I have learned the hard way that being silent implies not only acceptance, but agreement. Now, I think silence, as a passive response, is highly overrated—especially by women. We want to get along. We don’t want to rock the boat. We want to be liked. We don’t want to be seen as the bitchy one. We are taught “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” This little aphorism is an impediment to self-possession, to our growth as an individual, and to human progress as a whole. It teaches people to shut-up when they should be speaking up. It is especially useful to shut women up, because women are often more concerned with being nice, kind and compassionate. You don’t often hear little boys repeating this aphorism to one another, yet little girls will do so from the instant they are taught it.
Silence, in fact, is not golden in so many situations. Silence may be a kind response if you don’t like my new hair-do, but our culture has taught us to choose silence instead of confrontation, far too often. For example, if someone makes a hateful remark, whether from sheer ignorance or with calculated deliberation (e.g. a racist, sexist or homophobic comment) and no one speaks up to challenge them, the speaker goes away believing everyone thinks the way they think; everyone feels as they feel. In these cases, silence is not an option unless we, deep down, really do agree with them. We must immediately challenge hate and ignorance quickly and firmly, each time we encounter it. And, we must support each other in this endeavor. This is even more important when there are others around who may be influenced via the sheeple effect (“everyone else thinks so, so it must be right”). Too, people who make erroneous statements about important issues (evolution, stem cells, violence), whether out of ignorance or malice, should fully expect to be met with facts, rather than rumor or propaganda. Silence is useful at strategic moments, and also for those simple kindnesses to one another, but in cases where it could be construed as “acceptance”, there is no place for silence.
~ The Thoughtful Cynic
What would our world be like if we ceased to worry about ‘right’ and ‘wrong,’ or ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ and simply acted so as to maximize well-being, our own and that of others? Would we lose anything important?
This quote is from Sam Harris. It holds within it the germ of a game changer for humanity, as a whole.
If humans were to repeat this as their mantra, if each of us were to choose to spread this idea constantly to everyone we know, the world would change within a matter of a few years. This is how change arises and comes into being. WE make it happen through conscious choices.
How do we make this the meme of the decade? of the century? of our species? Please help by spreading this idea, exactly, and by preparing yourself to sensibly argue against the inane objections anyone could possibly have against the future we would create with this sole objective in mind.
~ The Thoughtful Cynic
Useful Arguments to Support This Mindset
A friend just made this objection, which is the one I most frequently encounter in discussions about this concept:
Objection: “This is utilitarianism. Something that can be supported broadly but which runs into problems in more extreme situations.
For example, it can be justifiable to maximise well being of the many at the expense of the few. And how would you do the calculus anyway? How would you weight forms of well being and harm appropriately so that nobody who didn’t deserve it — even just one person — ends up holding the shit end of the stick?
The Roman games, after all, were a utilitarian method of generating “well being.” The entire population of the Empire entertained (and many of them employed) throughout the year at the terminal expense of a few losers.”
Several responses are available to this type of objection: (There will always be a person who believes they look brilliant if they point out flaws which are readily apparent to everyone from the outset. People with this type of ego-need are a hindrance to progress and change and need to be outed quickly. Spotting flaws is easy, whereas actually solving problems is hard. Either they participate in the solution, or they take their ball and go elsewhere. We must make it clear we will not tolerate people who tell us this is impossible— Because IT IS POSSIBLE.)
This argument could be made about any proposed systemic change to the status quo. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to find flaws and I grow annoyed with people who do so without providing any solutions of their own. The genius thinkers don’t bother pointing out flaws without also providing solutions. The simplistic argument of “It isn’t perfect” means nothing if something better is not offered in its place.
For all of humanity to live with the ideal of “maximizing the well-being of all” as our goal, the world would be a vastly different, and better, place within just a few years. I have yet to hear of any concept being offered that would provide a more comprehensive planetary change.
Vaccinations have an ill effect on an extremely small number of people, as well, yet we have logically chosen to assume this risk because the weighted benefit for all of humanity is evident. Using this illogical objection to maximizing flourishing (offered by the objector), we should choose to not utilize vaccinations because we can’t implement them *perfectly*. Until we have something better, we will stick with vaccinations to rid ourselves of those diseases which wipe out massive numbers of human beings.
We can look at our societal models in the same vein. At this time we have nothing even close to a vaccine to bring us past the point of those human choices which wipe out massive numbers of humans, nor those human choices which exploit massive numbers of humans inhumanely for the good of the few. Making a choice to change our mindset to one of maximizing flourishing for all would be a a game changer.
People like to have hard and fast rules … For many it is too difficult a task to understand all of the potential consequences of a decision that involves many people and try to maximize the well being of all. That doesn’t break down to very specific rules (e.g. thou shalt not kill) that people can easily follow every day and feel that they are morally justified in their actions. It doesn’t for example fit well with capitalism where people are rewarded for accumulating as much wealth as possible while other people starve to death. Under our current social philosophy in the US, a business man can go to sleep peacefully because he didn’t physically murder anyone that day even though his business practices indirectly contributed to the starvation of others. Under utilitarianism, business owners would have to consider more than just themselves.
