Joe Thomson Black and White: The Breeding Ground for Causes*

People aren’t getting dumber - they’re getting louder. They’re becoming more confident in their shitty ideas and impervious to self-consciousness. Their lives are void of introspection and their opinions are the opposite of nuanced. People who can spew their opinions in your direction confidently have bought into the idea that thoughts are either right or wrong, black or white, or good or bad, because they have navigated their way successfully through a system that promotes discussions that only have two sides. 

To navigate the social world, I find myself having to form an opinion on everything, and that opinion has to be packaged into a concise ‘this or that,’ and then people have to decide whether they’re for it or ‘aginn’ it.  If you’re pro choice then you LOVE abortion, and if you’re pro life you’re a right wing nut. There is no in between; you have to form opinions based on reason and logic or emotion - these two cannot coexist within the same person and be synthesized to form a nuanced opinion that condones certain aspects of an issue and negates others.  You cannot voice that type of opinion and have anybody be attracted to it.

At the same time, we are in the age of causes, and every cause has a black and white perspective that implores you to help put an end to it.  Usually we casually go along with these causes until we forget about it and something else comes along to pique our interests.  But does that serve the best interests of the world?

Humans are essentially good. They are also stupid, obstinate, apathetic, lazy and ignorant. The capacity for human understanding is limited, but when approached from an emotional standpoint, it can be coerced into doing good.  For instance, all of the wrongs and evils ever perpetrated on a certain group of people have been soundly dismissed as wrong or evil once enough information was communicated to a large  group of people. 

The holocaust, slavery, and other genocides have been allowed to go on as long as the atrocities were not shown to the rest of the world.  Why would we care, as rational human beings, about what was going on in some far away land, unless it was shown to us in a way that appealed to our emotions?  That’s why humans are essentially good.  Very few of us are full of only bigotry and hatred.  Most of us just want to be left alone to live a pain free life. When we are shown pain and suffering, we can get on the right side of a cause, and when the wrong side of that cause has a face we can hate (i.e Hitler) we will be galvanized against that symbol and, by extension, the evil being perpetrated on the oppressed.

So all we need is evils to be perpetrated (which happens literally everywhere in the world), a symbol towards which we can direct our ire, and a manipulative campaign that tugs at our heartstrings.  Sounds a lot like the failed KONY 2012 campaign that fell apart because of the misappropriation of a cause that is not as simple as we wanted it to be.  This formula has been used for every military action in the last half of the 20th century and continues unimpeded.  A 'this or that' culture is what is making causes thrive, and that is not necessarily a good thing.

 

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