Taboos, sacred cows and actual issues

If you're a realist, you've gotten over thinking about how it looks to others that you think what you do. You've even gotten over whether you like it or not.

You just make conclusions: this cause appears to create this effect, so if it happens again, we'll get some variation on that effect. You then analyze everything that comes to your way to figure out its cause/effect structure and, if you've seen it before, apply a winning (or loss minimization) strategy.

Not rocket science, eh? Well, there are many things we can mistake for causes:

  • The effect itself. "The problem is the war!" No, the problem is the cause of the war, which may be economic, political, biological, religious, etc.
  • The messenger. "That kid is starting a riot by spreading propaganda against our discipline!" Possibly -- but equally possible is that the discipline is at fault. More information needed.
  • The taboo. "He's a Satanist/racist/Muslim/Jew/Scientologist who believes in biological determinism/eternal life/nothing/money isn't everything. Therefore, he's going to destroy us." Not necessarily, unless you can show that his beliefs include a doctrine that embraces a practice that will cause destruction -- and that is your actual cause.
  • The sacred cow. "He's suggesting we do away with prayer in schools, so he must be bad!" What is his reason for doing away with prayer in schools? Are we sure it is connected to a desire to do evil?
  • The catch-all. "If God wanted us to fly, he would have given us wings!" Ascribing intent to Gods, nature or the founding fathers that "catch all" arguments makes them impossible dichotomies.

You can see some of that in practice here, where someone is pointing out that we've confused a sacred cow with an actual issue -- and in doing so, makes the same mistake himself:

Regrettably [Chavez's] speech soon deteriorated into a laughable anti-capitalist rallying cry for the socialist model that he espouses.

The only golden nugget from his speech was:

"If the climate was a bank they would have saved it by now."

Time to Market

What he's saying is that we have confused sacred cows for actual issues.

What he has missed is that claiming banking is our sacred cow is wrong; our sacred cow is anything popular with our egalitarian masses.

Try these, Chavez:

  • "If the climate was an imperiled minority group, we would have saved it by now."
  • "If the climate was a lost puppy, we would have saved it by now."
  • "If the climate was gay marriage, we would have saved it by now."
  • "If the climate was baby Jesus, we would have saved it by now."

What do all of these have in common? They're tangible symbols by which we as individuals gained social status. "See, I'm good; I help the poor/minorities/Jesus/gays/women with 1% of my salary after taxes!"

The real problem, the real cause, is that we're looking to gain popularity by our choices, not thinking rationality. It's a mental laziness that will punish us.


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