You simply can’t understand the world by being an absolutist, and yet this sort of “thinking” is everywhere today. The irony, of course, is that this isn’t really thinking at all – it is the manifestation of the inability to hold two opposing viewpoints in one’s mind at the same time.
I touched on this idea in an earlier post, but I keep seeing this play out in public platforms, sometimes by people who clearly aren’t stupid, with often dire results. I just don’t get it. Nowhere is this more depressingly obvious than in politics, a cultural battlefield I try to avoid at all costs, and yet, try as I might, I can’t help but be bludgeoned by this toxic poison simply by being alive.
Let’s take the sentence “X is bad, Y is good” and insert pretty much anything to illustrate how narrow minded and self-limiting this kind of thinking is. Here are some random examples:
- White people are bad, black people are good.
- Cats are bad, dogs are good.
- Democrats are bad, Republicans are good.
- Poor people are bad, rich people are good.
- Men are bad, women are good.
- Christians are bad, Muslims are good.
- Microsoft is bad, Apple is good.
- Northerners are bad, Southerners are good.
- Science is bad, Creationism is good.
- Vanilla is bad, chocolate is good.
I could go on and on here, but you get the idea. Each one of these statements is patently ridiculous, yet people build their whole identities around this shit. The ubiquity of social media just exacerbates the whole thing, providing the perfect nourishing environment for hatred, xenophobia, tribalism and confirmation bias to flourish.
You are really depriving yourself from enjoying the full range of what this brief life has to offer with this kind of thinking. How about holding both opposing viewpoints in your mind at the same time when you’re examining any given problem?
It’s really not that difficult.