I’ve had several spirited arguments on Facebook over the years, because, although I’m a very patient person, I have my limits when it comes to disrespecting logic. You see, I earned a degree in Pure Mathematics, so I’ve actually been trained in logic, and – unfortunately – none of my opponents in those arguments were being the least bit logical. At some point, my tolerance for ignoring logic is overrun, and I just have to say something. When that has happened, and I spoke out against the logic criminal, invariably the villain devolved into a political stance. Having stated several times on Facebook that I don’t want to engage in political discussions there (despite my opponents’ failure to understand the difference between politics and logic), I usually end up leaving at that point, because – like religion – you can’t really argue with logic against blind faith.
I realized this morning that I’ve never really explained why I try not to get into politics on Facebook (except for debating the logic of a political counterpoint). The answer is simple: I simply don’t know enough about other political systems to be able to make a cogent argument for or against them – and clearly, based on their lack of logical consistency in their arguments, none of my opponents did, either.
Here’s the crux of the matter: if you’re extolling the virtues of a political system that you’ve never experienced, you’re ignorant, plain and simple. You have no way of knowing how that system really works. I’ve never experienced a political system other than the system forged by our forefathers here in the U.S.A. over 230 years ago – so I don’t argue for or against those other systems with other ignoramuses like me. I do reserve the right to argue for our Usaian system, though, since I’ve personally experienced its successes and failures, and I believe there are more successes than failures.
It’s no different than arguing about culture. Unless you’re experienced firsthand another culture, you really know nothing about it. Visiting a foreign country doesn’t cut it, by the way – seeing an antiseptic, tourist-friendly view of a culture is not the same as experiencing the culture. For instance, my wife is a native Portuguese. When we visit, we stay with native Portuguese (her parents and family), shop where the locals shop (such as the open market, where you can buy everything from bootleg CDs to large spools of fabric to live – yes, live! – chickens and ducklings) and get “special” treatment at one of the tourist attraction palaces because a relative decades ago used to clean the palace when it was still in use. I have experienced firsthand some of the Portuguese culture. (If you’re wondering, for what it’s worth, it’s much closer to a few streaks of British culture overlaying a substratum of what is portrayed through our entertainment venues as Hispanic culture – note that I do not claim to know anything about real Hispanic culture, only what I’ve seen presented as Hispanic culture here – than to Usaian culture. It’s no surprise to me that Portuguese are now considered “Latino” culture.) My wife also experienced real Portuguese culture, although for much longer than I did (22 years, to be exact), and you would be amazed at the number of ignoramuses that insist on telling her how she’s wrong about how her own culture works.
Worse, they tend to argue using the concept of a “European culture” – which just doesn’t exist. Portugal and Spain, for instance, are similar cultures, but different enough at the height of their powers to have decided to split up the rest of world between them in order to resolve those differences. However, Sarah – who worked for a summer as a hotel maid in Germany – insists that German culture is vastly different than either Portugal or Spain. (Two world wars in the 20th century support this view.) All of them are European countries, but that doesn’t mean they have the same “European culture” – that’s as ludicrous as saying there’s an “African culture” – which implies that just because they’re on the same continent, Egyptian culture, an advanced society that has existed for more millennia than we can comprehend, is identical to tribal Zulu culture is identical to English-influenced South African culture. Only an ignoramus could agree with that statement.
Notice that I did not say those other political systems needed to be experienced firsthand (although that helps tremendously, and I can attest to that), but I will say that if you’re basing your opinions on anything beyond a firsthand account, you’re still a political ignoramus. Yes, that includes what you read in school; that’s probably 30th-hand accounts and subject to change, depending on the whim of the textbook editors (and has changed, drastically, even in the last 30 years, based on my kids’ textbooks). For instance, before repeating empty slogans you’ve heard about how great Communism was in the U.S.S.R., perhaps speaking to one of the millions who “escaped” (their words) to seek refuge in other countries will give you a new perspective beyond the party line and help you clarify your thinking. Before shouting to the rooftops about the virtues of China, learn what happens to Chinese citizens who speak out against their government and think about what would happen to you if the U.S.A. had the same policies. Before shilling sheep-like for some beloved politician, substitute for that person a politician you absolutely disagree with and see if you sound crazy – that’s what you sound like to your political opponents.
There are a number of fine internet journalists and commentators working today that have done their research and managed to break away from previous ignorance. They’ve looked at both sides of the equation and made their decisions. (Sometimes they reach conclusions I agree with; sometimes they don’t – but I respect their rights to informed opinions.) Those people do have a right to speak about politics; the rest of us ignoramuses should just shut up until we learn better.