Sunday, January 1, 2017

Certainty, the system behind the unjust

Every injustice I've encountered have been when a person is certain.

A little knowledge is a certain thing

The peak of "Mount Stupid" is where I encounter people who are in some position of power, unfortunately making decisions about the thing they're being stupid about. These are ordinary people, with an extraordinary talent at remaining right, even in the face of being terribly wrong.

Honestly I haven't figured out how these people really tick, they're still a mystery for me to solve. But I've collected some information about them over the years:
  1. They rise to power easily. Certainty looks like confidence, I talk about this in a previous post. And since 51% to 100% of promotions are based on how you seem, rather than what you did, the hot air rises.
  2. They have a hard time with not knowing, being on the fence, being unsure. They believe it's a weak, vulnerable position. They avoid it, always making sure to have a decision ready as soon as possible. And they are derisive towards people who are uncertain, and haven't come to a decision yet.
  3. They have a vested interest in remaining certain. It's part of their identity, and they must maintain this identity for others.
  4. They are justified in their actions. But all actions can be justified, if you know the right arguments. The worst atrocities in history had justifications. The smallest injustices at home, like between siblings, have valid arguments on both sides.
  5. Disdain for nuance. Kind of like point 2, they consider it a weakness to their integrity to not be fully committed into one side. 

Certain people cause suffering

Certainty causes inflexibility. People who are certain, 
  • become inflexible in their hearts. They are less compassionate. They are less patient.
  • become inflexible in their minds. They are less open. They don't doubt, hence they don't question, and thus they don't learn.
  • become inflexible in their emotions. Over time they become strict, and negative. They lose the ability to enjoy and appreciate.
  • become inflexible in their behaviors. The are certain of what's right, and what's wrong. Their world becomes finite, everything is already known. Thus moral judgement is simple and quick. Any new information is easily assimilated and chunked up into the right and wrong buckets.
These, in combination, are the cause of suffering for people. Irregardless of your economic system, your local resources, or the culture in which you live; independent of your class and social standing within your locality; what will bring you the most pain in life is other people's certainty, and your certainty that they shouldn't be so certain.

They are certain that you are a lowlife. You doubt that. You're not certain that you're a high life, but a low life? Really?

They are certain that you don't deserve something. They're certain that it's theirs right and duty to allocate other people's time and resources. And they're certain that you don't get a part of it.

They're certain that you owe them something. You're not so sure. You know that there's a lot of thing you've done for them, and you've never collected. And you're not exactly sure that they did so much for you, for them to feel entitled. But they seem to be really certain of it.

Ignorance, unraveling the certainty

The only thing we know for certain, is that we don't know.
The first time I encountered the idea of using ignorance to undermine people's certainty was from lessons about Socrates in school. It's said, when he heard that the Oracles had named him wisest in all the lands, he decided to prove the Oracles wrong.

He knew that he didn't know lots of things, while plenty others attested to know. He went to these masters of knowledge, and asked them questions, coming at it with genuine, annoying, ignorance. He decided that he would show everyone that he didn't know as much as these masters did, thus he couldn't have been the wisest.

If you've ever dealt with a truly ignorant, yet highly curious person, I think you know how annoying it is to deal with them sometimes. You begin the conversation feeling like you know the answers to their simple questions. You might have spent a lifetime on this topic. But, so quickly that it surprises you, they get to the heart of what has still remained a mystery to you. You realize, and often not with your head, but with your emotions of shame and frustration, how little you knew, and how fragile was the deck of cards of your certainty.

This is what Socrates encountered. He would annoy everyone in town with his ignorance. And after some time he realized that the Oracle was right, he was the wisest person, because at least he knew that he didn't know. That's a +1 that he had over everyone else's inflated 0.

Dealing with the unjust

But feigning ignorance, and trying to approach the certain tyrants in your life like a fool, is easier said than done. People tried to imitate Socrates, but where Socrates had tact, humor, and self deprecation, his followers didn't have any of these. They came off as arrogant and unruly. So much so that the city decided that maybe Socrates should have something to drink and take a nap.

Honestly I don't know how to deal with tyrants. The problem in dealing with the certain, is that they're so certain they have it figured out. Sometimes I want to sit in front of them with a whiteboard and argue the entire thing out. But often they close themselves up in their certainty bubble.

Lots of things about being wrong is not what they want to deal with. They have other, more important things to worry about. They know they're justified in the bigger things. Maybe they could've done the smaller things better, nobody's perfect, they tried their best. Who is this doubt-filled wimp, coming in here and criticizing things? These tyrants have gone through a lot of shit in their lives, they know. They know what the world's really like, and everyone will find out how right they are in the long run. Just you watch.