As an engaged American citizen and aspiring critical thinker I find so many issues to discuss with regard to politics that I’m sometimes overwhelmed.
Still, American freedom when examined closely is supremely elegant and beautiful in its dichotomy of both simplicity and complexity. We are free to be you and me, and whatever we dream on any given street in any given home from sea to shining sea. We can be this free under the auspices of America and remain as ignorant as we choose with regard to what is required to make us so free. No harm no foul.
However, that would not do for the aspiring critical thinker. And as is my mandate I would ask that every person, down to the last man, woman, and child be an aspiring critical thinker. Of course, this mandate creates incredible challenges for the everyday citizen.
There is a wealth of data out there regarding our socio-political model and the policies that enable it. I have long hailed the power of WEB 2.0 and the democratization of our society as the essential paradigm shift required for more engaged electorate. However, it has created a data glut, information overload for politicians and lay people alike. Still, if we would be better we must all make an effort. You may not but able to consume all the data, but you must consume some of it, prioritize according to importance and lend your mind and your voice to the debate. That would be the lay citizen moving from the confines of the limited commons (our shared space as citizens), mired ignorance, to the commons of the engaged and politically astute.
Know why the local government chose to have a road go through your neighborhood, and why they put the landfill in your backyard. Be engaged. Know the facts. Understand the facts, and ensure that your backyard does not become a landfill for a community forty miles north of your own.
In order to do this we must move from blissful ignorance to challenging complexity. Many an American citizen has chosen to become engaged, but they have not done in it the fashion that I believe is in reality the only true way to move forward. They have not embraced critical thinking. Oh, they think they have. They say they have, but believe me, they have not. And in this we find the dispiriting truth of our polity. We find that in the pursuit of power, those that we have elected have in truth been elected through powerful machinations at the behest of capital put to work for the promotion of profit and power, at the expense of the lay citizen. This is no generalization, we need no conspiracy theories. We all know it takes money to get elected. However, what we must question as critical thinkers is who’s putting the money to use for whom and to what objective.
Understand, they can and do take you for granted.
The Republicans are fond of saying the Democrats have sheep for followers, that they drink the Kool-Aid, or live on the plantation. The Democrats say the Republicans are vile mindless automatons that disparage intelligence and look at the world through opaque glasses, making up the truth as they go. The Libertarians have a false belief of in power of the individual to subsist and live so free that he needs no support for the most part, and should not be made to assist in supporting others. He has no belief in the commons. The Independents vacillate back and forth and often enough look at this political show with sad acquiescence. They just give in … because they feel they have no choice. The truth is they, we, you and I at times have all been sheep. We live within the confines of powerful political manipulation, for and against, depending on the person and the policy.
We should all be aspiring critical thinkers, divorcing ourselves from ideology and seeking to close the political gulf that is the ideological divide. We should question our leaders as is appropriate, with due justification, bereft of nonsensical emotion and heated rhetoric.
Yes, there is truth in the statement that we are sheep. Donkeys are sheep. Elephants are sheep. And everything on the fringes of the extreme to the acquiescent middle is, or has been at one time a sheep. We follow.
Just to be clear, so we know where we stand, in today’s heightened political climate the Democrat and their constituents from progressive liberals to moderate and conservative liberals can lay a far better claim to critical thinking than any active member of the GOP. Without question it is the Republican that has completely lost his or her way. Their followers are sheep. They imbibe Hannity, Beck, Limbaugh and FOX, which is the laced flavored Kool-Aid. They cry dictatorship, fascism, and commie on a regular basis. They lack understanding, purposefully. They do this in the pursuit of power, in an effort to regain the upper-hand. They do this, and all Americans suffer.
Gun control, fiscal cliffs, immigration, protection for women, joblessness, all of these ideas are stuck in the middle of our vitriolic national debate, with no solutions save one derived through hateful and eroding partisan bickering. We must be better.
Compromise is not a bad word. In fact, it is a word to be venerated. Aspiring critical thinkers can see and should seek to push for the implementation of policies that are at their heart full of compromise, leveraging the best ideas from varying sources, differing ideologies, differing perspectives. Those on Capital Hill could use a dose of critical thinking.
And just so we don’t forget, the hallmark of the critical thinker is the sincere ability to seek to understand and internalize the perspective of others, most especially when that perspective is diametrically or even violently opposed to your own.
We need not be manipulated. We need not be sheep. We need only find the courage to get engaged, to understand that it really does matter, to know in truth that if we are to strive to be better and address all the ills of our peoples, we must consider the ideas of those against whom we stand opposed.