In 2009, Arnold Schwarzenegger again raised the term-limits debate, calling term limits “crazy.” The governor made his remarks in San Francisco at a speech after he was introduced by former state Sen. Jack Scott:
“I actually miss him now that he’s not there, but I know he was termed out because we have these crazy term limits here in California and people that are that experienced like him then have to leave and move on…”
But back in 2003, as a candidate, Arnold said:
“My campaign for governor is based on the concept that California’s state government belongs to the people, not the career politicians. As we are now seeing with the state’s budget crisis and anti-business policies, it is too easy for the politicians to become disconnected from the people they are supposed to represent. That is why I believe in citizen legislators and yes, even citizen governors. It is also why I am such a strong believer in term limits.”
The question of limiting the number of terms members of The Senate and Congress can serve has come up often. The argument for limits is tied to a belief that limiting exposure in office would limit opportunities for greed, graft, and corruption. Core to this belief is the idea that by changing the rules, people will become ethical, yet there is no historical precedent for believing it. It might be nice if it were true, but it probably isn’t.
With the idea of term limits, comes the idea that elected officials will not look to public office as a career. Therefore, they would not look to the office as a way to feather their own nests, so to speak. The concern then, for those not already independently wealthy, would be by what measure would office holders seek remuneration?
Those who oppose term limits feel challenged that the electorate loses the right to name their own representation, and re-elect them as long as the electorate feels they are being well represented. Additionally, the idea of reducing the benefits of public office might actually accelerate influence peddling and side-deals among politicians. The fear is that these politicians will be expedient in setting up their corporate and banking allegiances.
So then the question comes up that working people without significant personal assets cannot afford to seek office. They will have to quit their job to seek election. After their term, they return to what? The ranks of the unemployed? No, unless they are hapless, they will have established relationships with powerful people who will now…owe them favors! The only favor the poor might offer would be re-election.
But if politicians remain in office, it is likely that their personal power and influence will increase. With this scenario, the public fears that “absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
Certainly, we should not dismiss this. But if we are going to consider platitudes and other expressions, maybe we shouldn’t be so eager to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”.
Another idea that comes up as often as term limits is the hope of election campaign reform. Many feel that “special interests” should be banned from making contributions, yet at the same time, do not wish to be taxed to pay for it, either. But keep this in mind: if the people will not fund it, the representatives will represent whoever will.
We already have term limits for the office of the president. The first president subject to that law was Harry Truman. He was also the last president (except Mr. Kennedy who died while still in office) to leave office without considerable financially rewarding entanglements and influence.
We also have The Supreme Court whose members are appointed for life on the presumption that this will render them immune to political corruption. Whether they can be corrupted or not may or may not be true, but they certainly are not subjected to reactionary emotional political wind changes. But life itself is finite. I reckon that is a sort of term limit, isn’t it?
Whether people like to admit it or not, there is kind of an aristocracy in place in our government. From the beginning, The United States Senate was made up of the so called “landed gentry”, and very much modeled after The House of Lords. Our Congress became The House of Commons, but the common man generally could not afford to go there.
I do not believe (beliefs!) that our present system of electing representation will correct itself: I do not believe it is likely to become incorruptible on it’s own. But at the same time, I have little hope that limiting their terms in office will do away with the influence peddling, graft and corruption, either.
Another consideration is the big money mechanisms that fund elections. If they cannot have brother John for another term, won’t his brother Bill or cousin Richard do just as well? The money will flow in the direction of the “members of the club” that might be influenced to vote in the interests of influence. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been there: what matters is their influence today, and of course…the price.
It is perhaps from observing this over and over that lead H. L. Mencken to say:
I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.”
So it is with a transcendence of the premise that I leave the question of term limits with you. What I bring up instead is the question of why people polarize on the issue one way or the other in the first place.
