Toward a Critical Habit II

V

There were 3 major terrorist incidents in England in 2017. Morally despicable acts of cruelty designed to spread panic & to inflict suffering on innocent people, & by enlarge, to terrify the country into a constant state of anxiety. The crimes were committed by a minority sample of Muslims who were radicalized because they listened to the propaganda of another minority sample of Muslims.
This has aggravated the schism in British public opinion: people who once defended their dislike of Muslims under a belief in each country taking care of their own, has become unadorned racism.
There are non-Muslims in England, organized bodies of them, who from this, deduce that the population of around 2 1/2 million Muslims in England are all sleeping terrorists. i know at least 10 people (my own aunty being one, along with her clique of equestrians) personally who believe this & have harvested the information from a wider organization of people who accept this as fact. Britain First propaganda informs them. An organization that went to refugee camps, asked Syrian refugees who could hardly speak English, where they wanted to go, when they replied England they forcibly told them not to go, then when they noted the smart phones in the refugees’ hands, quizzed them, as if they’d caught them red handed as frauds, on where they got them. It never occurred to this Britain First supporters that Syria did once have economic structures in place or that these refugees came from relatively wealthy families that could afford such objects. Nor, whether there might be an industry of used phones sold on the cheap, despite the war.
What is more absurd is how they’d fix this problem: “just send them back.” How many times i’ve asked these Britain First supporters what they’d do & received this answer is astonishing.
An insignificant amount of critical thinking exposes the immense complexity of doing this. A great many Muslims have lived in England for generations. How do you determine where “back” is for young Muslims who never visited the countries their grandfathers came from? Young people who identify as Brits. The extreme right often forget that Muslim isn’t a country. Let’s say you do have a system to decide, which is unlikely; who will pay for the transportation to return 2 1/2 million Muslims, or even half that amount? If no one, then do they expect them to be herded by force to Dover & forced onto boats? What then of European countries where they will perhaps land? Will they pick a single country to drop them all, or send vessels to the multitude of countries where Muslims live? What boats will be used & who will pay?
The logistics to successfully carry out such a ludicrous solution is fraught with difficulties; considering that there will never be a clear majority that believe this a morally just course of action; in that case, there would never be a majority vote to shoulder the pecuniary responsibility for something they find morally reprehensible.
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, has become the apothegm of some, Darren Osbourne, for example, who took his ideology to the point of mowing down Muslims outside Finsbury Park mosque, killing one & maiming several others. He transmuted his nationalistic anger & anxiety to protect his country into belligerent action, as if there were a holy war we’d all agreed on.
The truth is that people living inside the borders of England just go about their busy, their ideologies or opinions, remaining dormant until they are provoked into use. People don’t tend to think about, or to correlate information, if they do, it is from sources similar in scope to each other. This means the dialectic in society is largely passive, then a slanging match.
i’m with Northrop Frye on the value of argument:
“I detest arguments because you’re going to lose any argument with an ideologue because you can only argue on the basis of a counter ideology, and I’m not doing that. I think that the ideologue addresses his public and wants to make a kinetic effect on it. He wants people to get out there and do something.” He goes on to say “The actual technique of argumentative writing is something I avoid as far as possible because when you argue, you are selecting points to emphasize and there can never be anything definitively right or wrong about an emphasis. It’s simply a choice among possibilities, and consequently argument is always a half truth.”

VI

Guillaume Chaslot, a computer engineer who worked on the Youtube algorithm, discovered during the 3 years he worked on & with it, that how the algorithm decides the Up Next videos in the Youtube side bar, are dangerously skewed. Search terms often lead people down a rabbit hole of conspiracy videos. His website Algotransparency, gives the likelihood of Up Next videos when we search a term such as “Global Warming”. If we do search this in Youtube we are 5.6× more likely to have a video on the predictions of Nostradamus appear in the Up Next side bar. Can you imagine what sort of effect this has on elections? How this affects learning?
A lot of people watch Youtube videos & Google is the leading search engine—Google owns Youtube, so the algorithm is probably similar. What might begin as an effort to inform yourself on an important topic, can quickly lead you down a rabbit hole of questionable authorities. Someone with poor critical faculties can be led into a belief system filled with irregularities; without defense, without critical habits, we are open to suggestion & manipulation.
i don’t believe Google is evil. i don’t think Larry Page is a bad bloke, but i do think the technology is flawed in regards to the freedom it must maintain to be what it is. In this case, we must take measures ourselves rather than place the blame on the engineers of these tools, which can be utilized for as much good as the bad habits they induce.

