It doesn’t matter, because this isn’t about that, but it was a blog page I was reading — about baseball, as it happens — where the writer used the phrase, “who among us is perfect?” I hear variations of that sentiment often. It’s meant to embrace the flawed humanity in all of us, but to my ear it sometimes excuses the egregious.
In this particular case (again, not the point), the writer was excusing the putative racism of a ballplayer during the 1940s, and that’s when a Brain Bubble floated up to my consciousness: Does it seem we use the phrase “no one is perfect” a little too broadly, a little too generously?
Have our standards of acceptable gotten lower in the modern era?
And, if so, have they actually sunk to more accurate levels? Are we more honest about humanity; have we discarded overly idealist values? Did the age of Enlightenment give us the false idea our reach should exceed our grasp?
Simply put: Is this the best humanity can do?
And, if so, are we okay with that? Should we be okay with that?
Modern psychology, to me, seems filled with emotional enabling.
We seem to embrace our animal nature — or, speaking more psychologically, we seem willing to give the id a great deal of validity these days.
Which again raises the question, is that the best we are, our ids?
Put another way, are we accepting that our ids limit us, that we can never escape them?
The whole point of the Enlightenment was that humans rose above animals because we were intelligent in a very special way. We were not just clever — so are some animals — we are intentional. Thoughtful.
Even those oft-cited ancient Greeks believed that rational discourse — the dialectic — could overcome emotional bias and personal preference.
There is a somewhat noted book (I can’t think of the title right now) that explores how our rational thinking serves to justify what we already believe on an emotional level.
People often cite it to dismiss someone’s logical argument as just rationalization.
It’s exactly the sort of thing that I’m talking about here. (And, in my opinion, it’s bullshit.)
The author may be right that our first impulse is to justify rationally what we believe emotionally, what we’ve already decided is true. But it doesn’t have to stop there.
Rational discourse — honest rational discourse — based on facts and genuine logic is very good at finding those places were your arguments are weak or even contradictory.
A phrase I love is: Evil doesn’t question itself.
There’s a reason why. Such questioning usually reveals its falsity.
Anyone who is afraid to debate their beliefs honestly probably is aware their beliefs don’t stand up to the light of day. Which means they really ought to question those beliefs.
That’s what honest intelligent people do.
Back in the 1940s the equality of all humans really wasn’t a question, at least not in the USA. Those with racist thinking back then can be deplored. (Even more so now. But, again, not really the point here.)
And perhaps the crucial difference is between understanding why and overlooking or excusing. Perhaps in excusing so much we get too used to it, too used to thinking ideals aren’t realistic.
Maybe that’s true. Humanity doesn’t seem to be getting much better. One can argue it’s gotten worse, that — in rejecting science, intellect, and rational discourse — it has backslid towards the Dark Ages.
But maybe the truth is that we’re no better than this.
Maybe we need to start being less excusing of animal behavior.
The dialect beckons.
Civilization (in all senses of the word) beckons.