I. Making an Assessment
We all begin as children collecting bits and pieces of information (or misinformation) to be used in the on-going formation and development of cognitive systems. Many of our beliefs do not come to us through trial and error or any other scientific process: they come to us in the manner of instruction (and explanation) based on beliefs that have, over a course of time, become institutionalized. It does not mean that they are true: it simply means that they are “accepted” as being true.
Within a culture, it is considered correct to believe in, and abide by, what we have established through institutional authority. Further, it is often considered wrong to even question such authority. It is likely that you, the reader, hold to certain beliefs that are not of your own making, and some of these beliefs may seem absolute and immutable. You will be uncomfortable questioning them, and further you will feel uncomfortable should anyone else question them, either.
But If a concept is not allowed to be questioned, what discovery is being kept from your thinking? What is so unreasonable about just asking questions? Is that not that very thing that drives the scientific community? Don’t we expect some kind of progressive thinking to occur among scientists? But even the scientific community does not always have the tools they need to make correct assessments. Prior to the invention of the microscope, you would expect there to be very little understanding of microbes, and you would be correct.
Scientists and other thinkers have from time to time missed the target completely, arriving at conclusions that later prove to be invalid. But in the meantime, being wrong does not deter them from believing they are correct in their assessments of the world around them. This same principle applies particularly well to many areas of thought other than the scientific. Just consider the overwhelming differences of what humans actually believe in the dinner table taboo topics of religion and politics.
The histories of both show remarkable changes in attitudes over time, yet devout practitioners often hold to insights they think (believe) to be timeless. To not recognize the evolution of principle concepts in these areas would not place us in an intelligently advantageous position for overview, and conclusions drawn might not be accurate.
Since accuracy is often erroneously devalued in the face of presumed correctness, then it should logically bring the dogmatic stance of practically all ideologies under question. After all, there are so many of them and so diverse and conflicting with each other that it only makes sense that at least some of them have to be wrong. In fact, there are so many that no one group anywhere on this planet represents a majority. That means that no matter what you believe, most of the other people on this planet think you are wrong.
Well, all dogmas are wrong except (mine/yours), aren’t they? It doesn’t matter how intelligent they may sound to others: if ideas seem incompatible with whatever some other person believes to be absolutely true, it is not likely that they will be able to reconcile the differences. They will have limited ability to think anything other than that the other opinions are incorrect.
“All ideologies are idiotic, whether religious or political, for it is conceptual thinking, the conceptual word, which has so unfortunately divided man.”–Jiddu Krishnamurti
But if I think something is true, am I not likely to build on that, and use it as a measure to test other things that I am not so sure of? Exactly! If we think it true, we may not be able to think it theory. If we think it theory, we may not be able to think it true.
II. Orders, Disorders, Beliefs, and Pre-suppositions
Contemporary society has observed and named what is believed to be many kinds of disorders. Some of the problematic cognitive issues are tagged as associated with certain physical; neurological, environmentally induced, or other emotionally related handicapped methods of processing information.
It does not matter if the information processing is cerebral, mechanical or electronic: the term “Garbage in, Garbage out” (coined as a teaching mantra by George Fuechsel) while in reference to how we use computers, it is reasonable to recognize the parallels to other ways we deal with data and “input”. Since the human brain does “compute” data, then there might be some potential hazards associated with “learning” something that is incorrect: if you put erroneous information in your head (or computer), you will be likely to draw erroneous conclusions with your thinking (or processing).
A concern here is that we can process misinformation just as easily as we process correct information. Superstitions, urban legends, and other myths seem to abound, and pop up in conversations frequently in such matter-of-fact ways even though they may not be matters of fact at all in spite of what some people believe.
Operating on misinformation is so commonplace that it is perceived to be normal. What I might call belief disorders are not always recognized as disorderly at all. Historically, there have been many outrageous and naive theories floating around in the heads of humankind. An example of this would be the archaic theory of spontaneous generation:
A more modern example would be the political expediency of trying to blame the British Petroleum Gulf oil disaster on environmentalists, and the Environmental Protection Agency:
III. Templates and Patterns
Cookie cutters! If the cookie cutter is not believed to be of the correct dimensions, it would not exist. We have all kinds of templates and measuring tools to assess not only products and materials, but each other as well.
