Addictions are kind of like phobias. Many people think they have a phobia and tell everyone, when really, they just have a strong fear response – me and spiders for example (or anything with more than 4 legs). But those who know they have a phobia or could be addicted, don’t talk about it. I think the word addiction is in danger of being over used sometimes, much like phobia.
My friend Philip blogged about the addiction to certainty and how opening up to uncertainty is a way we can perhaps start to create a different culture that is open and flexible. I think there is an addiction that is similar, the addiction to being right. This is slightly different to the fear of being wrong that Kathryn Schulz talks about, but is more of a commitment to obliterating anyone who has an alternative version of something. I’ve noticed ‘right addicts’ in my own life and think I might have nearly become an addict myself – it kind of runs in my family. Right addicts in my personal experience never consider the harm their addiction causes to others. Speaking for myself, I found being around this form of addiction ate away at my confidence and sense of worth as nothing I said was valued.
I’ve noticed this in other contexts such as the rise in the use of the term ‘conspiracy theorist’. This is a relatively recent phrase, first coined in the early 20th Century but picking up it’s negative meaning in the 1960’s with the CIA deploying it in response to anyone questioning who shot then President John F Kennedy. Since then however it seems that the term conspiracy theory is used to mock, put down, and attack anyone who doesn’t agree with you.
The addictive aspect of being right also drives people to search online for evidence to back their case – ‘I must prove I am right’. It can set up a ‘them and us’ mentality bringing people together in ‘like minded’ groups to get high on taking down or attacking someone elses ideas. I’ve seen it on social media and it’s pretty ugly. But like most addicts, they don’t see any harm in what they are doing, and insist on their right to be right.
There are some groups who will see their addiction as healthy and important in terms of knowing The Truth. Two groups who have been trying to win over more users of their version of being right are scientists and those who are religious (I’m generalising). I’m not sure I want to get caught in their turf war, but sometimes I think how amazing it would be to hear either of these groups say ‘we need to revisit this idea it might not be quite as it seems’.
Maybe quantum physicists are like the addiction clinic, helping those from strong points of view on reality to understand both could be right. Me, I’m happy to be a conspiracy theorist, I find it more interesting to consider there could be more to something than what I first believed. I don’t mind getting new information that challenges my thinking or perspective. But to even question how do we know what we know, or don’t know – that is a real rush.
I’ve played sport all my life. When I push my body it hurts. I feel my muscles burn, I sweat and I breath faster. It’s also known that this is the only way to improve the functioning of some of our bodies systems, especially the cardiovascular. Schools even have subjects like PE and sport-science that focus on the knowledge that explains and teaches how to develop and train the body. Some schools even do tests of physical fitness – you know the ones – like the beep test, 12-minute run, that sort of thing. Not everyone likes being tested, but you can test yourself and get a bit of a comparison if you want to. Some people really go for it and I’ve seen students cheer their classmates on as they get to the line and turn, clearly struggling, then collapsing. Others just bail at the first sign of discomfort, and there are always a few who seem to always miss the test. That is diversity at work and it’s great.
Some schools even do tests of physical fitness – you know the ones – like the beep test, 12-minute run, that sort of thing. Not everyone likes being tested, but you can test yourself and get a bit of a comparison if you want to. Some people really go for it and I’ve seen students cheer their classmates on as they get to the line and turn, clearly struggling, then collapsing. Others just bail at the first sign of discomfort, and there are always a few who seem to always miss the test. That’s diversity at work and it’s great.
But what about ideas, thinking-fitness? How do we know and recognise when we get out of our comfort zone? Do schools provide a variety of ways to do this, develop different kinds of fitness? I’m sure they do to some degree, but sometimes I wonder if the kinds of exercises schools use are ones from the 1950’s. Sure, they’ll get you so far but they’ll mainly work big muscle groups in one way (I’m over generalising).
Similar to physical workouts, it’s also a little bit uncomfortable to go beyond what you know or think you know, or to even think in a new way! Diversity Inquiry conversations are like ‘boot camp for thinking’, but sometimes it is hard to know what your baseline fitness is. On Saturday I “divinqed” with a group of year 13 students who showed incredible determination to stay with really challenging ideas about the history of enlightenment and western thinking, their limits and what has been left in the shadows. How our understanding of identity is limited by labels and language that tends to put things into two sides. And how some of the organisations in society, that we just accept as working in people’s best interest, might not actually work for a lot of people.
Divinqing creates doubt, uncertainty and disorientation. Tt can feel like reality is crumbling. I suppose it is like when Morpheus explains The Matrix to Neo the first time, Neo ‘wants out’ because it’s overwhelming. He hangs in there and recognises that, when he is in The Matrix, he can move through it differently, in a similar way as before but he’s able to resist certain programmmes and see the ‘code’ more and more. He pushes his skills through encounters with agents and others and each time he changes. It’s not ignorance that is bliss anymore – or staying in the dark of the cave (to use Plato’s analogy) – but knowing it is not solid or set in stone is the new bliss.
Maybe divinq is a purple pill. It is certainly flexing more than just the mind. Looking forward to working out with this group again soon.