If there’s one thing the internet does better than anything else, it exposes the sheer antiquity of so many common issues. Hopelessly out of date ideas fester. Ridiculous mindsets seethe. There’s a reason for that, and nobody’s going to like it.
I’ve spent a lot of time listening to “debates” on subjects my parents and their friends were talking about decades ago. It’s incredible to watch these dino-ideas lumbering around, so long after their time. To say that I’m less than impressed is a massive understatement. Genetics, space, science, arts, race, religion, you name it – The reinvention of the wheel of debate about ideas is now a global industry. It’s also arguably the most destructive force on Earth, in terms of improving the human condition.
Why do these hopelessly impractical old ideas still exist at all?
This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas.
Why are all these old ideas brought out of their endless closets and paraded around like newborn babies? The technologies have changed, sure, and added some traction to meaningful debate, but these debates aren’t meaningful. They’re obsolete.
They’re also hysterical. It’s axiomatic in human history that ideas are discovered by geniuses, developed by hardheads and cynics, misrepresented to fever pitch by ideologues, and perverted by morons. It’s a particularly dull process.
What’s not usually considered in the process, however, is the very different knowledge bases from which ideas are developed/exploited/lost in hysteria:
- The geniuses, rabble that they are, have what could be called “inspired” sources of knowledge.
- The hardheads and cynics have pragmatic knowledge bases.
- The ideologues are either mindless acceptors of whatever ideas happen to be around, or thinkers with different views based on their usually very eclectic knowledge bases.
- The morons simply adapt ideas to their own mindsets and knowledge of whatever degree of obsolescence. “Everything’s OK because a chicken told me so” more or less covers this vacuum.
Symptoms of dysfunction – The knowledge bases of ideas
Media “ideas” – A disease which doesn’t even know it’s a disease.
The knowledge bases, not surprisingly, reflect a lot about the individuals and groups using them. What’s not generally understood is that you can practically track a person’s whole life story by their ideas.
These knowledge bases are sourced from an early age, in specific environments. How you learn says a lot about who you are.
That, in turn, usually relates to socio-economic environments. An extremely unfashionable, but usually pretty accurate, view is that the poor and undereducated are literally decades behind the times. (Many people do react very effectively to these situations, and bravely get themselves out of these environmental graves, but these knowledge bases tend to stick in socio-economic classes.)
This unsightly situation even affects whole nations. Growing up in Australia, I was told by my parents at about age 4 that Australia was usually 20 years behind the US in many areas of thinking and cultural/technical development. How true that was, I learned very soon, to my utter, and in some cases ongoing, disgust.
However, in my observation, the basic rule holds true – Those in disadvantaged circumstances tend to be either unaware of more advanced thinking and ideas, which aren’t directly relevant to them. People raised in those environments, however, are also likely to bring with them the outdated ideas and mindsets of their origins.
Outdated ideas – The plague affecting the world
This may seem like a rather expedient, not to say downright snobbish, viewpoint at first glance. The problem is that outmoded ideas do persist, and they are truly toxic. America, the home of the Big Idea in modern history, is awash with absurd anachronisms. Western culture, in its superficial obsession with technologies and fads, lugs around old sitcom ideas and clichés as role models, career paths, and a lifestyle.
(Racism and hate, two of the nastiest and most destructive idea spectrums on Earth, are good examples. Logically – It’s none of your damn business who someone else’s ancestors were. The rest of the world wasn’t born for your, or anyone else’s, approval. Yet that insular, impractical, useless range of ideas is the sole basis of so many so-called ideologies, poisoning the human environment for centuries.)
It’s hard to imagine a more useless scenario. These ideas aren’t just out of date – They’re major liabilities in practice. New ideas are too unfamiliar for easy processing in this museum of thinking. That slows down their adoption.
Hiding behind “norms” of thinking is also the working basis of anti-intellectualism. This is idea-phobia, as much as a totally dysfunctional approach to reality. New ideas take over; if you’re behind the eight ball when they kick in, you’re likely to stay there, be left behind, or have to undergo an arduous, thankless, process of catching up.
It’s not a pretty picture, and it’s not that simple. It’s quite natural, and reasonable, to hold on to ideas you like; these tend to be trusted ideas, perspectives, and useful ways of thinking. Ironically, in this putrid mess of anachronisms, some older ideas stand up quite well.
The problem is that some people can’t make the distinction between the utterly useless ideas and the ones that still hold true. They’re certainly not trained to think like that. Basic thinking, like metaphysics and core rational logic, have been left out. How do you criticize an idea with no working logic to help you? You can’t use a calculator on these things.
Education is a mixed blessing in this regard. You can teach, sure, but any teacher will tell you that some ideas simply aren’t learned, let alone taken up as working models. Many ideas simply aren’t understood, simply because they’re too far removed from individual realities.
You have to wonder why this book is STILL so far ahead of “debate” so many years later. A classic case of the norm being so far behind previous thinking.
You could argue that religions persist simply because they’re inaccessible ideals. The human mind doesn’t seem to mind grabbing hopeful ideas, however vague and badly expressed. Political “ideals”, (contradiction in terms) however much proven to be no more than hot air, are accepted as options for various reasons, with whatever level of belief. People in hideous circumstances don’t refuse hope, however insincere those offering it may be.
(One of the reasons I don’t make a habit of attacking the religions despite plenty of provocation and seemingly endless just causes is because sometimes they’re all some people have. Much as I despise the hypocrisy and general practical uselessness of religions, who’s to begrudge people a little peace and hope?)
So – Ideas of all ages, in one unholy, impractical potpourri of mutual abrasions. Progressive people often don’t get old style thinking. Old style ideas seem ridiculous. Old style ideas, in turn, often ignore anything which conflicts with them.
Bottom line – Outdated thinking will persist and continue to obstruct, until new ideas are made more accessible, and above all, more meaningful. Media can do that, and usually doesn’t. Nor do the “intellectual elites” seem to be particularly useful in that regard. Our heroic “thought leaders” seem to feel that their ideas have precedence, regardless of their own total lack of achievements in the wider world. Marketing can promote new ideas, and usually does so incredibly badly. You can promote a Playstation game in a future world, but not a real human future? Grim.
If you want people to understand new ideas, explain them. Show them to be practical in real terms. Make the ideas usable, not some distant manifestation of yet another inaccessible fountain of wisdom outside personal experience. Get on with it. Humanity can’t live in a state of built-in mental constipation forever.
Still cursing lack of progress on updating SMJ. Will try, but not optimistic.