But sadly, we often need to…
I’ve recently noticed I repeat myself a lot.
Not really because I’m running out of things to say — my backlog of ideas is getting longer every day — but because it seems that it doesn’t matter how many times I say something and how clear and comprehensive I’m trying to be, the point I’m making will still fly right over many people’s head.
And a bit tiring, if I’m honest.
There is a lot of things we shouldn’t have to keep saying. Because they seem to be obvious. And logical. But if we won’t, chances are we will never find a way out of the mess we’ve made for ourselves and our planet.
So here are eight truths about society I wish I didn’t have to repeat over and over again, but still do:
We used to employ children in factories. Deny women the right to vote. Own other human beings. Enforce segregation. Smoke on airplanes. Drive without wearing a seat belt.
Even though we’ve largely left these things in the past, we still overlook many questionable practices.
Today we needlessly torture and kill millions of animals for food, clothing and experiments. We allow unconsented genital mutilation of kids. We turn a blind eye to widespread misogyny and sexism. And so on.
Because ‘we’ve always done it this way.’ Or ‘it’s tradition’. Right.
‘Tradition’ is essentially just circular ‘logic.’
But we don’t have to keep doing things a certain way if they’re morally reprehensible or unnecessary. We can always re-evaluate our practices and change them as we see fit.
Human nature and behavior aren’t set in stone. And the past millennia — and even the past few decades — prove just that.
This is a hard one to swallow for many people.
No one likes their beliefs — particularly those deeply entrenched in our psyche — to be challenged. And that’s because we tend to tie them to our personal sense of identity.
So when someone criticises things we believe in, we often don’t react with logic but emotion. We feel threatened on a deeply personal level. And we will even go as far as to defend these things in the face of overwhelming opposition and counterevidence.
Hell, I don’t like being challenged either. It’s not exactly pleasant.
But at the same time, I know that no ideology, identity, practice or belief system should be free from robust criticism. And yes, that includes major world religions like Christianity or Islam. That includes cultural practices. And political or social justice movements. And things I and you believe in, no matter how strongly.
Freedom of expression has immense instrumental value.
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Modern humans are 99.9% genetically identical. Anatomically and cognitively, there is more variance within the two sexes than between them.
Yet, we thought otherwise for a big chunk of our modern history. We assumed that there are significant biological differences between men and women, which ought to dictate which roles in society they’re supposed to have.
You know, the whole ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ crap.
And the crazy thing is, we still do.
Men are still considered the strong, dominant sex. The ‘default’ human. And women are… well, we’re walking baby ovens and sandwich makers waiting to be impregnated by the most muscular ‘alpha’ male out there.
While there obviously are specific differences between sexes, more and more studies show that one’s sex has little or no bearing on who we are as people. It doesn’t largely influence our personality, intellect, capabilities, behavior, or interests — society does.
We don’t come out of the women either feminine or masculine. We learn about these stereotypes from the beliefs, judgments, behavior, and claims of family, friends, celebrities, media, art, and science.
But that doesn’t mean we’re fundamentally different. We aren’t.
When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar; you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.
There are plenty of things governments, religious or public institutions tried to ban or censor — both in the past and present. Books. Songs. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex education. Abortions. And most recently, ‘Maus’ — Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic story about the Holocaust.
And guess what?
It almost always backfires. After a Tennessee school district banned ‘Maus’, its sales have soared.
Banning things only makes them more desirable. It adds to their mystique.
And even though bans and censorship might sometimes seem like a reasonable short-term solution, they rarely stop the thing from happening. It just means that the legal system will be engaged in a way it otherwise would not be.
In the long-run, education is a far better option.
Because the only way you can truly alter people’s mindest and behavior for the better is by teaching them how to think, not what to think or do.
Many people tend to ignore — or dismiss — the fact that for over 90% of human history, we lived in largely egalitarian hunter-gather tribes.
And then, as we got more and more advanced and created larger societies, some things changed.
Not necessarily for the better.
We divided the world’s lands into separate pieces of dirt and then started fighting one another over who owned which piece of dirt. We claimed that the only role of humans with the womb is to reproduce and serve the other type of humans. We started to discriminate against each other based not only on the piece of dirt we were born on but also on our distinctive features and skin colour. And so on.
National identity, gender, patriarchy and race are all socially constructed.
Now, just because something is a social construct doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist or matter. All of the above are very much real and still matter. But these are not set in biological stone, ordained by gods, or a genetically programmed characteristic of the human species.
They are just things we came up with.
Mainly to divide, discriminate and assert dominance.
For far too long, we’ve prioritised economic growth over, well, practically everything else on this planet.
Because ‘greed is good,’ as Milton Friedman once famously wrote. We have to keep growing. And growing. Screw everything else. Growth is all we need. Right.
As a result of this fanatic commitment to economic growth, we now have a climate crisis on our hands. The quality of air, water and food is deteriorating. Wealth inequality keeps rising. And more than half a billion people worldwide suffer from depression and anxiety.
Pursuing relentless growth while destroying our planet — and our civilisation — is not only incredibly stupid, it is just plain reckless. We won’t be able to do it for much longer at speed we are currently going.
And I highly doubt that the likes of Elon Musk will gladly take almost eight billion of us to populate Mars or any other planet. Never going to happen.
Late-stage capitalism is tearing us apart. It’s not sustainable. And it’s about time we realised it.
Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.
Conspiracies can be kind of fun to believe in. Especially those that involve aliens, ghosts or other supernatural creatures. But they can also be harmful and occasionally dangerous.
However, the thing with conspiracies — the real kind — is that they don’t exactly hide in plain sight.
The biggest conspiracy out there is that we allow massive corporations and people behind them with enough money to do practically anything and get away with it. Why?
Well, because they own the majority of this world’s wealth. And when you’re ultra-rich, there’s not much you can’t do. You can avoid paying taxes and hoard your wealth in offshore bank accounts. You can use corporate lobbying to push whatever agenda you and other corporate donors want. You can easily get government funds if you fancy starting a new cool space project.
And you get to rule over corporations that have become more powerful than most countries and can pursue relentless profits regardless of the social costs.
But let’s not forget that billionaires and massive corporations only exist because we allow them to.
Truth has to be repeated constantly because error is also being preached all the time and not just by the few but by the multitudes.
Our world is riddled with bias, stereotypes, myths, and misconceptions. Some of them aren’t harmful. But many are. And they can contribute to stigmas, inequalities, and even misinformed public policies.
But because we’ve been spoonfed piles of lies practically since the day we were born, by the time we’re an adult, it’s all ‘normal.’ It’s part of the common knowledge.
We’ve repeated all these lies often enough to become the ‘truth.’
And at that point, it’s not easy to distinguish between what’s true and what’s not. Sometimes we don’t even want to challenge and question our beliefs. We’ve made up our minds, and that’s it.
It’s not easy to peel off the years of social conditioning.
But it’s not impossible either.
We should never stop wondering about the nature of things and ask questions. Because that’s the only thing that can bring us closer to understanding the madness around us. And to improve the state our planet and communities are currently in.
We might be one hell of a weird species, but we’re in this mess together. And we all have more things in common than we think.
Let’s not lose sight of that.