I cannot blame a child for harbouring beliefs I see as damaging so why is it acceptable to blame an adult for the same thing? The only thing that’s changed is time. Time on the planet that we presume to have been spent by having their foolish beliefs knocked out of them by social pressure and established norms.
So, when one encounters an exception — someone that, for whatever reason, didn’t have X and Y knocked out of them, it comes as a shock and offence. Did nobody teach that guy not to pee while on public transport? Did they not tell you it’s wrong to make decisions based on race?
I think to myself: What’s abhorrent to me? What offends me deeply? Is it war, incest, racism, bigotry, apathy, rape? I know I’m right about my position on these things. I know it. My heart of hearts tells me it’s so. So I am right.
And if I’m wrong: will I let myself believe it?
We each believe we have a monopoly on the truth. We’re never willingly wrong. But what if you are wrong? An excellent quote from Kathryn Schulz’s TED talk “on being wrong“:
This is a catastrophe. This attachment to our own rightness keeps us from preventing mistakes when we absolutely need to, and causes us to treat each other terribly.
What’s most baffling and most tragic about this is that it misses the whole point of being human.
It’s like we want to imagine that our minds are these perfectly translucent windows and we just gaze out of them and describe the world as it unfolds… and we want everyone else to gaze out of the same window and see the exact same thing.
We hear opinions that we believe to be wrong; they may even offend us deeply. We can accept this though — we shrug it off as an opinion. “It’s just someone’s opinion. It’s fine. People can believe what they want.“
But when someone does something we see as terrible — when they enact the feelings and desires in their heads, this is when we get mad! “How dare he!”
What did he do wrong though? Was it the opinion, the feeling, the desire that was wrong, or was it simply acting on it that made it a sin?
This relativism and doubtfulness is unnerving.
Maybe that’s why it’s so soothing to work with absolutes: like the obvious truth that you should use semi-colons and stop relying on ASI… kidding! You see, even here, in our cushy little world there are still offensive beliefs.