What we really want.
I read Bari Weiss’s column this morning and I realized I missed something in yesterday’s post. I analyzed a phenomenon that has swept across the country — groupthink and puppetry in regards to Covid regulations — and I realized that a change has taken place, but I failed to recognize what caused that change. How did Americans — a culture of people who were once taught to be independent thinkers, who paraded thought leaders and innovators — become a country of donkeys? I needed the help of 17-year-old Daniel Idfresne, who guest posted on Weiss’s Substack to help me out with this:
When acceptance is the highest value, when avoiding condemnation online is worth more than the truth, the truth will be swiftly discarded. Online likes, followers and reputation — weak, empty values — dominate the teenage world because teenagers are not being taught alternative ones by the culture or, often, by the adults in their lives. They — we — are not being given the tools to answer the questions that really matter: What is truth? What is justice? And what is the purpose of life?
This abhorrence of independent thought, this absolute reluctance to engage facts and data for ourselves and devise our own opinions, may not be because we’ve suddenly become dumb but because we’ve become afraid — afraid of standing out, afraid of being ostracized, afraid of being cancelled … afraid of revealing our black wool to all the white sheep. And this fear is so deep that it obstructs all lines of questioning. The tribe says A so of course I say A too. Who wants to be outed as a not-one-of-us?
Acceptance is a powerful force — among the most powerful that we have in our social toolkit. The drive to be accepted is far more powerful than the drive to acquire and disseminate knowledge … or to search for truth. And there is no better way than to feel accepted than to call out those who are different — to fight against the Other who we are not.
Tweet the wrong fact or study and you’re liable to be forever branded a conspiracy theorist … or, worse, a Trump supporter. It means being ostracized. Losing your acceptance — the thing humans are programed to fear most.
It makes sense: a tribe of humans where everyone thought different and debated everything probably wouldn’t last very long. I can’t fault the donkeys — the authoritarian liberals are just doing what humans do. They are normal. The Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution were also normal. As were the network of KGB informants. How can you get upset at someone for being a normal human? They want to feel safe, and their lizard brains are programed to identify those who are different as a threat.
We just want to be accepted, to separate the Them’s from the Us’es. We want to feel secure in our ideological positions — questions are uncomfortable — as our world views get dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. It’s like something that an old friend of mine always used to say: A person is smart, but people are dumb.
When was the last truly creative thing to come out of mass US culture? Our movies are now repeats of those from the 80s. Our popular music is ostensibly the same as it was in the 90s. We now live in a time when new ideas are risky. To buck the status quo is to be cancelled. We don’t want to create something new, we don’t want to know the truth. We want to be accepted.
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