“I know you are, but what am I?”
It seems one cannot go very long in American social commentary without someone who pulls out the old tu quoque. The “you also” argument that lays false claims of hypocrisy at the feet of those we disagree with. Speak out against the iniquities in our financial apparatus? You better not have a bank account, much less own any stock in any company. Want to ween our culture off our addiction to fossil fuels? Why do you drive, or even ride, in gas-powered vehicles? Fight for racial equality in our country? Then you shouldn’t live in our horribly segregated suburbs.
Like many of the issues I bring up here at Hand of Ananke, this is not an uniquely American phenomena but we run with it better than anyone. It is most evident in our supposedly two-party system when one group wants to justify its behavior based on the other (and again, I never quite understood the notion of looking to those you see as morally lacking for moral guidance.) Rather than question our ever-growing surveillance state, Democrats like to point out that Republicans started it. Using one of the above examples, rather than admit that none of us has a choice but to be part of the economic system propped up by fossil fuels in some way, we use that as a bludgeon against those that would change it.
Equally frustrating is our talent for false equivalence. We treat any question as if it has two equally strong sides. Someone simply states that the evidence that hydrofracking is dangerous is flawed and suddenly we have a debate on our hands. The same is true when someone claims Keynsian economics don’t work despite decades of evidence otherwise. An anti-choice advocate merely needs to say “third trimester abortions are common” again, despite overwhelming evidence otherwise, and that somehow becomes, in the eyes of public discourse, a valid line of reasoning.
Again, this is not just an American thing, but we do it so well. We do it because we no longer, if we ever did, consider discourse and debate as a means of uncovering truth. Debates are contests to be won at any cost, even the cost of our well-being and our future. To admit you might be wrong, about any portion of your beliefs, is to suggest you are weak. Well I respectfully disagree. Weakness is not being able to handle the strain of altering your beliefs. It is being unable to admit you need to change. Weakness is riding in that same groove, no matter where it leads you, rather than finding the strength to jump or even break through to a new one.
We can keep in that groove, keep living in the land of “you also” and other forms of cognitive laziness. If we do, though, we are keeping on a path of eventual destruction, of the implosion of our community. We could go the other way though. We can swallow our pride and find real strength to rebuild our community, better, kinder, safer and stronger than ever. All it takes is a little courage and a little motivation.
- Many Americas (dish.andrewsullivan.com)
- Mainstream Media Coming Under Fire From All Angles (goldenageofgaia.com)
- Unbowed, foes of spying program vow to fight on (cnsnews.com)
- The NSA Debate (shelbyscrivner.wordpress.com)