Read It Anyway

This blog has a point of view. You may not like it. Simple answer: don’t read it. But here’s a better answer: read it anyway.

One key reason why our politics is so polarized is because each side mostly doesn’t listen to the other. The right watches Fox and reads righty blogs, the left goes for MSNC and lefty blogs. We read books we already agree with and talk to people we already agree with, telling each other how right we are.

I go to a book discussion group that was considering doing one by David Brooks. Now I happen to think he’s great. But “Jane” (a new member) did not. She trotted out all the left-wing epithets you might imagine, and refused to read Brooks. We wound up picking a different book, but Jane quit the group anyway. I guess she didn’t want to associate with people who would even consider reading Brooks.

Why be like that? Well, you could say it’s pointless to read a book you know is wrong. More important, though, it feels good to be told what you think is correct. You feel smart and righteous. On the other hand, exposure to reasons why you may be wrong makes you feel dumb, uncomfortable, and vulnerable. If you’re wrong on one thing, what else might you be wrong about? Better to just stay in the comfort zone.

Noam Chomsky

That book group has done some authors I myself didn’t agree with. I often read such books (as you may have noticed, from some reviews on this blog). I also listen constantly to a “progressive” local NPR station; they have a program called “Alternative Radio” that boasts of offering what I like to call the “Rogues Gallery” – Arundhati Roy, Howard Zinn, Angela Davis, Michael Moore, and of course Noam Chomsky. Boy, do I hate Noam Chomsky. But I listen.

Why? And why do I read those books? Doesn’t it make me uncomfortable? No – because I’m sufficiently confident in my beliefs, developed through a long process of study and thought, that Noam Chomsky’s speeches just make me laugh. And it’s fun to laugh. Sometimes, admittedly, they also make my blood boil. But that’s good too, it makes me feel more alive.

But there’s a more serious aspect. Part of my lifelong quest to understand the world is knowing how and why people believe things I consider mistaken. How can we overcome error without understanding it?

The philosophy of Noam Chomsky, complete and unabridged

And it also gives me a richer perspective on my own beliefs. It helps to know not just what I think, but what the opposing arguments are. When I hear Chomsky say something absurd, I want to be sure I can parse just exactly what makes it absurd. It’s good mental exercise. By listening to Chomsky, I become a better anti-Chomskyite.

And, sometimes, I actually learn something, and even, occasionally, change my mind.

So expose yourself to viewpoints you hate. And read my blog, if only to become a better anti-Robinsonite. If you disagree with me, post a comment. I may tell you why you’re wrong. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll change my mind.

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3 Responses to “Read It Anyway”

  1. Gregg Millett Says:

    “Why we disagree” and “Economy I & II” — nicely written and provocative. I’m stuck on “enough GNP” and the challenge of creative distribution of wealth & power and on “well-being” (independent of $$$)..

    [FSR comment: The more wealth there is, the better to distribute.]

  2. samiei Says:

    i think you live in another planet, Mars or…… and never read a book of Chomsky

    [FSR comment: There. Exactly. What I keep talking about. Your side has THE truth. The other side is from Mars. Right.]

  3. John P. Dunn Says:

    You might consider “read it anyway” as your continual first entry. It makes a clear, and strong point, on how to be a better citizen. I try and watch Fox News the same night I listen to MSNBC – very informative, and as you point out, sometimes, I am forced to change an opinion. I draw the line with Noam Chomsky or Ann Coulter style writers – life is too short to spend my limited reading time with such obvious propagandists. Maybe one day, if I become an ascended master like the “Coin King,” I’ll be able to turn those pages.

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