We are not rational creatures, as a descriptor of humanity, we have the potential to be rational, but even attempting to be rational has subjective bias for all sorts of reasons including regional and cultural bias. We also use reason and logic selectively, prejudice is very real, but also irrational. We make no conscious choice to abandon reason, but we do abandon reason for particular beliefs, often defending them stridently and even violently. One of the critical factors of prejudice is that it is all too often impervious to reason.
We have laboured far too long under the Newtonian bias of living creatures as discrete biological machines, which is far too simplistic for the complexity and subtlety of being.
Just before the year 2000 I expressed a hope that the millennium would mark the end of the age of reason and the idea that life submits to reason. Reason, logic and rationality all exist in our life tool box, but whether we choose to use them, or how much, is another matter.
Life becomes less confusing and more explicable if we accept being irrational and unreasonable as essential parts of our self. We feel most alive when our thoughts and internal dialogue are overwhelmed and silenced, most naturally experienced when we are awed by something, like a glorious sunset or some incredible view. But we can also be overwhelmed by trauma, which can be so shockingly real it overwhelms our ability to reason and even function. In such moments or circumstances, life can become too immediately and brutally real for us to deal with and we ‘go into shock’.
If we think that there is a reason for everything and that life submits to reason, we reduce life to meet our expectations of it. It doesn’t work that way, or only in a fundamentally flawed way, and we succeed only in reducing ourselves and on that path lies much that we call mental illness, like depression, (conflicted self), dissociation, and schizophrenia which is known to frequently be triggered by trauma, although exact causes are unknown.
The idea of us as rational creatures is a fallacy and any therapy that embraces that fallacy is toxic to both the practitioner and the client. A therapist with a behavioural or psychological agenda is a danger to clients, not least because they are in a position of power and the presumption that they know best reduces the autonomy, and the ability to be self determining, of the client, which is precisely the problem we have today with a paternalistic government which presumes to know what is best for everyone else and are offended by, and contemptuous of, people, ‘not like them’. Cognitive bias is a real and present danger, it is an irrationality of judgement based on ones own perceptions and/or propaganda and the affirmation of those of the same mind.
Paternalism is the irrational belief in ones own superiority to others and, in asserting itself, it perpetuates itself by keeping others down. We need look no further than the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to see this in action and the DWP is a perfect reflection of the broader mindset of the entire Conservative government.
Many people are going into crisis under this Conservative government and mental ill health is on the rise. One of the problems, I suggest, is that people are cognitively biased (educated) to think that governments are, or ought to be, ‘good’ and have our best interests at heart. Firstly, there is little to suggest in history that this is the case, and secondly, changing government policy for the benefit of the people all too often comes from long, intense and determined struggle against governments which are determined to ignore or suppress protest and progress. Votes for women and universal suffrage being a, currently celebrated, prime example, another is the abolition of slavery, after protracted and brutal struggle, which saw slave owners rewarded and compensated for their loss and former slaves ‘liberated’ and abandoned with nothing and forced back into the harsh employment of their once ‘owners’ and the owners unreconstructed mind set.
The presumption of reason is that we should or ought to be reasonable at all times when demonstrably we are not. If I decide I want to buy a particular picture or even just a pair of shoes, my primal concern is about whether I like whatever I am buying. Rationalising comes after the fact. The ‘art’ of buying is getting ‘what I like’, my aesthetic taste comes before anything else and it is to aesthetic taste that advertisers appeal, despite all the baloney they throw our way. Even if the product is a pile of junk, it is the advertisers job to make it as appealing as possible and to extol its real or fictitious virtues to persuade us to buy it. It is very easy to confuse what we want with what we need and to bleat about needing what we want. I am not a fan of being needy, but a big fan of being wanty, If I am expressing what I want, I am being self asserting, if I am being needy, I am being beggarly, no matter how vital that need is, and if it is vital, then I very definitely want it and should, most likely, strenuously demand it.
The current benefits system routinely deprives people of the means of survival (money) through sanctions. Too many people are so traumatised, broken down, dehumanised and beaten by such inhuman cruelty and brutality, that they take their own lives in despair because they can see no way to assert themselves to obtain something so vital to all of us for our survival in the modern world. It can be intensely difficult to grasp the idea of demanding money, especially when we have not ‘earned ‘ it, because it is a manufactured commodity in which the majority are conditioned to its politically and ideologically imposed scarcity, whilst the super rich are conditioned to endlessly increasing their wealth and being politically and ideologically rewarded for their greed.
The world in which we live is becoming ever more irrational whilst claiming the moral high ground of bogus rationality. As the saying goes, ‘It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society’, and right now society is profoundly sick indeed. It is entirely reasonable to oppose and actively resist this appalling descent into ever increasing chaos, irrationality, unreason and despotic greed.
But that’s not good enough because reason has little to do with it, reason is not getting people galvanised and motivated to act. Reason falls on deaf ears. It requires something else, a different approach. Those who follow the herd and submit to, and even support, the tyranny of our times, will follow the tide wherever it goes, it’s not a particularly rational process and we are being irrational if we believe it should be.
We actually have gone past the age of reason, it’s no longer a functioning ideology. What is required, by the most creative means at our disposal, is to get real, visceral, vibrant and vital, our purpose needs to be more of a celebration than a dismal fight. Every day people engage in online debates, climbing into their bunkers, digging in, ever deeper, and looking for the next round of ammunition, hoping it’ll be more hard hitting and effective than the last lot, till someone finally mentions Hitler and everyone can buzz off and live to fight another day, persuading themselves that they are absolutely in the right and reason is on their side. And move not one inch further forward.
It is actually our minds fault that we repeat the same mistakes again and again hoping for a better outcome. Every serious thinker has to, of necessity, challenge their own mind and if we really do want to change society, then the first thing we need to change is right between our ears and that is more challenging than we might imagine, because we are all conditioned thinkers and thinking outside the, so called, box is actually very difficult.
What do we want? We want things to be better. Why? Because we’re better than this, no matter how much you or I might feel in despair, we are absolutely better than this. We are living, breathing, human beings, who made it here, into life for this all too brief journey in time and I’ll be buggered if I’ll accept a beggarly existence, eked out by, and on the sufferance of, some hideous despotic government which is robbing us blind.
This is our one shot at life, for fucks sake, and saying that is more accurate than it might at first seem. We are the biological progeny of life itself. Is that not amazing? Are we not wonderful, glorious even? For all of life’s many tribulations,I am gloriously alive and life is amazing. Who are these dismal dullards who are killing us off because it is economically expedient (for them) to do so? Akk, akk, akk, akk, stick in my craw, fur ball, moment. If only metaphorically, spit them out, who the hell are they to dictate how we live or whether we’re worthy to live? We are definitely better than that. You are wonderful and I am wonderful and if that is difficult to grasp, it is time to work on it and change our own minds, until we really and truly get it and realise we’re something extraordinary.
Last word from the indomitable Harry Leslie Smith to a critic, “That I am healthy, relevant and feel loved so late in the game is my life of Riley.”