Recently, I overheard two co-workers discussing whether our western philosophy of thought and logic has set-up a framework for us westerners that inherently arms us with the ability to “think outside the box.” As a man with THBXNK for a license plate, the gravitational pull of this banter was understandably strong. The basic point from person A, we’ll call him Phil, was that the ability to think critically is a social inheritance of our culture. Meaning; there are groups of people, or even whole societies that do not have this thinking ability taught or otherwise handed down to them. They are simply stuck in their cultural rut, and can never escape.
Phil believes, to paraphrase in my own words, they simply have no way of imagining their circumstances vastly different, and insodoing, begin to undertake the laborious process of affecting sweeping change that will improve their station in life or lift the tide that will raise all the ships in their cultural harbor.
The counter point to this view was held by person B, we’ll call him Tom. Tom asserted that it’s very dangerous territory to start rationalizing what a group of people are, or are not, capable of doing. Phil thinks that society is either oppressing people actively OR passively oppressing through the lens of history by passing down dated methods of thought, whereas Tom thinks that no matter the society or its chains each person has it in them to make the choices necessary to radically transform their situation. The fact that most choose not to do this is simply a choice, whereas the original point by Phil was that they (except in extreme exceptions) simply cannot, they are in a prison of heritage.
When I pressed Phil with the all-important question, “so what are we to take from your point?” he became defensive and said I was trying to paint him into a corner when really, I was just trying to take something meaningful from his point of view. In my opinion observations are meaningless without conclusions. To that end, and after an apology, he finally offered up the conclusion that he believed society ought not be so seemingly quick to denigrate a people in a certain situation, because the critic would have behaved differently. His example was a study he cited that many people who drowned in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina did so because they stayed in their homes. He said the study asserted that they did so because the welfare culture had literally trained these people to stay put with their hand out, and they were psychologically unable to help themselves.
His very valid point being, instead of saying “Those idiots, how stupid were those people” to instead look at the policy that has trained them into such a prison of thought with the ire that he believed many people in America direct at the person.
As a Christian, we say, hate the sin, love the sinner. Or at least we are supposed to say this, and do this.
As an aside, Phil also said that the differences in thought were evidence that what is true for you may not be true for me. Phil believes truth is relative to your ability to understand and relate to it.
After the longest foreword in blog history, on to the point of this essay.
I think a great discipline has been lost in our American culture. Namely, the question to ask of our own thoughts and actions, as well as of our laws, “Is this wise?”
Truth and wisdom are closely aligned, and neither are acceptable in Academe. I actually thank God almighty that when my mind was young and mushy, it was never poisoned by the circular and largely emotional arguments of leftist, and wholeheartedly socialist professors. I dodged that intellectual bullet by joining the military and learning the old-fashioned way, by reading and thinking, and reading some more.
While I will concede there are certainly relative truths, but there is no room in Academia for absolute truth. There is no room for Good or Evil, nor Right or Wrong. Never was higher education built upon such a shaky, sand foundation than that which leaves no room to ask the most important question of our age “Is this wise?”
For to ask “Is this wise?” implies that the answer must be measured against a standard of Wisdom, which derives its very meaning as “the knowledge of what is proper or reasonable.” Put much more simply, the knowledge of what is right and what is wrong.
As a Christian, I am a fan of practical facts. Since we are on the subject of right and wrong, take sin. Begging Chesterton’s pardon, whether or not a man could be washed in miraculous waters, there is no doubt that he wanted washing. A century ago religious leaders disputed the highly disputable miraculous waters, but today Academia disputes the obvious dirt. Where once philosophers admitted a man was divinely sinless, which they could not have imagined even in their dreams, now College Professors deny sin itself, which they can see in the street.
The standard of right and wrong is clear as a bell to me, and to those who have their copy of the best handbook for life on earth, namely, the Bible. The bible lays out truth in the most marvelous way, by first telling a story, and then stating a truth. The bible looks back through history and tells of Herod the Great and the Slaughter of Innocent Children, and then looks forward and commands us not to murder. It teaches us history, and lays bare the truth in our hearts. It teaches us that real truth does not come from man, and therefore, man cannot take it away. Such wisdom that.
College Institutions today flood the empty corridors of young minds with a kind of intoxicating secular sophistry, and the collegiate are drunk on those fallacies. They make arguments against the existence of right and wrong, of absolute truth, and a personal God, with fallacies that young minds are neither practiced, equipped nor allowed to defend. No, if you argue with a secular professor in America today, you can kiss any chance of a decent grade goodbye. College has become a refuge for the lack of thought, not the instigator thereof.
At the University of California at Berkeley, black students now march to self-segregate where their ideas will never be challenged and their minds will never be expanded, in all-black dormitories. I believe Martin Luther King would weep to see such a vacuum of wisdom on display at any time, much less at the end of 8 years of America being led by our first black president. Merry Christmas is now a micro-aggression, and everyone gets to pick their own gender pronoun. We have become a nation of imbeciles.
The internet has exacerbated this problem. No, the irony of my current medium is not lost on me. It was asked long ago, “What wisdom have we lost for want of knowledge?” and it is rightly asked now, “What knowledge have we lost for want of information?” We are today twice removed from sound judgement and the ability to actually think clearly.
Where our worlds used to be a lot smaller and a lot simpler, now, we are daily assaulted by every injustice the collectively great world can tweet at us, never asking if the actual numbers of such injustices are actually worse, or whether the tragedy is simply our new perception of their apparent frequency.
I had a lieutenant in the Navy who’s favorite shirt read:
American educational culture today strives to convince young people to simply get angry about some injustice, if they will pick up a banner and join SOME fight, Academe will cover the backside of that banner with fallacy after fallacy and most will never read the fine print. They will never ask “Is this wise?”
My belief is that God, yes I just invoked what I believe to be our great cosmic and very personal Creator, has given each of us the power of discernment, and transformational free will. I do not believe that certain cultures, or sub-cultures, or ethnicities are unable to imagine a better life; a wiser way. I do not believe that traditions and environments are inescapable prisons except for the one-in-a-million gifted at picking ideological locks. I neither resent the success of others, nor greatly pity abysmal failure.
I believe that until we radically transform the way we approach and instruct truth and wisdom, we can never produce a generation who will leave America better than the one they inherited.
I agree with Tom.