Wednesday, March 27, 2013

On the Role of Perspective

I'm amazed at the fine line between what we call indoctrination and what we call education.  If I were to go to... say, Texas, and teach a class that guns are dangerous and bad, a lot of people would be up in arms declaring that I am indoctrinating their children.  However, if I were to go up to someplace stereotypically liberal, we'll say New York City, and teach the same thing, a lot of people would applaud me for giving their children a good education.  Therefore, the difference between education and indoctrination is not whether or not the material is or is not doctrinal, but who's doctrine it is.

We teach our children all sorts of things that could be considered indoctrination.  In a world of 7 billion perspectives, there is virtually nothing that someone doesn't consider a good education and someone else consider brutish indoctrination.  History, as we reflect upon it, is not black and white, but painted in billions of shades.  We look at various events and paint them with our values and glance at them with lenses affected by our own lives.  We look at the American Revolution as a glorious fight for liberty and independence and we look at the Bolshevik Revolution as this bloody Communist overthrow.  Both were revolutions, both for the overthrow of oppression and tyranny, but the way we view them is (usually) vastly different.  Our perspectives affect the way we look back on history.
Commie Bastards!

Oh so noble!

In addition to understanding history the way we want to understand it, we often like to draw analogies between current events and historical events (provided the historical event is understood they way we want it to.)  Hence, some people suggested that the struggle for Civil Rights is analogous to the Abolitionist Movement, having interpreted both as a great and noble endeavor.  In reality, while there are similarities between the two occasions, they are not actually analogous.  This phenomenon of drawing analogies between completely different events in history only further goes to show that history is laced with perspective.  Like indoctrination/education and historical perspectives, the way we draw analogous comparisons between events in our past goes to show us that the way we look at the world is not objective; it is subjective.

So what am I getting at?  The red equal signs all over Facebook of course!  Its amazing to me that a simple mass change of profile pictures can change a website otherwise relegated to pictures of food and games of Words With Friends into a veritable cyber war zone.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I do not support the idea of homosexual marriage, however, that's not entirely what I'm getting at.  This is what I'm getting at:

This picture, to the extent that it is meant as an argument to convince you to support one side or another, is ridiculous.  Unfortunately, I am willing to reckon that this sentiment is precisely why most people support the cause for gay marriage; not necessarily because they have weighed the options, but because they have seen people draw analogies between the Civil Rights movement and the Gay Rights movement, and decide they want to be on the "right" side.

Let's make this painfully clear:  Just because you want the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement to be analogues of each other does not mean that they are analogues.  Just because the Civil Rights movement is considered just and noble by most modern folk (including myself, wholeheartedly) does not mean that any modern day movement that appears similar is also just and noble.  The Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement are entirely separate historical events, and any similarity between the two is far more complicated than simply asserting that they are the same.

Regardless of which side of the argument you support, avoid the fallacy of historical perspective.  If you have decided your side because you're afraid of how the history books will write the story, you're lacking good reasons for your positions.  History really is written by the victors, and the victors aren't necessarily right.

It could very well be the case that the Supreme Court decides to allow gay marriage.  I predict it will be so.  I am fully aware that I will probably look really bad in the history books 40 years from now.  But I also am completely convinced that I am right, regardless of how those who will come after me will see me.  The difference between indoctrination and education is not in what you teach, but how people view what you teach.  The difference between the reputation of George Washington and that of V.I. Lenin is not whether or not they were right in their revolutions, but who is the one perceiving their history.

History will be written in whatever light people choose.  What is important is to see beyond modern perceptions and unearth universal principles.  Rather than picking the "winning" side, people ought to pick the  right side, the true side.  Who cares what the books will read:  Do the *right* thing.

1 comment:

  1. After reading a few of these, I finally read the 'Who Writes this Stuff?'Well done sir.