…when I have just finished an incredible book that has whisked me away to places unknown, where people I didn’t know just a few days ago have taken me into their most personal lives and embraced me as their confidante, their friend, their foe—and at that moment, I look around me, having been profoundly changed forever by my experience with this book, and I see everyone else carrying on their lives as normal, as if the world didn’t just shift momentously, never to be the same again. It really can be traumatic.
We all live our lives in our own heads…
~ The Thoughtful Cynic
I wish there were a song that could become mainstream, sung by someone wildly hip and popular like Adele, that was about women standing together, and for each other, as sisters around the world. I am serious. Music transcends culture in many cases and we really need young women on board.
~ The Thoughtful Cynic
“Trust me…”, ”Honestly…”, ”Actually…”, “To tell you the truth…”, “Truthfully…”, “With all sincerity…”
These are all red flags and make me play much closer attention to what the person is saying. More often than not, they preface an exaggeration or lie.
Pay attention. It pays big dividends.
~The Thoughtful Cynic
The movies and books I love are great to re-watch. I glean something new if I take the time to do it, but there is also a sad longing I experience when I realize I will never be able to read a book for the first time again, or watch an especially moving film for the first time again. There is a certain beauty in that unfolding process that can never be recaptured. Whenever I read more about our understanding of deliberately erasing memory, I always think this would be a great use of the technique — to allow us to re-experience the deep and meaningful experiences, for the first time, again.
~ The Thoughtful Cynic
I believe there is a balancing mechanism operating within everything, from the micro to the macro. It is a bit akin to the karmic principle, but I am not talking about things going up/down or “he’ll get his” revenge kind of thing. I mean that everything is constantly striving toward balance. Exact opposites offset everything. Whenever something is out of balance, there is something equally out of balance to offset it. This applies to physical systems, belief systems, political structures, dark matter…everything. I believe it transcends the physical and natural world and carries over to the realm of thought and beliefs.
I suspect this is, in part, my own way of trying to make sense and logic of the world. I can see echoes from some areas of deep interest that have come at different times in my life:
* Spending an inordinate amount in nature
* For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction
* The Buddha’s middle path
* Some of the earlier traditions of seeking a place of neutrality
* Jung’s opposites
I haven’t written all of it out, but have pieces of it here and there. Hopefully I will have a chance to lay it all out before I dismiss it for something else. It is a pleasurable belief in the meantime. :)
~ The Thoughtful Cynic
I am adding something here. A gentleman in one of my philosophy groups asked me something concerning this belief and I want to preserve my answer to him, here. Maybe I will be able to gather more of my thoughts in one place if I cut/paste stuff together.
”more humans are born than die. Where’s the “exact opposite” to human births that is equal in quantity?”
I have a feeling you may have already answered your own question but I will toss this in, anyway. Born/Die is an excellent example of the balancing principle. To us, 80 or 100 years seems like a significant time span, but in the whole scheme of things, it doesn’t even make a blip on the line of Time. So, it depends on the time span over which you view humans being born and dying. Born/die doesn’t balance out in an hour, or a day, or a week or a year. Actually, very few things ever actually reach a point of balance. If they do, they are soon out of balance again, but the friction we experience is the striving toward that place of balance. Born/die balancing is occurring right now and has always been occurring; with every breath you take you are one breath closer to balance in the born/die equation.
The balance to which I refer is a balancing principle wherein all things are striving towards balance constantly. It is the cosmic primoridial drive or some weird phrase like that. I feel it is likely humans will one day become extinct, which would, in the end, balance it all out permanently. And even then, the existence of humans would not be a blip, or would be a very small incidental blip, on the line of Time. Until the extinction point, eventually all humans who are born, will die. If humans were born but never died, the balancing principle would soon be out of whack, which may happen if we become able to develop significant life extension technologies.
— ~ The Thoughtful Cynic
The idea of teaching people how to develop a personal and conscious ‘code of conduct’ has held my interest for a few decades. Most people adopt and adhere to already established group codes of conduct, which (with rare exception) releases them from grappling with the big questions facing humanity. This is, I feel, one of the fundamental flaws of our current model of society. When the individual isn’t required to personally consider the morality, humanity or consequences of their own choices, actions and beliefs, they become easily manipulated and lazy.
When one adopts an established code that is currently in vogue, it almost always leads to belief in the superiority of some individuals over others, discrimination against those not in the currently superior group, and sometimes to extreme measures like genocide. Any established group code is problematic, be it political, religious or based on any other non-empirical criteria.
Reality’s reflection to action tells you if your pattern fits.
“I always feel stupid” - Richard Feynman
Pretty amazing someone so brilliant didn’t have an ego incapable of recognizing this feeling. I admire Feynman, despite his misogynistic tendencies.
I think the smarter the person, the better able s/he is to realize the inadequacy of his/her intelligence.
Maybe because the smarter you are, the more difficult the problems you see and want to solve, but the difficulty of the problems increases more than your ability to solve them.
Recognizing one’s ignorance is a certain sign of intelligence.