The very templates themselves that we use to assess and judge input data for our belief systems are usually designed and regulated by what we already have been taught to believe, and by what we already have chosen to believe. In other words, our existing beliefs want to filter out any new information that is in conflict with what we already think is true.
Such a filtering system for what we can accept as fact is not necessarily altogether a bad thing: it could be dangerous to not be able to discriminate between hot and cold; sharp and dull. Our senses protect us that way. But if our information is not correct, we could get cut or burned, couldn’t we?
That we were taught or that we have chosen to believe something, is not predicated so much in facts, as much as it is our acceptance of the information being used as facts. Beliefs are amplified whenever we use them and they seem to work as with the fictional Dumbo the Flying Elephant’s magic feather.
In the story, that the feather had any magical abilities was an illusion, but Dumbo truly believed it did. It was the courage that Dumbo got from this belief that allowed him to do what he was already physically capable of with or without the feather. But as long as he believed in the feather, he would never attempt to fly without it.
IV. Significant; Worthy, and Safe
There are some things that all normal people have in common. Take a look at Maslow’s hierarcy of needs:
But within this normalcy, people are also different, and behave differently. There have been many studies of motivation and behavior. Temperament and personality might tell us a lot, but so does the particular style a person takes on within a (family, business, community) culture.
But styles can be learned. They can be modified to change significantly to another style altogether, and can be worn like masks. Whenever the observable behavior characteristics of a particular style are demonstrated, others can identify primary needs specifically:
- (Driver: controls emotions; assertive) To not lose control;
- (Expressive: emotive; assertive) to receive applause;
- (Amiable: emotive; not assertive) to not be hated;
- (Analytic: controls emotions; not assertive) to not be wrong.
Although a style may not be as fixed and firm as a temperament type, a person tends to follow certain patterns identifiable within the style they are using. So as the primary need may be demonstrated through actions, there are logical corresponding primary fall-back behaviors that are likely to occur when their primary need is not met:
- (Driver) becomes autocratic;
- (Expressive) attacks;
- (Amiable) acquiesces;
- (Analytic) avoids.
(Note: if the primary fallback behavior does not work to make tension go away, it is normal to try another behavior; then another, and another, etc).
So what should we add to Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs? His work is older than me, and it seems useful enough, so I’m not here to tear it down. But consider this: self-actualization, esteem, and a sense of belonging are vulnerable on a daily basis as we go through life. Most of us are aware of that.
If we arrive at a sense of any of these needs, it is logical that we don’t want them destroyed. So, in a sense, we must add something to Maslow’s safety need: we need for our beliefs in our own self image and the belief of acceptance by others to also be protected. Sometimes, our concepts of status in areas of significance and worthiness are not altogether accurate: sometimes they are contrived.
As emphasis and insistence on the certainty of any of these is heightened by circumstance, we can become irrationally fearful of losing status. It is in the very arena of social need that a person can slip from normality into something bordering on the fringe of the sociopath. Whenever beliefs come under question (whether they are illusions, or not), one of the greatest needs will become for the beliefs themselves to be safe.
Observation suggests that some people fear that if their beliefs cannot be made safe, then neither can their sanity. This opens up the risk that if others don’t believe like them, then the others might be (even must be) insane.
If two people that think each other is crazy are having an argument, you may well have a comedy; a tragedy, or at least a melodrama. Bystanders might often see both sides as a little crazy, wouldn’t you think?
“Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” –Mark Twain
V. An Upside-Down Debate
In a formal debate, a resolution is proposed. It is proposed to be a change from the way things are to a (perceived) progressively better set of conditions. The argument in favor of the change is asking that we keep an open mind, and consider the risk. In a good affirmative presentation, the risk is presented to be a calculated one with potential hazards recognized, and kept to a minimum under their plan. Those who consider the proposed change to be positive and argue for it, are taking the liberal position.
