I am an avid reader of many different thinkers, from diverse schools of thought.
Starting with the novels of Dostoevsky, Kafka, Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Joseph Heller, Tolstoy and Joseph Conrad, it wasn’t long before I branched out to the philosophy of Nietzche, Kierkegaard, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Sartre, Descartes, Schopenhauer, Ralph Waldo Emerson and David Hume.
The current stage in my mental development has been spurred by reading more contemporary political writers.
The first modern, overtly political book I read was the amazing No Logo by Naomi Klein, concerning the struggles of exploited factory workers in the Americas and parts of Asia; the second: God Is Not Great, How Religion Poisons everything by Christopher Hitchens, a powerful take-down of religion and faith.
Since then I have read various books from thinkers as diverse as Noam Chomsky, Richard Dawkins, Reza Aslan and Sam Harris.
This has lead me to an incredibly basic observation about people who read (especially political) things (hopefully I don’t include myself, but *gasp* what if I do?)
They just can’t think for them-fucking-selves.
When I think about the range of thinkers and writers I’ve read, I realize that there is not a one among them who I would agree with on every issue. With some of them, I have extremely strong disagreements.
Of this list, the only author I can think of for whom I have no real complaints is Noam Chomsky.
Some find his focus on the west as the key bad actor questionable, and see him as a ‘blame America first’ type of guy.
While I can see how this would be a problem for some, I don’t care who you criticise.
The west, Islam, blacks, whites…whatever. I only care about the point you are making.
On this basis, he is the writer I have the least to disagree with. Of course, I’m open to any valid criticism about him.
There is still not a one among them for whom I would feel a reflexive need to defend based solely on being a fan.
I don’t care about somebody’s ‘integrity’ when it comes to making a point, I care about whether that point makes sense or is valid.
There is nobody I need to defend.
There is no-one for whom I would feel a pang of tribal pain at being attacked or criticised.
I’d look to the criticism itself and see whether it’s valid, dismiss it if it’s not, reconsider my stance on this point if it was.
Maybe it’s human nature or a need to belong, but every day across the internet it is easy to witness a slavish desire to make authors into idols, fans into one’s own gang or crew, and criticisers into enemies.
If I say just one word of criticism against some of these authors, the fanboys lose their shit.
They start accusing me of being a hack and a liar, part of some evil cabal trying to tear down their great hero.
But y’know what? I don’t care. Shit all over the authors I like, if you please! It doesn’t impact my opinion unless this ‘shit’ is valid.
Don’t whine about your intellectual idols being criticised, just figure out whether it rings true.
If it doesn’t, justify yourself. If it does, no need to abandon your idol as a sellout and hack, just say those very basic words: ‘I disagree with him/her on that point’, and get on with your life.
But whatever you do, get the fuck out of your little bunker with all your thought-buddies, and open up your mind.
It won’t hurt you to think for yourself.Here's my social media! Support and follow. 🙂