Friday, August 17, 2012

Conversation as Mutual Affirmation


The uneducated do not discuss or debate when conversing with each other. By “uneducated” I do not mean people without a formal education. A grade eight drop-out with an inquiring mind who reads a lot is far better educated than an MBA who never reads and swallows the mass media garbage. What the uneducated do when they converse, is engage in mutual affirmation of their prejudices. 
 
They sit around the table and one of them might erupt with a comment such as “Them Indians are belly aching again!” The rest will nod approvingly and one or two might add their opinions that reinforce the bigotry. No one will offer an alternative viewpoint and if anyone disagrees they will keep quiet. 
 
Mutually shared prejudices are a form of security in a world they cannot understand and find frightening. To offer a different opinion would mark one an outsider, someone breaking up that little community of mutual opinion. The outsider would then be dismissed using some other prejudicial cliche from their repertoire, such as “commie”, “radical” or of more recent coinage, “politically correct.” 
 
Opposition will bring out anger in the group, for challenging their insecurity brings out defensiveness which manifests as hostility. The very possibility of hostility prevents controversy from manifesting and thus maintains the group. Remember the old saying “Two things we never discuss at this table are religion and politics.” What could be better to discuss, if one was actually capable of discussion? The only areas where different views are allowed are sports and TV shows.

Since the ignorant are not looking for truth, but for affirmation, they are impervious to reason. Left wing campaigns thus fall on deaf ears. The only hope is to somehow exchange the reactionary prejudices with an affirmation of class. The best way to do that is to build a militant and strong labour movement. The affirmation that these people are members of a class exploited and dominated by a parasitic minority will give that sense of communal solidarity that the uneducated found in their cliché and prejudiced world views. As the notion of class takes hold, some of the old prejudices will begin to fade.

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