Conspiracy Theories are probably the most peculiar form of questionable authority. i say authority, because they have a lot of reach these days: Alex Jones as millions of listeners & David Icke sold out Wembley.
Although, in the opinion of a locked in conspiracy theorist, due to the non-conformist (& often bizarre) restructuring of what they accept as the status quo, they are in fact, hyper-critical. They are able to read symbols planted in plain view, within society; usually in advertising, Hollywood movies, subliminal messaging in popular music & the geomancy of monuments or architecture. To them, a logo may be a code that interpreted correctly, reveals clues to the agenda of the puppet masters pulling the strings. They are warring against shadowy government agencies, a global cabal with infinite resources to silence its opponents. Conspiracy theorists, interpret a wholly other narrative from the news reel of the day, because they understand reality in the context of secrecy. Their efforts to expose this puts them at daily risk, they do what they do for liberty & democracy, just like those who accuse the shamed.
One of the major anxieties of the conspiracy theorists is mass de-population. David Icke & Alex Jones frequently raise this topic. Their evidence comes mostly from the Georgia Guidestones, an admittedly peculiar monument in Elbert County, Georgia. On it are written 10 instructions, in 8 modern & 4 ancient languages. The 10 instructions are:

I. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
II. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
III. Unite humanity with a living new language.
IV. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
V. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
VI. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
VII. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
VIII. Balance personal rights with social duties.
IX. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
X. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

i’ll just say something about number 1. There are 7,000,000,000 people on the planet. The extermination of 6,500,000,000 human beings is a messy business. The logistics of it, would mean, that of the 500,000,000, a reasonable percentage would need to be responsible for this. A conspiracy theorist might say the trade of labour for life, is one we already make & a work force could be selected with this promise. No doubt. However, would they have to kill us or be party to it? That’s a different conundrum. Cleaning up the already dead corpses of the entire planet is one thing but having to kill them, you have to be desensitized, propagandized and manipulated. They might say this is already being done. However the slow pile up of our bodies littering the planet & decomposing will cause famine if the select to deal with this don’t work constantly. In which case, we have an example at our disposal to illustrate the monumental strain this has on a power: the Nazi’s worked diligently to exterminate 6,000,000 over a period of a few years & it was fraught with logistical problems. & we are talking a number of much greater magnitude. How are even a million people going to clean up this? Moreover, the architects of this depopulation are supposed to be men who run businesses, whose interests are vested in manufacture & thus need a work force, on top of that, someone to buy their products. Why decimate the population of consumers? Isn’t the consumer supposed to be always right?
These are questions that are never raised by conspiracy theorists, because they want to believe. It gives them an advantage over the uninitiated, makes them feel they figured out a mystery.
Their anxieties are founded on an insanely improbable act of cruelty. But what knowledge can we harvest from merely denouncing them as crazy? It seems more profitable to be critical, then if they cannot answer us, they are forced to search themselves for a reply, from that we can put them in a position where they must interrogate their belief. That is what true criticism does: if the question cannot be answered, then there must be an attempt to uncover one.

VII

Moral obligation in public life should not begin & end with accusation, the act of the accused needs to be corrected; disciplinary action should follow. To explain what someone did wrong takes more effort than pointing a finger. The accused must be guided to understand the mechanisms & triggering of the act.
We have never been more informed, it is no excuse to blame over abundance for ignorance; that doesn’t sit well with me. Quality may be more difficult to obtain & even maintain. But if that is the state we find ourselves in, an open mind to the changing tides of information that inform a problem, should keep us alert to questioning & being questioned.
Why is critical thinking difficult for people? People are often confused about what it really is to criticize something. It is not an act of negation, it is an act of analysis, a practice of reasoning to evaluate & even classify information in order to better understand. It is not an opinion that needs to be defended with the best efforts of the ego. It is not something that shames, blames, points or belittles. It is the power of understanding. It is a device for regulating society’s behavior; for keeping an informed eye on ourselves.

18 thoughts on “Toward a Critical Habit II

  1. “Why is critical thinking difficult for people”

    1. Because one often HAS to admit they are wrong.
    2. Feelings = truth now. It is hard to say “I’m wrong” when one feels right.
    3. Add low self esteem into the mix and you have the perfect recipe for non-critical thinking.

