I’ve done many blog posts, books and articles, and otherwise engaged in public discourse, upon a wide range of topics. So I ask myself if there’s a unifying idea, a thread connecting it all.
I’ve previously discussed what really matters: and the only possible answer is the feelings of beings capable of feeling. Hence the over-arching goal to advance human flourishing.
But this verges on banality; most people would embrace some variant of it, and likewise profess to aim at human betterment. Even some of history’s worst villains would have. Where did they go wrong? Fundamental mistakes about reality (including realities of human nature).
It’s not enough just to want good. The road to it runs through truth and reality. Other roads lead to Hell.
And so, there’s the real essence of my ideology: truth and reality.
Of course, we all think we see truth. But it’s not so easy. Too often, people believe things because they want to, because it’s comfortable believing them. Ideology or faith drives perception, to see the world in ways that comport with the belief system. Cynics in particular flatter themselves that they’re seeing through to real reality; but very often this too is just what makes them feel good and isn’t reality at all.
So, mindful of all this, I turn things around. I try to make perception drive ideology. I strive to base my beliefs on what I see, not the reverse. That IS my ideology. (Or do I too flatter myself? At least I’m cognizant of the pitfall.)
My core belief system is to respect and accept truth rather than trying to wish it away. Only by understanding the world’s realities can we ever hope to overcome the constraints they impose on us, and make life truly better. The quest for the good cannot be divorced from the quest for the truth.
Consider the example of our current gun debate. Gun control opponents believe a gun in the home protects you. Reality check: statistics indisputably show it’s many times more likely to hurt or kill you than protect you. Gun fanciers believe differently because, well, they just prefer to. (Or they don’t think the statistics apply to them.) They also believe guns can fend off potential government “tyranny.” And pigs can fly.
I’ve written before how some Lefties idealize the likes of Hugo Chavez. I look at the reality. Some people see vaccination as causing autism, and dangers in GM foods. I look at the reality. Some reject evolution. I see the evidence. Ideology leads some to deny the reality of climate change; others, to cling to a solution that denies reality.
The problem is especially prevalent in economic matters. The whole antipathy toward market economics is grounded in caricatures rather than the reality of how it works, what it actually does, and its results. Not to speak of alternatives. While some advocates of protectionism do act with clear-eyed self-interest, most who go along are blind to the broader harm, indeed the harm to their actual self-interest. Opposition to outsourcing reflects a simplistic zero-sum economic picture totally at odds with the reality. And the French, many Democrats, and even Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman seem to think there’s no limit to how much can be borrowed to pay out ever spiraling “benefits” (the Greeks learned differently). And so forth.
Of course the biggest whoppers people tell themselves are religious. Now, there isn’t great harm in believing inconsequential nonsense like astrology. But when you believe some divine being is running the world and your life, that’s consequential in the highest degree. Likewise belief in Heaven. How can one make proper sense of life, and operate rationally in the world, laboring under such profound reality mistakes? You can’t even get right the basic “mattering” question if you think God is in the answer.
I’ve written about Muslim societies and violence. I did say there’s something besides just religious belief in play. Nevertheless, imagine how Muslims might settle down and behave if all that religious insanity went away. And please don’t tell me religion is the only check on their baser impulses. I know lots of atheists, and nearly all behave quite nicely. As for Muslims, the reality is that conflict and violence aren’t doing them any good; and if they got a better grip on the reality of the world they live in, they would realize this, and act differently.
Gimme that old time reality – it’s good enough for me.