that the young woman I was debating (who went on to earn a PhD in Molecular Biology and then an MBA)actually thought I would be ashamed by a conservative view I held--The illogic was dumbfounding: Why would anybody believe something that they themselves thought was clearly wrong or undefensible? I suppose that the pride which comes from believing what your betters believe would also dictate contempt for those who believe otherwise.

re:
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.

David   ·  December 17, 2004 12:07 PM

For a long time I assumed that all people would follow their own thoughts. Not! Therefore I never had a discussion with many, even though much noise was made.

I keep jabbering that there are, in reality, a bunch of anti-free thought racists around, who fear and hate free thought just as a racists hates the other color. It is the difference itself which is acted on by the racist.

These people will harm you as they have another goal in life, usually control, especially thought control, or sometimes other little things like robbing you or taking over the World.

ORielly says when you see thought chaos manifesting itself, run like hell.

Maybe Ann Coulter has some insights on how to talk to a Liberal, but the book will probably be only a recantation of why to be wary, and stay distanced once the fun begins.

I don't agree with either regarding God, but would love to talk with them. I trust them, so far.

Some Liberals are unconvinced, even after they are disproven by what was a life-altering event, simply returning to the comfort of their previous dogma. Or you get the "It's o-k for me but not you, I'm special," treatment which often remains a secret. Some even think they become invisible. And so on.

J. Peden   ·  December 18, 2004 3:15 AM

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