There is a real “charge-into-Hell-with-a-watergun” spirit and energy in a site like ours. It’s exciting, and I’m honored even to be a part of it. You already know how high the stakes are in the Culture War and you’re ready to do something about it.
Our side — at least, people convinced it’s dangerous to have crushing national debt, endless social engineering, and omnipowerful centralized government — has plenty of enthusiasm.
I share that enthusiasm. But — as shown by various setbacks — it takes more than enthusiasm to move the battle lines forward.
Whatever your cultural battle, there’s a way to fight that’s smart and effective. There’s also a way to fight that harms your cause, and endangers your allies. Too often, our side does the latter.
That’s why the military puts a middle step between enlistment and deployment: Basic Training. If this battle is as important as we say, dare we skip this step ourselves?
Our problem isn’t new. A high school textbook from 1959 described what we’re dealing with, with a quote that addressed one of WWII’s hardest lessons:
Such, then, was Hitler’s Opinion of humanity in the mass. It was a very low opinion. Was it also an incorrect opinion? The tree is known by its fruits, and a theory of human nature which inspired the kind of techniques that proved so horribly effective must contain at least an element of truth. Virtue and intelligence belong to human beings as individuals freely associating with other individuals in small groups. So do sin and stupidity.
But the subhuman mindlessness to which the demagogue makes his appeal, the moral imbecility on which he relies when he goads his victims into action are characteristic not of men and women as individuals, but of men and women in masses. Mindlessness and moral idiocy are not characteristically human attributes; they are symptoms of herd-poisoning. In all the world’s higher religions, salvation and enlightenment are for individuals. The kingdom of heaven is within the mind of a person, not within the collective mindlessness of a crowd.
– Aldous Huxley “Brave New World Revisited“
Much of the problem we face stems from The Public embracing ideas without testing their merits, or understanding their implications.
Our Basic Training would have at least three objectives: First, test our own ideas; Second, competency in logic; and Third, intelligent conversation.
What would you feel if you were deployed into action with mismatched cammo, no orders and a weapon you’ve never trained with? Exposed? Endangered? Ineffective? If we charge into the fray without doing some self-assessment first, we’re no better off.
Convictions are good. But accepting an idea as true is no substitute for giving it serious thought, examining it with a critical eye, and becoming truly convinced. We need such idea testing.
First, you’ll be ready for hard questions if you’ve already faced them for yourself. If you find your own ideological weak points, and overcome them, they cannot be exploited by an opponent.
Be fearless in this. Why? Because we are more interested in truth than ideology. (At least, I hope so.) Any time we find an idea that seems untrue, test it further. Examine the core idea. If that part is proven untrue, abandon the whole thing. And if it is proven true, do NOT apologize for being right, instead, boldly defend it!
Pay special attention to ideas you are emotionally committed to. They are your blind spots.
That goes for religious and irreligious people alike; political people, too. Resist belief in something solely because your peers expect it. When you find ideas your group is especially hostile to, pay attention. They might be bad ideas; or, it could be groupthink. Find out for yourself. At best, you will learn new ideas. At worst, you will understand what the other side ACTUALLY believes — itself a tactical goldmine.
Second step, learn logic. The basics are not complicated, and can save you headaches and embarrassment. Why? You will be able to spot a bad idea (yours or theirs) and understand what’s wrong with it. You’ll be ready to counter some of the fiercest attacks the other side likes to make, especially the personal attacks that save them the real work of defending their ideas.
Whatever you think of Ann Coulter, personally, why does she have that following? She stands her ground against withering attacks and turns the tables. She is rarely blindsided, because she is so very skilled at exploiting her opponents’ mistakes. That’s logic in action.
Logic: get some.
Third, have a strategy. Be alert in the conversation. Who’s steering it, you or them? Learn the art of asking questions. Refuse to get pulled off-topic by lesser ideas. Challenge hostile claims when the other guy makes one. Ask “why” a lot. Most of what you can do isn’t even that complicated, but it can mean the difference between being an effective ambassador for your idea, or being a notch in somebody else’s belt.
If you’ve broken into a sweat even reading about conflict, remember this: Dialogue is more a skill than a talent. Koukle’s Tactics can take you a long way down the road in getting started with the skills. I got it on audio for a couple of bucks.
Well, what are you waiting for? This fight isn’t going to win itself!