    There are many people who don’t even think critically about critical thinking itself = philosophy undergrads who read Nietzsche for ten minutes then (mis) quote him at parties to get the attention of whomever it is they want to get into bed with.

    1. Ok, i accept this. i really do, i know this to be the case generally. i admit of this in the opening line of the first part.
      But people are more complex than the truth they hold close to them as indistinguishable from their identity: there is an environment outside of them & in that environment conflicting views abound. For them to ignore them is a value judgement, it is a refusal to acknowledge that other information.
      But i still think that even in the general instance where people refuse change, within their ideological framework they can still be critical toward those opposed to them. Why punish when you can discipline. At least with discipline there is an effort at correction & not physical discipline, but debate & discussion. This doesn’t happen even in the case of supposedly civilized people on social media. They go right for the jugular. i am not saying i don’t see any of this, but it doesn’t seem acceptable to say people can’t change. There are innumerable factors out there that can alter people. i mean, if you recall an episode of Louis Theroux, a Neo Nazis, in prison, ended up discovering he was gay & falling in love with a Jew. i suppose i am doomed to fall back on the exception to the rule.

      1. The majority will always be emotion driven by the very nature of engagement: passion, the desire to not be alone, to find like-minded people, to find acceptance. Why change when you can press the on button on your computer and instantly be a part of a “world” in which you are right no matter how nuanced an argument is, or how wrong one is?

        I think (opinion) we don;t need to critically think as much as we need to learn how to be polite/respectful to one another. I have ZERO problem with some religious person at least quietly and nicely telling me that I am going to burn for Eternity for not believing in their angry, Bronze Age desert god who supposedly murdered the whole planet (minus 8 people) with a Flood. I will just respond with a quiet and polite “I disagree”…

      2. & that to me is being critical, even if it is in some very minor way. It is to acknowledge a difference & agree to disagree. It doesn’t mean you can’t talk, it may not go anywhere but it is at least an act of discipline over each other.
        So do i win? haha.
        Do you think it is hopeless to even try to be critical confronted by someone who has no use for the critical faculties?
        The way i see it is, if most people want to be taken seriously, if they don’t want to be labelled as stupid (which many people dislike) they have to engage in some modicum of critical thought.

      3. The terms you use are so huge (“hope”) and easily interpreted in myriad ways (“critical theory”) you and I could be having two different conversations at once if we haven’t established or understood a common reference (critical theory via Wittgenstein for example). If we are meeting in his work, then we will critique the rich vein of anti-scientism in his work. If someone outside of this conversation hears the word “scientism” and misunderstands it, then we will yet again have two conversations happening at once. Someone at least has to explain to the third person that anti-scientism is not anti-science, but what Wittgenstein sees as the overestimation of science as humanities ultimate resource, replacing our deeper wonder at the world before us with measurements, turning science into our new god.

        But as such I once again am detecting your struggle with trying to win over the willfully ignorant folks that seem to bother you deeply, thus you use words like hopeless about such people. You seem to be obsessed with winning over the unwinnable, so I would just say don’t even try. It is not “hopeless”, it is unnecessary! There are millions of people who would love to be inspired by what inspires us, if only someone showed them how. It is why I got my five degrees and diplomas, including my PhD. I wanted to light the flames of knowledge in my student’s hearts, and of course I have had loads of knowledge haters travel through my classes. C’est la vie. But then you reach the inspirables, they light up like neon signs on a Japanese street.

        Critical theory and critical thinking are easy to teach, once you or I understand how various personalities learn. I can speak, illustrate, show films, and other methods to reach as many of my students. There is always a way. And if they just don’t give a flying fuck about Wittgenstein, I give a fuck for them, I always try my best “for” them, so they can never say “no one ever told me about Wittgenstein”.

        I once showed 5 minutes of the movie “The Sky Crawlers” to a group of university undergrads in my class to demonstrate what Nihilism was (what it “felt like”). They got it immediately.

        I remember literally exclaiming “Oh YEAH!!” and jumping out of my chair upon reading he first few pages of Language, Truth, and Logic. I felt like I was “home”!

