Want to know how you can participate in something as small as a conversation or as large as a movement and still avoid learning anything new? Work in absolutes. Pick a side, join a group, pick a target, figure out what you want to say and either rail against another or run with them. Don't be fooled by contradictory evidence and remember that you, dear reader, are one of the enlightened ones. The rest of us are but mere sheeple. When we assume to know how something works, our mind doesn't have a hard time wrapping the entire concept in a neat little box and setting it off to the side as fodder for future debates. That way, whenever we find ourselves within earshot of a conversation where opinions are clashing, our thoughts can be easily dispensed without having to give the situation any real thought for context. A minority was shot? He was probably an illegal alien collecting welfare and sending it back to his family. Companies resistant to higher wages? They're probably part of the military industrial complex who are keeping all of us turds financial afloat just long enough to keep this whole environmentally destructive machine afloat. Not happy? Visualize the life you want and send those happy vibrations out into the universe. Every time. Nothing new, just the same quip mill for the lazy individual with a will to be heard that's larger than his brain. Circumstantial absolutes are the business cards of the ideological world. They don't really add anything to the interaction that couldn't be retrieved with a little extra effort and they most certainly aren't going to justify our presence on their own. They're just flashy little conceptual mantras we toss back and forth. Assuming that we know the outcome of anything is not only damaging to our social circles, but it can psychologically lock us into an unhealthy pattern of thought. When we begin to blame the banking system, foreigners, political parties and lifestyles for the problems in our own life, we run the risk of disconnecting ourselves from a society that thrives off of interdependence and the exchange of ideas. We stop listening and when we stop listening, we stop being heard by those of differing opinions. The closed mind doesn't just preserve itself from an ever-changing world, it removes itself from any intellectual commitment. Society knows this and any organization, group, or individual can disarm another simply by isolating it. Even among those with thoughts similar to our own, it seems that the deeper we fall into the circles of people who share our ideologies, the less we learn from one another and the more we just wait for the opportunity to put a slightly different spin on the same information. Listen to a group of people talk about something they don't like and notice the lack of any functional answer. Absolutes are designed to paint something in one color, as if we could somehow reject the entire thing at once. What we don't realize is that problems must be broken down in order to be solved, never the other way around. Life gives us a thousand reasons to complaint, but rarely do we choose to pursue a solution.
Absolutes are more prone to taking place in one of two ways:
1. When we deliberately choose to close our mind off to new information, whether out of boredom or sheer refusal to see things from a different angle, we minimize reality and emphasize it in a way that we want to perceive it. That being said, our perception can skew reality towards attitudes that are overtly positive or overtly negative. Humans have the entire spectrum of emotions to work with for a reason. It's usually not wise to live in a way that reflects the world as being entirely dangerous or entirely trustworthy.
2. When we reach the limits of our social network, it might feel a little bit like we're suffocating. We seek new information but can end up restrained by our environment and while we might dream of finding higher conceptual ground, we often trade off the things that matter to us as individuals in favor of those most popular in the social circles we move through.
It's not that maintaining an independent thought process is impossible, but it takes real effort and practice to stay mentally limber. We're all liable to falling into absolutes and more often than not, social pressure is an extremely large part of that. We grow up believing our family members and friends and unless those beliefs are tested, we rarely let them go because, hey, family first. I get it, but I'm sure we all know someone who has been raised to explicitly believe what they're told. Information has never been more readily available and we're still in the internet's infancy. There is no telling where it will take us but we most certainly won't end up in the utopia promised by any political party or spiritual group. If history is any indicator, the future is always wildly different than anyone ever expects and in order for us to not look like clowns to our descendants, who will most likely be able to look up our digital activity a century from now, it might be wise to not commit to any idea that we can't consistently confirm as being true to us. The only absolute we should ever accept are those that can only be attributed to our own experience, because then, we don't end up with a conceptual absolute, but a tapestry of experience that is made up of a lifetime's worth of experiences. The totality of our lives and how we are remembered by others is surely an absolute that we should be giving more consideration to as we senselessly spread information and ideas around, this writer included. I can't tell you how many insensitive, dumb things I've said in my early years online, but you can bet I've toned my whole message down quite a bit. People are already losing their jobs and reputation by making comments that don't necessarily translate from their small social groups of like-minded individuals to that second tier of people that they were employed by and depended on. Not all is lost and our beliefs change over time, but it's a much easier to grow and assimilate new information when we don't embed ourselves too deeply in any one camp.