All my life, I’ve believed the same things that my friends and family have believed

sheepAll over the internet, people are always like, “Stand up for what you BELIEVE in and make sure that those other people with those other beliefs don’t dominate the discourse!”

And I agree with that, I suppose. I have beliefs. I think they’re right. I think other people should believe in them too. However, whenever people talk about their political or moral beliefs online, it always carries this whiff of moral superiority. As in, I am better than you all because I see clearly on this matter.

However, I don’t know about all the other people in the world, but I, personally, hold what’re pretty much the standard beliefs for a person of my race, class, location, occupational category, and social circle. And I know that is the case, because my beliefs have actually changed over time just as the prevailing beliefs amongst my friends have changed. For instance, when I first heard the term, i thought that “white privilege” was pretty stupid, whereas now I’ve come to terms with it. However, I think I’ve recently noticed the term going out of vogue, which means soon enough I’ll be down on it again.

I see nothing wrong with that. As I said, I have ‘reasons’ for my beliefs. I can more or less support them if I was to argue about them. But those reasons are actually post-facto rationalizations. In reality, I’m pretty that I more-or-less believe whatever the people around me believe, and if the beliefs of the people around me were to change, then so would my rationalizations. Like if everyone around me was to become an anti-Semite, then I’m sure I’d find some way to convince myself that the Jews were evil.*

On the one hand, this is actually a very solid argument for speaking up about your beliefs, because in doing so uou change the general perception as to what’s an acceptable belief. And that in turn means more sheep will sign onto it. But, on the other hand, it makes the whole concept of political debate seem a little distasteful, because, at it’s core, it’s more of a conflict between social groups than it is a debate over issues.

(Although an exception, I suppose, would be when a person or a group of people genuinely does have some opinion that’s at odds with the rest of their caste. But for me that is rarely the case.)

*Whenever people read of experiments like this, in which social pressure caused people to give in and give obviously incorrect answers to simple tests, they’re always like, “And this is why it’s so important to be independent thinkers!” But that’s not the right lesson to take away. The right lesson is that there is an intense conformity pressure in the human mind, and that this pressure exist inside all of us. And that if 75% of people will give incorrect answers when subjected to social pressure with regards to questions of fact, then when the social pressure is about some matter of ideology or policy, then it seems almost certain that the vast majority of us would probably alter our opinions.