By Dennis Loo (5/23/14)
"So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late” - Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower
A number of my students, even those who have taken multiple courses with me, have a hard time overcoming a conceptual problem that is rooted primarily in a personal moral dilemma: they keep saying that revolutionary change will never happen because all these other folks in this country are willfully ignorant.
This is not true of all of my students. But it is true of a sizable minority.
So many students have said variations on this theme so frequently that it almost seems like an intellectual knee jerk reaction:
Many people choose to be ignorant about social problems… Perhaps many of the individuals [hide behind] their ignorance as an excuse for not participating or taking action [about] the problem.
[People] do not want to believe that political officials, such as our president, would lie to them. It is much easier for some people to live a blind life than [to] face reality.
In at least some of the cases, these statements come out of people’s personal experiences talking with some people that they know – some of their friends or some of their family. “I tell them about what is going on and they tell me they’d rather eat hot dogs.” To which my response, half-jokingly, is that you need to get yourself some new friends.
But the statement – “it’s all those other people” – is really, in a fundamental way, a statement about themselves. What those who continue to repeat this statement are saying about themselves is this:
“I don’t have to do anything about what’s going on because even if I do, all those other people won’t listen to me. So it’s hopeless and unnecessary for me to stick my neck out because of those other people.”
The statements that “many people” or “most people” or “everybody” chooses to be ignorant about social problems is easily refuted since it should be obvious to my students who have been studying how much distortion, censorship and outright lies are being told to people through mainstream media and public officialdom that the majority of the public can’t be choosing to live a “blind life” when they aren’t being told the truth the vast majority of the time. You can only choose to live a “blind life” if you are regularly being exposed to the truth and despite that are choosing to be blind to it. You can’t consciously reject the truth if you don’t know what the truth is and what you think is the truth is a pack of lies but you don’t know that they are a pack of lies.
Yet, these statements, like an intellectual tic, keep being raised nonetheless. No matter how many times and how many ways I've shown why this argument is not empirically supportable and is illogical, it keeps being raised. It’s cropped up so much that I have had to scratch my head in puzzlement as to why it keeps coming up.
I think I finally know why.
I think that the safe way to fend off the necessary consequences of knowing how horrid the truth about our government and the capitalist system’s destruction of the earth is to say that “I don’t have to do anything because anything I do will be fruitless because all these other people already know the truth and they are refusing to face the truth.”
I think that it is sufficiently upsetting to those who are seeing the truth for the first time and the magnitude of it that they are afraid to face the implications - that they need to awaken other people to the dangers that our world faces. This involves some personal risk of potentially being socially shunned or worse, being killed. The stakes riding on all of this, after all, are immense, the highest stakes imaginable.
So what those who are condemning others’ willful ignorance are doing is they are mainly making a statement about themselves. They are trying to rationalize a way to keep from having to do anything about the truths they are confronted with.
So if this is so, then does that make what they’re saying true, that the problem is that people know the truth and are being willfully ignorant to it?
It makes it true about those who are saying it, that they are being willfully ignorant.
But it doesn’t make it true about who they are ostensibly saying it about. It doesn’t make it true about the vast majority of people who still do not know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It doesn’t make the environmental crisis that is destroying the earth any less real because they are personally blaming other people for not recognizing the problem and doing something about it. It doesn’t solve a damn thing because those who are complaining about other ignorant people aren’t stepping up to the plate and doing everything they can to save the earth and humanity.
So to those who keep saying that the problem is all those other people: look in the mirror. It’s not them. It’s you. Stop making excuses and start acting on what you know and sharing it with more people. Don’t worry about the people who don’t want to accept what you’re telling them. Those people frankly don’t matter. There are literally millions of people in this country who would like to know the truth and don’t know yet what the truth is. They are languishing in misinformation, misconceptions, and being denied the truth. Telling people the truth and waking them up isn’t an easy thing to do because as I have written, even if you tell people the truth this doesn’t necessarily mean that they really get it because to really get the truth you need to get training.
Let us assume as a thought experiment that we had public officials who were in fact "transparent" and did in fact tell people the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. For the masses to really get this would require that the masses have training, otherwise even if they're being told the total truth, that truth isn't going to translate into the masses becoming capable themselves of fully knowing what to do with that truth.
You have no doubt had the experience in your life of someone telling you something (e.g., some verified theory in science like Relativity Theory) that is true but something that you didn't have the training to fully understand.
Since in the real world we cannot always count on public officials and others to tell others the whole truth, the public needs to be trained in how to sift through information and make considered and sophisticated judgments about what's true and what's not. That training requires a) leaders of a particular kind who are not leading out of personal self-interest but who genuinely want to raise the level of understanding of others and bridge the gap between leaders and led, and b) an economic and political system that does not require that the people be systematically fooled in order for that system to stay in place.
If you have an economic system - and a political system that reflects that economic system - that can only stay in place if the people who are being exploited are not fully aware that this is the system’s fundamental nature, then you cannot correspondingly have public officials who will tell people the truth and lead others in training them to make independent judgments. That kind of persons would be shunted aside by the system itself because they would be doing things at odds with the overall system’s inherent logic.
Thus, those who think that “campaign finance reform,” repealing the Citizens United decision, running third party candidates, calling for the end to all wars, and/or abolishing corporations, will solve the problems that confront us are not really addressing the heart of the problem. They are, instead, treating symptoms rather than the disease. The disease is the system itself. And the disease is killing us.
The primary purpose of this website is to a) expose people to the truth and to b) train people in how to evaluate facts and sort through competing claims.
People like to say, "knowledge is power," but that is not entirely true.
