Thursday, April 1, 2010

Irrational Thinking and Intolerance.

Last week I picked up an interesting customer in the cab, and not interesting in the sense of amusing or enlightening. En route he told me of something he witnessed on TV some twenty years earlier. About a female smoker who refused to give up smoking though she was pregnant. The interviewer asked her if she was concerned for her baby’s health, and her other children in the house. Apparently she replied in the negative, that it was “her life” and she could do as she pleased. My customer’s reaction to this was, and I’m paraphrasing: “If I was there in that live studio, she would be dead; I’d have killed her right on the spot for having such an attitude. I’d be in Long Bay jail now for murder”.

Just think for a moment about the sources of fanaticism. You think it’s only Muslim fundamentalists? By this man’s brilliant reasoning, a female smoker should be killed for putting her children and unborn baby at risk. Murder becomes justified when the “cause is just”, at least in the eyes of the fanatic. Whether or not he would really have done this is moot, but his attitude is the point here.

I wondered whether he thought of the consequences and the enormous irony, and even hypocrisy, of his statement: If he had killed the mother, he would also have killed the baby.

I think this sort of demonstrates the reality of our intrinsic fanaticism and irrational thinking and intolerance for others, and other lifestyles, and our penchant to look down in severe judgment on others. This is only one demonstration of that, but it again reminds me of the wisdom of Eric Hoffer:

The awareness of their individual blemishes and shortcomings inclines the frustrated to detect ill will and meanness in their fellow men. Self-contempt, however vague, sharpens our eyes for the imperfections of others. We usually strive to reveal in others the blemishes we hide in ourselves. (Eric Hoffer, The True Believer)

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