      4. i use it from a literary perspective. As in to learn more about a text. So in my case it is the text of life. Which is pretty broad too haha. i don’t think there is an answer or a definite way. But i like to think of this stuff. A lot of these essays aren’t me so much having an opinion as piecing stuff together & making myself investigate a topic; as much an exercise in study & memory as they are a prompt to get people like yourself to engage with me that i might learn something more.
        So thanks for always indulging me, i get other perspectives & just learn more. i don’t have an established position in fact, it is always moving because i am always learning.

      5. Isn’t that what we have to nurture.

        i wonder what you think of my sources & examples for these essays. What would you have used if you were going to write something on this? Maybe you could do a reply as a post. That’d be cool.

  2. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” – it is seldom realised that this OT maxim was intended to LIMIT the extend of reprisal/punishment.

    ‘Conspiracy theories’ – People decry these. However if, when they decry them, they mean to say that people of influence never get together in private to make covert decisions that affect the rest of us, then they’re being stupid. Because it happens all the time.

    1. Yes, there are private goings on, but to believe there is a city on the moon receiving transmissions from Saturn’s rings which are beamed down to earth by a Reptillian alien race who literally live in the sonic frequency we can’t hear, which if we could would reveal them to be hovering behind us, living in our shadow, & that these Reptillian’s feed off our negative emotions, i mean that literally, they use our negative energies as a form of edible sustenance; this is another conspiracy all together & David Icke packed out Wembley to spiel this one out over i think 9 hours— more bang for your buck at least with Icke.
      This is hardly Snowden or Wikileaks. If this turns out to be a reality i promise i will post a video of me eating the collected works of David Icke, over a 9 hour period.
      i don’t think it is wrong for him to think this or even make a bit of money; it keeps me highly entertained, i love his “lectures” they are better than a good stand up.

      1. “private goings on” – please don’t mince words, they are conspiracies.

        “If this turns out to be a reality i promise i will post a video of me eating the collected works of David Icke, over a 9 hour period.” – I’ll sell tickets for you. When it comes to the claims of the former goalkeeper for Hereford United, we can have a healthy conversation about the finiteness of possibility and probability…

        (I managed to get ‘goalkeeper’ in, in the absence of ‘gatekeeper’. I’m proud of that!)

  3. “Why is critical thinking difficult for people?” Love that question posed because it is not taught for the most part. Instead of critical thinking we are being fed knowledge without needing to think. Power is shattered by thinking. Can’t have that. Your answer is good. Ego and all our opinions derived from propaganda. A need for strength not from peace but violence against others. A tale as old as time itself. The other problem is blaming. Picking scabs that are not left alone to heal. Too much talk. Too much noise. The world needs a holiday. Silent reflection on personal responsibility and then teach critical thought for a change. If everyone were responsible for their wrong choices, taught to respect others and respect life, well that would keep those who hunger to control others, in a humiliating position they could never survive. 💙🕊

    1. i hope, i don’t know if i succeeded, but i wanted to show through my examples how little effort it takes to consider the implications of something. The conspiracy theorists are one of the best examples because of the hypocrisy of their position: they believe they are in fact more critical than any other in society & yet their criticisms create scenarios so exceptional that they don’t criticism how they would be carried out, it is just accepted, despite the stripping away of accepted reality they underwent to get there. It is very interesting how they reorganized reality through a criticism of it & how it functions & then when they are finished, don’t think how it will actually come about. Take any of their theories & you can punch a mile wide hole in it.
      Then they have the clever reflex of, defense that is the fact that, despite them knowing this information (which is essentially forbidden, secret knowledge), for us to criticize them is an error, because it is the fact of being secretive that we cannot criticize what they see as truth. In short their conjecture, though not evidence, is their line of defense.
      So my big push is asking questions, even if you disagree with someone who believes something heinous, don’t get angry, ask them why, maybe even ask them to persuade you of what they believe. Then they have to sort of, maybe, be more critical, because they have to formulate their ideas coherently. They can’t react violently if you give them no cause. At least in theory, they might just smack you in the gob.

      1. I think you were successful in debunking the claim there would be population cleansing… seems impossible. The Germans would have succeeded. If never stopped. Despite the logistics. They were figuring things out. How to make it work. Exterminate people.

        My point is people fall into the traps, especially conspiracy, because of emotion. An appeal to emotion is difficult to debunk with all the information in the world. And, knowing how easily manipulated people are, to get the real truth, not just what we deduct, is another trap. It becomes a game. One that is absolutely not winnable.

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