The truth is there to be found, but the truth has to be fought for. You have to learn how to recognize the truth and you have to want to know the truth. Not everyone wants the truth. Some people think that whatever serves their personal interest is what is "true." To want to know the truth requires that you be willing to accept things that are not personally convenient. You have to be willing to recognize hard truths sometimes. Not everyone is willing to do that. Yet they will argue with you vigorously until the cows come home.
When truth comes knocking on your door, if you don’t hear it knocking, you won’t let it in. Some people hear truth knocking, but when they look out their peep hole and they don't like what they see, they tell truth to "go away!"
But this isn't the main problem. The main problem is that truth hasn't come knocking on most people's doors yet. Most people don't know that they have doors on the boxes that they live in because they don't yet know that they live in boxes. These are the boxes that people are referring to when they say you have to "think outside the box."
Some of the people in our society do not want the truth because it does not serve their narrow self-interest. Those who are living a privileged life are the more likely among us to reject inconvenient truths because that would interfere with their privileged life. There are some people among us who are philistines. But this does not describe everyone. And, in any case, even if it were hypothetically the case that 90% of the population were unwilling to face the truth about the threat to the planet, would that mean that the other 10% should let the planet be destroyed? Wouldn't it be incumbent upon the 10% who do see the dire necessity here to act and radically change what is?
Another objection that I have been hearing from a few students is that sociology is not really a science. They say that studying society, history and economics does not necessarily tell you anything. It’s all a matter of faith and belief rather than science.
Notably, nobody who truly understands what makes sociology a science thinks this way. Those who understand the scientific basis for a science of society do not think that sociology is a mere “belief” as opposed to a science.
Surprising as it is that some sociology majors should say that sociology isn’t a science, this view is nonetheless out there. It exists in part because even some sociologists aren’t scientists and they deride the idea that sociology can be and is a science. Postmodernists share with religious fundamentalists the same view that objective reality doesn’t exist and that all that matters is text or discourse or interpretation. Saying that truth is unknowable and that “everybody has their own truth” is another way of rationalizing inaction. If no one knows the truth then acting on what you know is useless. This radical rejection of the meaning of truth is the dominant perspective in the society as a whole. It serves the interests of those who are exploiting humanity and plundering the earth because they profit from people thinking that the truth is not knowable.
If we are going to save the planet from destruction we have to very firmly, passionately and scientifically fight for the validity and importance of science and reason.
What is true is true, no matter how many people may see it that way at any given point in time. Truth doesn’t depend upon how many people see it at any particular point in time. It’s true that capitalism and imperialism have a system logic of expand or die. This is true whether or not millions and billions of people currently understand that. It is true even if nobody understands it.
But it makes a material difference how many people understand what is true because it can spell the difference between life and death of individuals, species, and the planet.
If you’re interested in the truth and think that those who argue that there is no such thing as objective reality are stupid and dangerous to say that, then the revolution needs you. Those who can see this and who refuse to rationalize this away with various paltry excuses are needed badly. Because as sociology and materialist dialectics teaches us who recognize their scientific value, systems have a governing logic to them and this particular system is destroying the earth. This system is unable to avoid crises and catastrophes. It is by its very nature driven to economic and political crises and those who are scientific about this and courageous enough to face the truth are needed to prepare minds and organize forces now so that when the system’s workings compel millions to directly confront what way will rescue society from the ravages of this system, then we will have a chance to go for it.
This site aims to accomplish two related goals. First, it complements Dennis Loo's book Globalization and the Demolition of Society so that people reading the book can get more deeply into it. (See navigation bar above, labeled "GDS Book Annotations"). We believe that his book is a landmark, providing a solid foundation for politics of a new path. Taking such a path is critical to humanity and the planet's future. As his book's dust jacket states:
[F]ree market fundamentalism - also known as neoliberalism - makes us not more secure or prosperous: it tears the social fabric and undermines security, leading inevitably to disasters on the individual, regional, and global levels.
Neoliberalism is based on the mantra that market forces should run everything. It aims to eliminate job and income security, the social safety net (including welfare and other social guarantees), unions, pensions, public services, and the governmental regulation of corporations. It consequently undermines the basis for people to voluntarily cooperate with authority as almost everyone is increasingly left by themselves to face gargantuan private interests, with governmental and corporate authority ever more indifferent to the public’s welfare.
Those in charge of our collective fates in government and business personify a heartless system based on profit and plunder. They have been relentlessly instituting profoundly immoral and unjust policies even while they insist that they are doing the opposite. We, on the other hand, stand for and are fighting for a radically different system and set of values than this.
Second, in order to get at the truth and because the ways in which humanity's historic striving for understanding and its capacity to wonder and imagine are very rich and diverse, we seek to reflect that richness and diversity on our site. See "About Us" on navigation bar. We intend to be engaging and compelling, as the best investigative journalism and art are, and relentlessly scientific, rigorous, and direct, as those who cherish the truth are. We believe that we can be both accessible and sophisticated. As Loo lays out in his book,
Defeating the empire is not something that occurs only on the literal battlefield. It is also something that is determined throughout the continuum of battles over many issues, including: ideas; philosophy; forms of organization and leadership in economy, politics, and other realms; ways of arguing; ways of responding to and respecting empirical data; interest in truth as opposed to expedience; how people and the environment should be treated; the nature of relations among people (e.g., between women and men, different races and ethnicities, rich and poor countries, etc.); ways of responding to criticism and ideas that are not your own; ways of handling one’s own errors and those of others; and more, all the way up through how warfare is carried out. The contrast between the methods and goals of the neoliberals and those of us who seek an entirely different world is stark. (Globalization and the Demolition of Society, Pp. 326-7)