The conservative position is to defend the status quo. They take the negative side, and are to point out that the risks involved with the resolution are too great. Further, they are to insist that things would be better if left as they are than they would be under the newly proposed change. In some cases, the negative will offer an alternative proposal, but the definitions of terms used in the debate are expected to be set by the affirmative side (and they really need to do that in opening arguments).
Both the way things are, and they way things are thought in need of being changed are very much determined by what people fear will happen (in their opinion) otherwise. Those who assert the need for change fear the worsening of conditions unless something progressive is done to correct or improve upon the way things are now. Those who oppose change fear the likelihood of damage brought about by the change, and also fear the unknown risks that might occur due to the proposed (and heretofore untried and unproven) change.
Recently there were some debates about drilling for petroleum in areas where previously drilling had been restricted or denied altogether. The law of the land (status quo) had been set down to shield us from the earlier fear that drilling in these protected areas could result in very harmful and irreparable damage to the environment. The previously set rules had gained acceptance to some degree because it was believed that unless we conserve (be conservative with) the very place we have to live, we are doomed.
The new fear was our dependence on foreign oil (and particularly, a dependence on perceived enemies to provide us with oil). Three very important factors were not well known by the general public at the time of the debates:
a. A very large and significant amount of the petroleum imported into “America” was coming from the foreign countries called Canada and Mexico (the other two North American countries), and a good portion more from our neighbors in South America:
b. The anticipated bonus from these newly proposed drilling sites would actually affect the consumer in only a small way, and be a long time coming.
c. None of the oil being purchased by the United States of America was coming from oil fields controlled by the Taliban, the Al-Qaeda or by Osama Bin Laden (using same reference to “a” above), but the perception widely held was that we must stop buying oil from the same people that (presumably) blew up the World Trade Center (notwithstanding that what is generally believed to have happened on 9-11 is under question).
The old fear was irreparable damage; the new fear was dependency. Each fear was pivotal in the positions and the rhetoric of the debates.
The irony of the situation was, that the liberal position (proposing a progressive change, and asking that we take the risk) was being argued by people we call “conservatives”. The conservative position (defend the status quo-the position of conservation & the law of the land) was being argued by people we call “liberals”.
Perhaps that incongruity was pointed out by others in some major newspaper, or magazine, or some prominent newscast or editorial. Maybe it was, I don’t know. I never saw or heard of it if they did. It seems that it would be unlikely and irregular for me to have been the only one of about seven billion people on this planet to have noticed, but I did notice.
The templates were inverted, but generally nobody questioned it. Maybe there was some kind of half-time change in the goal posts: it didn’t seem to make any difference to the congress which direction the ball was going in as long as their team was carrying it.
The conclusion I drew from it was that folks may not have a very clear idea (and therefore not a very clear ideology) about the differences between liberal and conservative. The important thing to note is that people “believe” themselves to be liberal or conservative, and it is in their political dogma to hold true to their guns regardless of the question or debate topic at hand. They may not actually recognize a liberal or a conservative thought if it smacked them in the face, but they will go with the call of their cheerleaders.
Those who always intend to take the conservative or liberal side before hearing the question seem to me to be a little bit foolish, but that is just an opinion. I suspect their preconceived notions and tendencies are locked into place by their dogmatic beliefs, one way or the other.
In light of the recent disaster in The Gulf of Mexico, the argument calling for a sense of conservation out of a fear of irreparable environmental damage has gained status.
VI. An Irrational Fear of “Intellectual Enemies”
Perhaps some truths are known. But those who are often loudest about what they think they know are not coming from truth as much as dogma. For example, I have noticed a trend among those who speak strongly against Darwin’s propositions: they have not read them.
Those who have read them tend to be open to some progressive changes in thinking, and are extremely cautious of “thinkers” who seem to be going backward and losing ground. It appears that regressive thinkers have no grasp of the text at hand, and (by plague of dogma) have no intentions of getting one.
