Step 1 – Fr. Barron’s Commentary:
This may be my favorite video Barron has ever made, but perhaps not for the reason you think…
Step 2 – My Commentary:
Let’s put the homosexual marriage issue aside for a moment – the issue has been done into the ground and I have little more to say about it at this time (“get the gov’t out of marriage altogether”; there, now you have the gist of it). Instead, I would like to focus on the first part of this video, namely the idea that discussion in the modern day quickly degrades to one side putting its fingers in its ears, saying “laa laa laa I can’t hear youuuu!”
There is no longer any such thing as discussion in America, especially among the formally educated. Censorship, often by way of shaming via words like “racist,” “unprofessional,” “discriminatory,” “hateful,” etc., ensures that we skirt the issues, conformity is established, and we aim at the feelings and pride of all those disagree before ever getting close to the meat of the moral or social argument. What does this mean for a vast majority of the college educated today? In my understanding, it means everyone has strong views, but few understand why these views are the right ones to hold (and many deny, even, that there are correct views at all).
A friend of mine the other day remarked, in response to the contention that David Stockman’s recent column was unusually truthful for the
Ministry of Propaganda New York Times, that it wouldn’t matter if the column was printed on the front page of the NYT every day the whole year, since the people are so complacent and intellectually lost that it would never make any difference. China censors from such scathing indictments of government officials and the ruling class, my buddy explained, because if similarly applicable words were printed there, the people would rise up and blood would flow in the streets. In America, we self-censor by denying any absolute truth, shouting down discussion with poorly-formed labels, and essentially doing anything possible to deny that reality is not how we wish it to be. Facebook has been a great example of this to me. Not only do I have good friends who have blocked me, I very often chided in person for things I have said on the social network. No mind to the content of what was being said, I am often told that “it is offensive” and that is the end of discussion. Unfortunately, there is no right not to be offended, dear reader – and perhaps it is time we be more offended by the disgusting goings-on in the world than to the way in which someone portrays it on a social media platform.
An experiment (which I cannot find on the internets at the moment) performed on monkeys in recent decades showed very well the principle that thought control by one group is unnecessary to controlling the thoughts of all. In the experiment, a group of monkeys was punished when one climbed up a ladder in the center of a cage to get food. Pretty soon, the monkeys would self-regulate within the group, viciously beating any monkey who attempted to get the food in the middle of the cage, no matter how starving the group became. I think we see this today, with the psychological center not being hunger, but closer to the forebrain – we all want to fit in, and shun that which does not align with our preconceptions and biases. A great example can be found here. I experience it quite commonly, where when I say something that can be typically seen as somewhat conservative, opponents of Republicanism come out in droves decrying me for being a Bush supporter. Similarly on the other side, many believe me to support Obama when I say something that doesn’t align with a typically “conservative” paradigm (Meanwhile, I tend to think that these two options are merely small differences in a very narrow spectrum). And when people find out I reject both paradigms and that my views are pretty uncommon? Ah, then the most vicious attacks begin…
I think this speaks of a few things: fear of confrontation & being wrong, for example. People are very uninterested in being labelled by their views, or seen as a “bully” or “tough guy” for having principles. More than that, it is a big ego burn to be wrong about something when you find someone who knows more than you do. But more than anything, it suggests we are losing the ability to listen. Perhaps it is education, perhaps it is mass media taglines and the rapidity with which we are expected to absorb information in the digital age, but our shallow academic heuristics are so ingrained that we have an inability to actually listen to each other. Many many times in college, after the first sentence a classmate would get out, there would be groans and hands would shoot up to disagree. This, before they had any chance to get out a real idea – often a first sentence is just a filler to gather thoughts and hold attention. As the person explains, very often, people who do not have that initial guard up find the position plausible, if not insightful. But it is very rare that someone will be open to that possibility. Generally, the 140-character maximum of Twitter seems to be the end of the “discussion,” even when no political-correctness-shaming has been voiced.
In my experience, the greatest positions to hold are not those that can be summed up in a clever tagline or easy sentence. The strongest views, those most defendable, sound, and accordingly radical, take time, virtue, patience, self-discipline, and serious careful contemplation to understand – and far more to master. But in our society, those do not hold sway, and thinking of an issue is often regurgitating a thoughtless line such as “Stop the Hate” for the gay marriage issue. But is hate the only possibility, here? If I have any sympathy for the “protect marriage by outlawing gay marriage” people, it is that the other side does not listen.
This topic is one I spend a majority of my time pondering the ways of the world examining, and I could accordingly branch into our empire of illusion, a culture that values conformity and facade much more than true diversity of opinion, and the crushing of anti-authoritarianism at all levels. But someone has to work around here…