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Stef's Rants, 2005 series, #2 "honesty"

requested by mittelweg



In general I think people in my culture are overfocused on sharing with other people excruciating levels of in-the-moment honesty about their feelings and opinions. I don't mean I object to people complaining occasionally when they are unhappy about something that's not going right in their lives -- I am talking about the kind of communication that begins when someone decides that another person should change the way they live and behave, and they criticize this person in the name of "I'm just being honest." I'm talking about people who don't stop to think who they're talking to before they blurt out something that might be hurtful to that person - and, when this happens between intimates, who defend themselves by saying "I'm just being honest" or "I need to be able to share everything with you or our relationship isn't meaningful."

At the same time, I think people in my culture tend to be underfocused on being honest with themselves.

Being honest with yourself means seeing and accepting what's real, not only in the moment, but also in the long term. It means continuing to accept new data and revising your theories, not shutting down because "your mind's made up." It means accepting that humans live in profound ignorance about how our actions really affect other people and the world in general. This ignorance is a function of our information intake limitations and can't be fundamentally changed, although we can (and I think "we should") make efforts to understand better all the ways our actions could affect the world.

Before the election, there was an article in The New York Times Magazine about Bush's religion-based presidency, and the article threw around the phrase "the reality-based community," scornfully contrasting it to people who have the power to act and make their visions happen. To me the notion that a group can act to make their vision happen, and ignore reality, is profoundly dishonest. A group might be able to push things in a certain direction in the short term, at a fairly high cost (because big changes always cost). But ultimately other forces - if only entropic forces - will prevail. I am Ozymandius, King of Kings. Presuming that people who have big visions want their envisioned world to last a long time, they're being self-dishonest (and dishonest to their followers) if they claim that through force they can bring about lasting changes.

I think a lot of people aren't capable for one reason or another of looking really honestly at the long term. Elitist of me to think that. It's hard to have the mental capacity, it's not easy to get the necessary education, and it's just plain really scary to think simultaneously that one has a profound effect on the world and that one has very little way of knowing or controlling what that effect is going to be.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
pyrzqxgl
Jan. 27th, 2005 06:56 pm (UTC)
Re the first paragraph, yeah, I think some people's "honesty" is more the equivalent of men in cars yelling rude things at women on the street than any positive character thing.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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