In my youth, I heard sermons by preachers attacking Nietzsche, primarily due to the 19th century quote (almost always taken out of context by those who have no true interest in studying philosophy): “God is dead”. I actually discovered through conversations and questioning a couple of them that they had never actually read anything Nietzsche wrote, but went by excerpts from “dispensational” sermon outlines. For an explanation, see:
To these two well-healed benefactors of the Protestant Reformation, I would remind them it was Friedrich Nietzsche who said:
“All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”
I think there may be a whole lot of truth in that statement, but if Nietzsche was a liar by so saying, then Martin Luther’s entire reformative revolution against the Roman Catholic Church would then also have been a lie.
Is it reasonable to presume that if you object to one thing a man says, you should automatically discount everything he has to say? No, it isn’t. It may seem natural to react in such a way, and it even may be a common practice. but that does not make it reasonable, and it does not make it right.
If a man is wrong about something he believes, it might be unfair to presume him wrong about everything he believes. Conversely, if a man is right about one thing he says, it is not safe to assume he is also right about everything he says. So, to give unquestioning loyalty to anyone’s thoughts other than your own resigns you to become prejudicial of any and all conflicting opinions whether they be true or not. Such is the pathway to the polarization into dogmatic territories, and it is exactly what keeps that devil nourished.
In this country, one of the more shameful examples of attacking perceived “intellectual” enemies was the dogmatic fear mongering during the McCarthy Era. Perception management then was intentionally driven by lies, half truths and innuendos. See:
“Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films were made by God, or that specific software was coded by him. Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything –anything – be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in” –Sam Harris
There are many dogmas. No doubt, the influence and the power of certain fragmented mythologies (including all religiously and politically biased texts) affects and controls the thinking of people around the world. It does so first by establishing and “validating” what is believed, then by continuing to reinforce and sustain those same beliefs. That any of it has a sound footing in historical fact or scientific discovery does not seem to make any difference whatsoever.
It is a fundamental flaw of all religions that they are based more in stories than in the dynamic teachings that can be found in them. Nor do many of them actually understand very much about their own true history. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all Based on ancient stories of Jehovah, but none of these religions acknowledge the historical development in stories that precede all of them. Though they will not admit it, there are strong historical discrepancies in their dogmas. For those who would want to know:
More currently, even the actual history of the church itself is very much different from what most churches are willing to teach about it. Furthermore, the various denominations differ so greatly with each other about dogma (and sometimes violently…in the name of Jesus) that it is very unlikely that they will ever reach a consensus that jointly embraces their own true histories.
Even so, many insist and depend on the use of scriptural references to provide the guidelines of moral instruction to our youth. But since the secular world and the religious world are at such odds with each other over what is believed to be true, such influences (and the infinitely diverse interpretations thereof) may well be at the root of a good bit of what may be seen to be disorderly about our social systems.
It should come to no surprise to you that historically humans kill each other in wars fueled by rationale little more than the differences in the ways mothers teach their children to pray, and for all of the bigoted and prejudiced opinions of what is presumed to be the meaning of what the children pray for. This sad practice is a cornerstone of “civilization”.
The deductive reasoning married to many so called religious practices, while presumed to be intelligent, produce less than intelligent products: people have been tortured, burned at the stake, drowned, hanged and crucified due to some righteous indignation giving all honor to, and credit for such crimes to a higher and supernatural power. It seems disorderly to me that such inhumane (and unchristian) acts could be followed by the singing of: “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”, but it has happened.
That is why I have more than once referred to such breakdowns in logic to be the result of belief disorders. But by saying so, it isn’t correct to presume I see no value in religion: the wisdom of thought that can lead to attitudes of decency would be a wonderful boon to mankind if decency would ever find its common denominator. Unfortunately, each religion ( and the sects and denominations within) take for granted that they have the only acceptable answer to the question, and the rest of the world is wrong. As I’ve said, we fight wars over it.
