Not all beliefs are equal

I have a work colleague who essentially believes all of the basic assumptions that underlie the capitalist, social darwinist world that we live in. His reasoning is essentially panglossian. I find it fascinating that he constantly engages in me conversations where it must be clear to him that I have fundamental disagreements. I don’t know if he expects me validate his statements, but of course I don’t. Normally I try to keep my answers brief, and rely on provoking thought and asking questions rather than lengthy lectures. But doing so is much more challenging, and I often feel like I’m constantly being picked at. So on occasion I carefully go through the various faulty assumptions, faulty logic, and mistruths which are inherent in the beliefs he states as truisms.

In his defense, these truisms are ones you are likely to hear in any modern media outlet. In a corporate environment they are certainly uncontroversial.

Without going into detail, today I went into a lengthy discussion citing historical evidence that contradicts the assumption that people are inherently racist. Rather than argue on the basis of facts or logic, he made the statement that it’s a question of belief. I have my set of beliefs, he has his. But beliefs are not equal. You might believe the world is flat, that light does not have a constant velocity regardless of your frame or reference, that America has a vibrant democracy, that the moon is made of green cheese. This is fine. You are entitled to believe whatever you like. But you will still be wrong. The reason these beliefs are not co-equal is that all of these things are testable.

So you can formulate your belief in a god to the point where that belief is completely untestable. Then I can’t say anything, it’s a question of opinion. To maintain a set of beliefs in contradiction of evidence, to refuse to consider the implications of your beliefs, it’s intellectual cowardice. When that set of beliefs is used to maintain a set of personal ethics based on apathy and complicity with exploitation and inhumanity against your fellow man, well, that’s just plain unethical.

Clinton’s speach to Arab Americans.

As can be seen on Democracy now, Hilary Clinton gave a speech at the U.S. Islamic World Forum last week, about the struggles for democracy and justice in the Middle East. 

Today, the long Arab winter has begun to thaw. For the first time in decades, there is a real opportunity for change. A real opportunity for people to have their voices heard and their priorities addressed.

Followed by similar banalities and empty words. What’s missing from the speech are apologies and accepting responsibility. Her opening remarks should have said “Today, despite our best efforts, the long arab winter has begun to thaw. For the first time, after decades of U.S. backed dictatorship and repression, there is a real opportunity for change. As we crush the ability of people in the U.S. to have their voiced heard and priorities addressed, people in the middle east are successfully taking back their basic human dignity. What are we going to do about it?”

I was impressed that one of the major student dissident groups refused to meet with Secretary Clinton, because of her support, during the repression of the demonstrations, of Mubarak and his administration.

As Americans I think we need to demand that our government take responsibility for its wrong-headed and evil policies in the middle east (and elsewhere), to apologize for them, and stop pretending we are leading or encouraging these changes.