Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Power of Irrationality

Is this why we keep losing?  What happens when one group of people gets all logical and another group just screams, "CHARGE!" - and down in the break room you've got one going, "Well, all the facts aren't in yet, let's wait and see..." and five guys around the table are laughing, "Are you crazy?  Are you blind?  Are you telling me you don't already know?!?"  What do their silent co-workers get out of that?

Limbo and his ilk were 110% sure Clarence Thomas was innocent because he's conservative.  Sure, there were liberals who were sure he was guilty because he's conservative.  (I estimate not many, but any is too many.)  But not just that.  Many many people - including many liberals - in daily practice often assume that accusation equals guilt.  In many cases, anyway.  But not all.  And here's exactly where prejudice rears its shaved head: which cases?

Do we feminists sometimes believe that any accusation of sexual harassment is automatically true?  Be honest.  Do folks look at the mug shot of the accused and laugh out loud, "Naw, he didn't do it.  Sure!"  I see a banker, a CEO, or like suit, on the news standing accused of embezzling, cutting corners that have led to workers' or nearby residents' illnesses and deaths, and I tend to think it's probably true.  But I like to think I check it out before I open my big cakehole.

"Character," says Limbo.  That does it for a lot of people, maybe especially for us rednecks.  In large part we are an uneducated bunch, but does that mean we think less critically?  I claim no -- although we may live in environments that are more hostile to critical thinking.  But I claim no, and to those who claim yes, I say, aha! where's your evidence?  George Orwell and Noam Chomsky both write a lot about the "disciplined  minds" (Orwell doesn't call 'em that) and the limiting effects on critical thinking.

But where's this going?  I argue the following: (1) if believe that we have some dispensation from the gods of reason because the deck is so often stacked against us, and Maoist justice says it's okay when it's them, we fail; and (2) emotion is fine for us organizers alongside reason, and reasons, and reasoning (treating people like grown-ups), but it is a privilege the rich and powerful retain to themselves to be irrational, because they do not need to make sense -- they have the power to skip that step (in fact, in some very real sense that's what it means to be powerful) -- but our place, the worm's eye view, requires the clearest thinking available to us at all times. 

So, no, the power of irrationality is not why we keep losing.  It's the irrationality of power. IMHO.