All religions have some basis in the urgency of (what is believed to be) ethical behaviors. In and of itself, that is not all bad. But worldwide, the bent to ethical behavior is demanded by compliant ritual rather than any commitment or want, or love, or desire for decency. Additionally, it is driven by a hope of success setting prohibitions in place to restrict both the actions and thought of those who would act or think differently than “us”.
VIII. “Individualistic” Conformity
Some years ago when it seemed important to me to pay dues to a half dozen professional and trade associations, I attended a lot of meetings and heard a lot of speakers. I have been a speaker and have introduced other speakers, so I am not completely oblivious to the dynamics between speakers and audiences.
I remember very few speeches in any detail, much less the key points of them. Dozens (perhaps hundreds) of times I’ve heard the conclusion approaching with the following words:
“If you forget everything else I’ve said here today (or tonight), remember this…”
That’s it. I do not remember what any of them said next, but I know it must have been important (or at least they wanted me to believe it was important). I don’t even remember much of what they said before their powerful and spellbinding conclusion either.
But I do remember a particularly strong introduction because it was so much like so many others that it must be formula. Also, I remember it because I talked with several people after the speech, and gathered some interesting and diverse opinions of the speaker. That made a memorable impression on me. Part of the introduction was something like:
“He is a rugged individualist; a man of uncompromising principles and unbending faith. He is a fearless fighter for what he knows is right. He is a man of action and determination; a highly successful businessman and civic leader…”
After the speech, some others (unknowingly) translated that introduction for me by their comments on his speech. One lady was obviously enthralled by him and said something like:
“Wasn’t he great? He has such high values and principles. No wonder he is so well respected. And he won’t put up with anything he knows is wrong, either! I wish we had more leaders like him. Everything he touches turns to gold.”
Across the room, a man I’ve known for a long time and who I expected might have some ideological differences with our keynote speaker said:
“I thought that narrow-minded, self centered (stick-in-the-mud) would never shut up! ‘Rugged individualist’, Hell! He looks like the poster child for ‘Dress For Success’ Magazine! What a cornball! And businessman? All he’s ever done was (rape) small companies and sell off their assets and contracts. He’s put more honest people out of work than the depression! What a (bag of wind)!”
I remember the generalities of those comments because they were so outrageous and so distinctly prejudiced. I honestly remember nothing else about the speech except that the speaker told a slightly off color joke early on, and it seems like it didn’t make any particular point, or have anything else to do with what was saying. I remember that it was awkward, and the audience gave up kind of a forced and uneasy laughter.
The only other thing of note I recollect was how much everybody in the room looked alike and (in spite of their differences) acted alike. It was as if they all were saying: “Me! Me! Look at me! Approve of me! Please!” The variance was with those who had certain lapel pins of distinction: they showed great camaraderie with each other, and great condescension to those without them.
The need for the appearance of conformity (and not “rugged individualism”) is quite powerful. It is powerful because if you do not look like the rest of the the pack or heard, you might get pushed out. The alpha leaders and bell cows will set the standards for you, just as the standards were set for them. As long as they believe in what they are doing, they will continue for as long as they can. When they quit believing, they will stop as soon as they can.
IX. Hooray For Our Side!
Nobody is born with a sense of patriotism: it has to be learned. And even so, there have been those who question the validity of such learning because of how we come by it:
“Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.” –George Bernard Shaw
In no “civilized” country will a man be left entirely to decide for himself what is fair and decent: he is regularly told what to think; what to believe, what to want, and how to act. It is a regularly unrecognized condition. A man may often refer to himself as “free”, but might be a slave to the notions in his head, and probably doesn’t even understand how those notions got there in the first place. Some of the most compliant oriented people I know often say things like: “Ain’t nobody gonna tell me what to think!” When I hear that, I am usually suspicious.
It is often risky (but not always wrong) to question any hierarchy that (because you allow it) has authority over you. Without having ever done so, there would’ve never been a United States of America in the first place.
