One great benefit of COVID is how it has shed light on that which would prefer to remain in the shadows. It becomes ever more obvious the degree to which we are emphatically told one thing on Monday and emphatically told an entirely opposite thing on Tuesday. Fully revealed is the systematic effort underway to condition us to believe that logic, facts, arguments, and consistency do not matter.
At this point, the effort seems to be working spectacularly well, as populations across the globe, billions of people, have allowed their mental, spiritual, and physical health to be severely compromised or ruined and their economic welfare shattered by their acceptance of a perpetual crisis mentality concerning a virus that is obviously less communally severe than the measures being taken to contain it — measures, by the way, whose effectiveness in containing it are debatable at best and counterproductive at worst.
Relativism, which I would describe as the proposition that only what you feel is real, is at the heart of the problem. Logic, facts, and arguments presuppose that there exists some objectively correct answer and thus some common end toward which we can move, difficult and perplexing as the journey may be. But now to the near exclusion of all else we are being appealed to on the basis of loving it, hating it, fearing it, or craving it. When the focus is on satisfying a particular feeling right now, there is no reason to be consistent or concern oneself over the long-term or broader effects of scratching that itch.
From the perspective of the ruling elite, nurturing this religion of feelings is a brilliant strategy. It is much easier to influence feelings than to make convincing arguments — and it is much easier to build a mass consensus of feelings than forge coherent policies built on a systematic philosophy or theology. Furthermore, feelings can be heated up, cooled down, or turned around in an instant, whereas philosophies, theologies and arguments of any kind, once accepted, tend to change slowly.
The attack on rational thought and the stoking of emotions, which underlies many political pronunciations, healthcare policies, public education policies and curricula, gender politics, social media interaction and censorship, revisionist history efforts, mainstream news narratives, and mainstream entertainment content, is so pervasive, perplexing, and infuriating it is quite painful to dwell on — so I won’t. Instead, let’s focus on things we can do, right now, to fight back.
- Get off social media. It’s an artificial environment that brings out the worst in people, skews our perception of reality, makes us angry, depressed, and easy targets for manipulators.
- If you must go on social media, limit communication to people you actually know. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say face-to-face.
- Choose your news and entertainment sources carefully — and do the same for your children. Make it your general rule that everything you see in mainstream news and entertainment is either completely wrong or severely biased — and that goes for news and entertainment sources you agree with as well as those you don’t.
- Get religion. Without a moral compass, without some consistent and reasonable set of rules, it’s impossible to differentiate right from wrong, good from bad, wise from stupid. Ironically, faith, which is mystical, has great practical value for producing joyful lives on earth, whereas relativism, sold as being practical, makes people perpetually miserable. Faith too big a leap? Classic philosophers might be enormously helpful. Whatever attracts you in the realm of religion and philosophy, study, reflect, and apply the lessons. Sooner or later you’ll gain a level of confidence, hope, clarity, and stability you never imagined possible. *
- Home school or fight public educators with family-unfriendly agendas. Our generation really dropped the ball on this score, and as a consequence, what far too many of our children and grandchildren have been learning is not how to think, but what to think. Are you OK with that?
- Limit screen time, yours and especially your children’s. Too much time staring at screens will mess up your head. Badly.
- Protect your online privacy as best you can. Anonymous and autonomous are synonymous. Protecting your personal information is of course necessary for preventing identity theft and spam — but wait, there’s more! Letting your personal information fall into the wrong hands also enables social media sites, e-commerce sites, and search engines to manipulate your news feeds, search results, and digital ad impressions in ways that keeps you agitated and combative, craving, fearing, etc. Sharing personal details of your life is fashionable and touted by many as a virtue, when in fact it is extremely reckless and potentially dangerous to your physical safety or that of your children.
- Don’t get sucked into left vs. right arguments. The politics we observe, Republicans versus Democrats, is mostly theater, distracting us from seriously addressing the serious issues that affect our country and the world. As long as we are divided along these lines, we’ll never accomplish the most practical political step we could take, removing all incumbents from office and starting over. Instead of deepening the divisions between our left-leaning or right-leaning fellow citizens, we should relentlessly search for common ground. Compromise, looking for the middle path, is exactly what mainstream news and social media want to prevent! A spirit of compromise encourages rational debate and public policies rooted in sound thinking rather than policies that are merely the outcome of emotional battles between special interest groups. A divide-and-conquer strategy is used by tyrants to gain and consolidate power; compromise is used by public-spirited citizens and leaders to form a more perfect union. **
* ” And he spoke to them long, in parables; Here, he began, is the sower gone out to sow. And as he sowed, there were grains that fell beside the path, so that all the birds came and ate them up. And others fell on rocky land, where the soil was shallow; they sprang up all at once, because they had not sunk deep in the ground; but as soon as the sun rose they were parched; they had taken no root, and so they withered away. Some fell among briers, so that the briers grew up, and smothered them. But others fell where the soil was good, and these yielded a harvest, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Listen, you that have ears to hear with.” (Matthew 13: 3-9)
** “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (Preamble to the U.S. Constitution)
2 Replies to “Relativism: The Religion of Feelings”
Brad, sometimes I agree with you; sometimes I don’t. However, I always learn something. This piece is certainly in your “top 10.” Keep writing.
Thank you very much, Bill. Happy Thanksgiving!