What’s interesting about these times is not what we debate — but the things we don’t debate. It’s not the things that are said, but the things that are seldom or never said that matter the most.
We debate, for example, how many bullets we should be allowed to buy in order to defend ourselves. What’s never asked is whether we have a right to defend ourselves, or not.
We debate whether government should go $17 trillion or $19 trillion into debt in order to provide unlimited medical care for just about everyone. Never questioned is whether government should be financing health care for all to be paid for by some, in the first place.
We argue over whether the rich should be taxed more, or less. We never get into arguments over whether private property belongs to the owner, or to the government.
We say that freedom of speech means the right to be heard, even if the speech is forcibly paid for by others (as in public television or radio, or funds for presidential campaigns.)
We say that freedom of birth control or abortion does not exist unless one is granted the freedom to have it paid for by another.
We say that principles are meaningless and impractical. We’re told that it’s practical just to consider everything case-by-case. Yet cases are decided on principles that are never explicitly named. That’s somehow more practical than naming your principles and defending them?
We’re told that love consists of tolerance. Yet even those who preach this would never tolerate certain things. It’s claimed that we must love our enemies, and by loving them we will convert their hatred or malicious intent into love. Nobody ever challenges this assumption, because to do so might seem unloving.
The Constitution, we’re told, is irrelevant and out of fashion because it talks of rights. But rights to the products of another’s effort are the main function of government in the post-Constitutional republic. Why do rights apply in one case, while they’re out-of-date in another?
The rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are disregarded by the majority sitting on our present Supreme Court. Yet the “rights” to health care, subsidized automobiles, subsidized mortgages, and transfers of wealth from one pressure group to another are considered the central ideals of our time. Why unlimited rights in one area, rights not named by our Constitution — all in the name of this very Constitution? And why no attention to the rights explicitly named in our Constitution?
We’re told that the essence of freedom is diversity. Yet the one thing that brought people (and still brings people) of all races and backgrounds to the United States was a desire for freedom, self-responsibility and self-determination. Are we to believe that freedom and self-determination are valid for some, and not for others — because diversity is what counts? What about the principles that unite us, or at least ought to unite us? Does diversity include individual rights for some and partial rights for others? Is there never an absolutely right or wrong?
If our civilization is to survive and once again start to innovate and grow, we must become a society of thinkers. Only critical thinkers have any prospect of asking the right questions.
Societies are like individuals, which makes sense because society consists of millions of individuals. In order to arrest dysfunction and get on a rational life path, an individual must first consider all the faulty thoughts and ideas that give rise to his or her troubling emotions or behaviors. It’s the same for individuals considered as a group.
For an individual or a society, it’s not enough to simply ride along, operating mindlessly on the programming of obviously ineffective ideas and assumptions. It’s not enough to say, ‘Things are a mess, but what can I do?’
There’s always something to do, and it all starts with asking the right questions and finding the answers. Critical thinking is what saves the individual, and it will be needed to save a society, as well.
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