The horror of conservative thinking

A couple of weeks ago, a young relative was shaking out her fledgling debating feathers. Like most early teens, her worldview is starkly painted in black and white, anchored by a belief that all ‘bad’ views can be counteracted and corrected by exposure to ‘good’ views based on ‘proof’.

I came across this excerpt from an article in The Daily Caller on Twitter yesterday (h/t @robrousseau). It reminded me of that discussion with my young relative. At the time, I thought she did a great job holding her ground, and that given time, her black-and-white worldview would blossom into riotous colour. Which is the way I think it should be.

But this article made me wonder: what if I am as stuck within my own worldview as the author of this piece?

And then I thought: well, what if I am? I don’t want to live in this woman’s world. I want a different world: one in which all people have a right to health, education and the means to feed and shelter themselves. This doesn’t make the author’s view invalid. I just disagree with it. Strongly. But she’s an adult, so I’m unlikely to change her view. I have to co-exist with it.

Children, on the other hand, are different. Their views are not fully formed. It’s important that we teach them, not to follow our own ideologies blindly, but to think independently and critically about the world. They are the drivers of change. The world is rapidly transforming, and we need our children equipped to deal with that, and to think in new ways that we struggle with, because our neural networks are well-established and new pathways are harder to construct.

Teaching our children to think critically may have unexpected consequences, like – oh heresy! – I might turn out to be wrong. But I still think we should be encouraging our young thinkers to progress from monotone to full-colour world building. Otherwise, we go nowhere.


Freedom of speech: it’s probably not what you think it is

Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of yelling on social media about free speech. It seems that “free speech” has become the defense du jour against criticism for speech which is offensive, bigoted or prejudiced.

Adapting a line from a favourite film: “You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Freedom of speech is actually quite a tricky issue in Australia. I might eventually get around to doing a proper post on the subject, but for now, I’ll just outline the basics. Continue reading

Shameless eavesdropping and ‘true Aboriginality’

‘Seeds – Women’s Business’, by Janet Nakamarra, from the Warlpiri Language Group near Willowra, in Central Australia.

I overheard a conversation today about people claiming to be Aboriginal ‘when they’re really not’. The core of the discussion was about a woman who, as an adult, discovered she was of Aboriginal heritage, and – according to the speaker – thereafter shamelessly pursued her Aboriginality in order to get benefits such as fast-tracked access to university & subsidized employment. This led to a more general discussion about preferential treatment of Aboriginal people and where taxpayers should draw the line – which was, apparently, at ‘true Aboriginality’. The group had the grace to acknowledge that they didn’t know what ‘true Aboriginality’ was (although black skin was part of it), but they were certain it wasn’t embodied by the (light-haired, blue-eyed, undeserving) woman under discussion. Continue reading