Those who grabbed that ball and ran with it were intensely questioning both political and religious dogma all over the place! Certainly, the authority of the King and the Church of England came under question. And, while under the spell of a new found freedom of thought, these revolutionaries even questioned the dogmatically established practices of war itself. There was no longer any authority that could make them do otherwise.
It is perhaps the confusions over the authority for the rules of behavior that needs to be shown in a clearer light. In doing so, we might begin to question some of the authorities that rule over us.
The American revolution gave lip service to the idea of no taxation without representation. Further, they felt that by being represented, exorbitant taxes would not be imposed. Ha!
When was the last time you bought a nice bottle of wine? Did it cost you ten dollars? Twenty dollars? Fifty or maybe one hundred-fifty dollars? What you paid was of little benefit to the man or woman who picked the grapes: they probably got somewhere between a nickel and twenty cents of it no matter how much you paid.
The overt and hidden taxes combined exceed any tax percentage inequity felt in the pre-revolution colonies. The repetition of this scenario related to other products and services would exhaust both of us. What truck drivers have to pay today for diesel fuel is outrageous and would be criminal by any honest ethical standards. And the cost (tax) is passed on to you through almost everything you eat, wear, or use that is shipped by truck to any store anywhere.
Thinkers and writers in the past have tried to point out the need for a caution to unquestioned authority, and for the ease with which such authority becomes dogmatically sustained. But generally, they have met with no grand results persuading the massive human population of earth to question anything. Oh certainly, individual leaders are questioned now and then, but not always the hierarchy within which they operate. Furthermore, it is very unlikely that they ever will: it is like trying to push a rope up hill.
Mark Antony’s funeral oration from “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare may be the definitive literary example of effective rhetoric. In the play, he has masterfully gained an audience that is unaware of his true feelings and the true motive of his speech. His words are convincing and persuasive, and his success is overwhelming. Here is the soliloquy:
Civic and political speakers today face the reality of being pre-labeled and pre-judged, good or bad, not so much by what they have to say, but what is publicly believed to be their party (and thus presumed to be their moral) affiliation. But that disadvantage is because we are in a real world where no playwright or dramatist can arrange outcomes with the stroke of a pen.
Even if persuaded by strong rhetoric, the rhetorical must somehow dovetail with something you believe (whether it is true, or not). The success or failure of a political speech often may well lie more in what an audience does not know they believe than it does in what they think they believe.
If a man thinks he wants a red convertible sports car, he may state his reasons, but none of them are likely to be at the core of the matter: what he wants is what he is hoping will be the reaction (and thereby benefits) of being seen in it. And that leads us to the sum and substance of all successful advertising and political campaigns: it is the same for both.
XI. Wrapping Up
People build on belief disorders just as they do with all the other information in their belief systems. Often as not, because of (and in spite of) beliefs, they move further and further away from anything empirical or conclusive. Conflicting dogma continues to divide people in spite of periodic efforts by a few who seek peaceful resolutions that could draw people closer together.
But within the many camps of the dogmatic, truth never seems to lie in the arbitrary emotional opinions of the agreeing, or in the disagreeing since neither have much chance of becoming empirical evidence anyway, and do not arrive out of empirical thinking. Maybe it is too much to expect. Maybe it isn’t.
Maybe…just maybe as people we can improve on how we deal with each other, but that would require a genuine desire to listen, and to want to understand the real problems others face. That would require an open mind now and then which is sometimes viewed as a liberal position. But be aware that to oppose term limits for Congress would be to defend the Status Quo–which would be the conservative position.
As long as we imprison ourselves in such darkness as the things we are expected to think, we will not become a bright thinking population. The growth and development of our culture(s) will continue to remain dependent on belief disorders that continue to lead to misunderstanding.
“The mindlock is what you have been trained to believe. The metaphrand is what you can choose to believe. Pick only the best stuff to put in there. But try to be real. We all have to get along. And what a joy it is when we do.”—John Kaminski