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Being Open-Minded

2019 March 43 min read

I'm no longer affording myself the privilege to be open-minded.

Joining Earth Strike and becoming a key player in the movement has committed me to a specific political bent, and I can't put up the charade that some on the "alt right" do, for example, of approaching political debates as simply opportunities to "follow the light of truth wherever it may lead". And I think this is good.

For the first 21 years of my life, I was able to have genuine, open debates about political issues, and I tried as hard as I could to "keep my mind open and my mouth shut" (as I would put it), to the point that I definitely came off as an annoying centrist sometimes. I was mindful of my lack of knowledge and experience, and I knew that committing myself publicly and psychologically to certain positions meant I would inevitably close myself off to new ideas. This is just how the brain works.

I'm privileged enough that I could have kept this up my whole life. But the more I learned, the more I became aware that I had a moral duty to put my knowledge into practice, sacrifice my position of rational detachment and join the struggle.

I know now why the timing of Earth Strike felt so perfect to me. It was at a time when I felt like I had done enough passive, open-minded synthesizing of information, my beliefs had settled, and I was itching to finally take action. I still obviously don't know everything, and I still defer in many ways to those with more experience and wisdom than I have - but I now require that these people be of the same political leaning as I am before I openly solicit their input. I'm biased, both passively and actively, and I think this is good, and necessary. I believe that the relentless dialectical pursuit of truth must at some level come to an end before political activism can begin - and that the latter is much more important in life than the former.

For one thing, most political issues can't be approached intellectually by people who have no lived experiences to draw from and no connections with those affected. The issues are too complex and the singular human brain is too unreliable and full of biases already. Whatever conclusions we come to are going to be influenced by society, as the history of philosophy and science shows all too clearly.

But beyond that - hundreds of millions of people will continue to suffer and die under a fucked up system before political philosophy as a whole even puts a dent in these fundamental debates. We can't afford to wait that long; we all have a moral duty to stand up for the marginalized and exploited.

These particular thoughts of mine are not recent, either. This sense of duty was always in the back of my mind when I was a passive consumer of politics, and I think at a fundamental level I was aware of the contradictions between my beliefs and my actions. Joining Earth Strike was a huge moral and cognitive weight off my shoulders.

A prevailing narrative out there is that being open-minded is a key difference that separates right-wingers from left-wingers. This is false, obviously. Right-wingers have the same sense of moral duty that we do - in their case, their imagined duty to their race, homeland, and tradition - and the same cognizance of how this imagined duty conflicts with their supposed values of "free speech" and open-minded, rational debate. The difference is that they can afford to hide all this behind layers of deception, whereas we as leftists can, I believe, be honest about it. Like I'm doing here.

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