Hi everyone. This video is not about my personal conservative or liberal views and it’s not about endorsing any particular candidate or issue. Instead, I want to present some ideas about extremism and critical thinking in politics.
Here in the United States, we are in a Presidential election cycle of extreme views and divisive attitudes, perhaps more so than ever before in our history. I’m not a political pundit but lately I feel like I’m becoming one because of how much we’ve been talking about politics on my podcast and how much work and research this has involved. It’s become more clearer than ever before that extremist views are not just something one encounters in destructive religious cults like Scientology. Politics is a passionate subject for some because they not only become invested in a particular candidate or issue, but because they feel that their very survival is predicated on the success or failure of that issue or candidate. This kind of passion can be dangerous when it crosses the line from rationality to fervor.
There is nothing wrong with having strong beliefs or ideals in any part of life, so long as those passions do not then exclude the rights of others to have different or even opposing ideas and allowing them to express those ideas rationally and openly. While this sounds great, what happens all too often is people on one side of an issue bash or insult those they disagree with or even attempt to frighten them or overwhelm them so they won’t communicate anymore. it equates to irrational behavior to silence opposition and that actually has shades of totalitarian thinking. In a free society, everyone has a voice and should have a chance to use it.
You don’t have to agree with or respect anyone’s ideas or beliefs or attitudes. Some are not worthy of any respect at all while others we can all see are fairly universal in nature. But in order for any open society to remain open, we have to respect people’s right to have their own views and beliefs and we have to allow them the chance to voice them if they so choose.
When it comes to politics, there are some ideas and guidelines that I think are important for everyone to know and keep in mind. It is in the best interest of most politicians, political movement leaders and even social justice warriors that you forget these things in order to sway your views exclusively towards their way of thinking rather than always keeping an open mind and being receptive to new ideas. People get involved in politics for all kinds of reasons, many of them very good and rational reasons, but sometimes politicians do not have your best interests in mind even when they are swearing on Bibles that they do. When it comes to swaying public opinion, there are very exact tools that are used by marketing and promotion people to subtly alter your thinking and gain your favor, even down to the color of clothes the politicans wear or the type of font that is used to show you new policy proposals. Not knowing those things, you can unwittingly fall for these tricks and miss the bigger picture.
(1) In politics, there is very rarely a clearly defined right or wrong. Politics is about different ideas. Your idea or philosophy about how your neighborhood, city, state or country should be run is just that – your idea. When it comes to us living together in groups, we have to respect the fact that other people have ideas too. Just because your idea sounds great or makes sense to you doesn’t make it right or mean it’s going to make sense to everyone. If you want your ideas to be adopted by the group, the best way to do that is by changing hearts and minds through rational arguments and using facts. People work best together when they understand what it is that they are trying to accomplish and how to get there. It’s not hard to incite a mob, but mobs are only good for tearing things down, not building them up.
(2) There is no one right way to do anything – there are usually lots of ways. Labels get thrown around to try to compartmentalize the way we look at the world. This is fine under certain circumstances but more often, it leads to us closing off whole avenues of how to solve problems or approach issues. When we adopt a philosophy or attitude or approach to doing something, the way we think tends to shut down any alternatives. It’s our way or the highway. This is the exact opposite of critical thinking and can lead to trying to fit round pegs in square holes just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
(3) We are often angry or frustrated about the wrong things. Time and again over the past couple of months, I have found myself incensed over some issue being reported on in the media or over some headline I’ve seen on social media or heard about in conversation. Yet each time, when I dug in and researched that subject to find out more about it, I found the facts totally jumbled around or even outright lies being told just to get me riled up. It’s not even a matter of “getting both sides” because often when you go beyond a surface level understanding of an issue, you are going to find more than two sides or no sides at all. Once the facts of the matter are laid out clearly, you’ll often find the thing you should be mad about is not at all what you originally thought was the real problem.
(4) In a democracy or republic, there are some people who are not going to get their way no matter what. It’s part of what it means to live in this kind of society, so disappointment is built in to the system for some. That’s the cost of living under majority rule. We are not always going to get our way and we have to get used to that.
(5) Deception and half-truths are an inherent part of the political process. When you are being presented with a candidate, a new law or a party position, that is being presented to you by human beings who have their own motivations and reasons for trying to change your mind. Any of us know that when we try to convince someone to our way of thinking, we are generally going to do so by painting our position in the best possible light. In a society where the majority rules, it is on the people to inform themsevles about the facts of any issue they are voting or deciding upon. If you leave it up to one person or gruop to tell you how to think, then you have no one but yourself to blame if you are lied to or deceived by that group. Yes, it’s wrong for them to lie or deceive you, but in our modern society where it is not hard to fact check almost anyone about anything, the responsibility for your opinions, decisions and actions is pretty much on you.
These are just a few things to keep in mind during this election cycle and in the months and years ahead. Critical thinking applies to politics just as much as it does to any other part of our life. I hope that these points can help you in making a more informed and rational decision rather than just going on your gut or what feels right.
Thank you for watching.