Think for yourself

When I was in college, I attended several very important discussions brought on by recent disturbing events at the school. The discussions were lead by the deans, and had their selection of “experts”. The subject was date rape. At the time a fairly new concept, one not easily defined and considering the subject matter and the times.

So why am I bringing it up now? Well a couple of specific incidents during these discussions stuck with me, and in some ways have shaped how I view and interact with the world. Several recent posts from my new (and sometimes old) friends in the blogging universe got me thinking on a subject that is often in my mind, and brought the memories back.

Incident 1: The deans held a panel to define what exactly they meant by the terms, and to discuss how to teach awareness, as well as what to do when such things occurred. The panel was well attended, but it was far from the whole school. They presented some useful information, as well as some interesting points of view, and then opened the room up to questions. I had a thought that had settled in right from the beginning, so I chose to share it now. I said that despite the fact that they presented useful information, and definitely got people thinking, in a certain sense the discussion was a waste of time. For the people there were there because they had open minds, and were willing to learn, or consider changing their thinking. But the people that we needed to reach were those who chose not to come to the discussion. For they were the most likely ones to commit the offense. So how do we reach them?

The dean’s answer? “You are wrong.”

That pretty much ended my interest in the discussion. I am a firm believer in action, not just words. Sure words are often necessary to get the action going, but in my view closed minded in closed minded, wether you are well meaning or not. I listened a bit longer, and got the impression that the deans were more interested in getting their point of view across then an actual discussion. So I left.

Incident 2: We had an “expert” do a presentation on sexuality and safe sex. I don’t recall what her actual credentials were … I am sure they were impressive. But what I do remember was she was obviously a rabid feminist. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with feminism, but every philosophy has its extremists. Again she presented some useful information, and often in a humorous way.

But she was also a master of propaganda and used words as weapons. I was directly the target of one attack. She was trying to illustrate how we viewed males and females differently, as evidenced in our use of words. A concept I totally agree with. But it is was her method of illustration that stuck with me. She told the crowd to say “penis”, and everyone did. Hardly a giggle. Then she suddenly addressed ME directly and said say the word “vagina”. I repeated back “vagina” in a hesitant and questioning manner. Which was her intent. She used this as a “demonstration” of how it is acceptable to discuss male anatomy, but female anatomy is somehow taboo. Again I am not saying she was wrong in this. But the fact of the matter was I was hesitant and questioning because I was surprised she singled me out, and I wanted to verify what she was asking. Not from any inherent problem with the actual word.

Words have such power. Words spoken by those we deem knowledgeable, or deserving of respect even more so. And it is so easy to simply accept what these people say as incontrovertible fact.

We are sheep.

The biggest weakness of our educations system is that it forgets to teach people how to think for themselves. Just because someone has a position of power does not make them right. Or more wise. It does not even necessarily mean they are good people. Just means they hold a position and have some influence. And an “expert” does not mean right or wise either. It just means they have put a lot of time into something and decided that they have learned all there is to know. How often do we have more then one “experts” on a subject disagree completely.

And how did we ever get the idea that because someone is famous their words mean more than a “nobody”?

Faith is dependent on words. And while faith is often a prerequisite of hope, blind faith is is a very dangerous thing. Blind faith leads to action without acceptance of consequences. We put faith in someone because of their position, or their fame, or their so called expertise. But if we do this blindly; if we remove our own mind from the picture, then we give up the responsibility of our own choices.

So I have a fairly simple request of my fellow human beings. Don’t simply listen to someone because you think you are supposed to. Feel free to question. You have your own mind. Use it! Don’t get sucked in by the concept that you are not smart enough to think for yourself. “Knowledge” and smarts are two different things. In my mind a smart person is one that uses their brain. Not one that has a lot of facts in their head.

Don’t blindly listen to a man with an ugly hairpiece simply because he is extremely rich.

Don’t blindly decide right and wrong based on the words of someone who claims to have a special connection with the divine.

Don’t blindly choose what is important based on a pretty face on a television screen.

Take responsibility for your own choices. Question. Learn.