Archive for October 11th, 2009

What Certainty?

arn-the-knight-templarI’ve written before about how I am intrigued by the certainty that many people have concerning the truth and validity of their own beliefs and opinions.  It’s something you most often see concerning religious beliefs, where a person may feel that theirs is the only true religion and all others are somehow blind to this truth.  This certainty has led these people into many wars, has caused the ruination and deaths of those who do not share their belief systems and has carried them across many oceans to take the lands of native people, claiming it through some sort of divine right that their god alone grants to them.

This is the pattern of history, east and west, throughout the recorded ages.

I wonder about the certainty behind this belief, how these people can never doubt for a moment the veracity of their beliefs, can never ponder the sheer possibility that they may not be completely right.  I realize that in ancient times one had to have total commitment, both in beliefs and actions,  in order to merely survive, politically and physically.  I’m sure this is how this certainty was created and has evolved though time.  And as it moved through the ages, this certainty became a complete way of thought and a basis for the lives 0f many.

You should do this.  You must do that.  You will not do this.  You must live as I live.  Think as I think.  To do otherwise makes you a danger, a cleaver of my beliefs.

This certitude is evident today beyond the religious spectrum, although much of it stems from that background.  I see it as I peruse many blogs, particularly those of the extreme right.  They have absolute belief in the correctness of their opinions, absolute surety that they have only true path to a righteous life.  They alone can see the flaws in everyone else’s opinions, can clearly see the evil that lurks behind those with thoughts contrary to their own, can see ahead the future that is imminent without their guidance and pure thought.

They are, and always will be, right.

It seems, however to me, that there is a flaw inherent in this way of thinking.  This certainty leads these people to believe that they must be a majority, because how could so many people not see the rightness of their belief?  They come to  believe that their truth is the truth of the masses and they are therefore invincible.  It’s this arrogance of certainty that makes these people both dangerous and vulnerable.  By vulnerable, I mean that these people are so sure of widespread appeal of their beliefs that they become bolder and more vocal in airing their opinions which exposes to all the flaws in their logic.  They begin to show their weaknesses, their own words leading to a breakdown.

Take the tea-baggers, for example.  These are people who have passionate and absolute beliefs.  Unwavering.  Even when faced with irrefutable  evidence, they are totally convinced that theirs is the one and only true vision for America.  And as they yell louder, they begin to believe that, yes, we are the majority.

Look at us.  Hear our bellow.  We are so many: how can anyone doubt the rightness behind our arguments?

And they become louder and bolder and in doing so, expose their flanks, their flaws.  And inevitably they begin to lose steam as they are counter-attacked and have little, other than their certainty, with which to defend themselves.

Now, this is just one person’s observation and I have absolutely no certainty in its rightness.  What I don’t know could fill all the oceans and all the visible skies.  What I do know would barely fill my coffee cup.

Maybe knowing how limited I am makes me almost admire these people and their passion.  I don’t see the truth or logic behind their beliefs and am sometimes frustrated by their unwavering disbelief of fact and how easily they are manipulated, but I can’t deny their commitment.  It makes them truly formidable opponents to any sort of progress.  But so long as they keep screaming and we keep listening for the how’s and why’s,  hopefully a more inclusive vision of America will prevail.

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