Obviously, nurses are good. They make us better.
And obviously war is bad. It makes us dead or, at least, not very well.
Obviously Elin Ersson was brave and right to make a stand on that plane at Gothenburg until that Afghan asylum seeker was allowed off.
And obviously student loans are wrong if we think that they are putting off the least privileged from following their dreams to university.
And, when some post on Facebook asks us to assert publicly that we love our children, respect our parents, hate cancer or want more democracy, it sometimes seems hard-hearted not to do it. Because we do love our children, and we do hate cancer, even more than we hate the creepy, intrusive, intellectually bonkers post that asked the question in the first place.
Because we like things to be binary in this most un-binary of worlds. Or the marketing men assume that we do. Hence the shit-storm that is post EU referendum Britain, where we were once asked to make a simple choice between two vague notions, and to do so with no knowledge of the intellectual arguments, the true options or the probable costs of anything other than the status quo. All because Mr Cocky thought it was a quick fix for his political party, and couldn’t even conceive that he could lose the vote.
And when nurses are found to have done awful things, we still love them, and when war is found to have preserved freedom, we still hate it. The fact that that the Afghan who Elin Errson spoke up for was a convicted rapist who had devastated someone’s life is a mere inconvenience we wish we hadn’t later learned. These are mere complications in our obvious world. As is the mystifying fact of more underprivileged people going to university than ever before.
We like the complications of our new interconnected world to be over-simplified, because someone out there thinks we are too thick to weigh up contrary things in our little brains. Actually, sometimes, we think we are too thick ourselves, and the things we are asked to opine on too complex for our 3 pound brains to cope with. We persuade ourselves that we are too busy for nuanced arguments, even more so when social media outlets like Facebook allow and encourage us to ‘share’ other people’s pre-digested views as if they were our own; because, deep down, we think that doing so will affirm or alter the image of ourselves that we would like to project to the people out there who we would like to like us. And some of us are worried that if we don’t share these things and pass them on, that we are somehow diminished. So when someone slips in some fake news post that got dreamed up in Moscow for some strange purpose we can’t even comprehend, we do our duty as Vladimir Putin’s useful idiots, and pass it on.
We live in a world that has lost most of its confidence to allow for things to be a bit right, half right, or a bit wrong, because doing so requires us to do too much thinking, and we haven’t got time to think. God gave us those 3 pound brains so that we could vote emotionally after 2 hours of Strictly Come Dancing, not think rationally about things that don’t really concern us.
For example, we live in a world where capitalism has (almost) unarguably made things better, healthier, safer and more comfortable. Despite the prevailing awfulness around us, trains are more reliable, water cleaner, cars safer and life is longer than ever before. But progress has come at a cost, which is basically that the gap between rich and poor has grown to be an obscenity. Entire Cornish villages are dark in winter time because all the home owners are in one of their other houses, probably in London. The average remuneration package of a FTSE CEO is about £4.8 million, a mere 210 times the national average wage. And this either matters or it doesn’t. But, whether it does or doesn’t, it needs discussing, and discussing without ‘the other side’ being accused of being wrong before they have uttered a word. Because it is only through discussing it that we will learn. And it is only through learning that we will arrive at our own considered opinion. And it is only in the deployment of that well considered opinion at the ballot box that we make our true contribution to making the world a better place. In default of this, we don’t deserve to have a vote, a privilege that countless people died to let us enjoy.
But to do it is exhilarating, empowering, and fun, whichever side of any argument we find ourselves on. More importantly, it pisses off and confuses the very people we should be pissing off and confusing. And, most important of all, on rare occasions it causes us to change our minds, which is an intellectual freedom beyond price.