‘I Think (Like Everyone Else), Therefore I Am.’ – Descartes – II

That industrialisation, over the past few centuries, has been instrumental in the forward march of humankind is indisputable. As the wheels of industry rolled captivatingly, many businesses were/are quick to reiterate the complete mechanisation of their processes. More than a few extol the virtues of economies of scale and reducing human action/thought in daily affairs, though they generally word the latter in euphemistic terms.

The repeated incantations have had the effect of manifesting in non-industrial spheres. Mass production was so successful that it found application in a new area – thoughts and opinions.

Ironically, progress of knowledge has contributed to this Uniformity movement. The inhabitant of the ancient world felt secure in the belief that the earth was the centre of the universe, and in the uniqueness of the Individual. As the Galilean earthquake shook the world, Man’s belief systems underwent a reluctant transformation. Galileo’s fate is a shining example of the perils associated with breaking away from the consensus. Sadly, schools sing paeans to Galileo without enumerating the true lessons of Galileo-hood.

From the moment an impressionable child begins his/her acquaintance with education, the venerable institutions of knowledge work hard at extinguishing sparks of creativity and brilliance. As the life expectancy of good habits is far lower than the bad variety, institutions have no trouble succeeding in the purging exercise. Years of indoctrination later, the child emerges, finely chiselled, looking and thinking like everyone else. Mass production of elementary education does an admirable job of readying children for tougher journeys through life.

Meanwhile, as the black swan kid encounters swarms of fellowmen who think differently, he/she learns the meaning of the words superior/opinionated/arrogant/snooty/pedantic and the like. As ostracism is discovered, the kid faces a binary choice, to forsake natural instincts and join the herd, or be destined to a life of struggle, invariably as a recluse. Several excruciating experiences later, most tend to opt for the former.

As man thinks deeply to create a future that minimises thought, uniformity is worshipped in nearly every occupation. While this disadvantages the exceptional, it confers great advantages on the average; who discover tranquillity by associating with the consensus. Moreover, the utterance of opinions that find wide agreement affords multiple advantages; it reminds the listener of his/her erudition, and agreement in thought greatly facilitates social warmth. The rewards of congruity of thinking in the professional sphere warrant no special mention.  

Pre-packaged thoughts leased free from another individual are subject to several iterations, with each successive version gaining in sophistication. Admittedly, this process has been underway for a long time and it is safe to posit that the onward march of time will only accelerate this evolution.

Not all is lost, though. As with most things in life, there is a good side to everything.

Agreement facilitates peaceable coexistence, whether in social or political matters. Politics is really a concoction of uniformity and one might claim that this is one of the reasons behind the long period of uneasy peace since World War II. Democracy is effectively the will of the agreeable, even as every citizen tries to convince everybody else of the opposite. The Opposition spends valuable time busily disagreeing with the Incumbent, who reciprocate when the positions are swapped. Solutions, meanwhile, lie in deep slumber.

In pre-independence times, the oppressed found a ready consensus in nationalism. While disagreement existed concerning the means, few disputed the objective. Trouble brewed once peace broke out after independence. The many found a worthy uniformity anchor in patriotism.     

An instance of this love for the consensus is evident in the investing world. Contrarian opinion is abhorred, especially when this shows the consensus view in poor light or as being ill placed. Consensus allows peaceful obliteration when capital is lost en masse; invectives lose vigour as blame is apportioned uniformly to the majority.

An orchestra comprising solely of violins would probably make a grand violin ensemble but would hardly justify as an Orchestra.

It is time for some dreaming.

Is it possible to build a world where children are not sent to/pulled from schools? A system of parallel education founded on the tenets of observation and questioning, where endangered virtues like passion and interest are nurtured? While we are at it, can we have a Protected Reserve for the black swans as well?

Can we have some disagreement please?


2 thoughts on “‘I Think (Like Everyone Else), Therefore I Am.’ – Descartes – II

  1. very well thought out, beautifully written, and point taken re raising a class of robots. as to the ” dream”, i agree, it’s certainly against the interests of the ruling/privileged class to mass educate ordinary children to think for themselves…more likely to get the sort of encouragement of the unique in exclusive, smaller (read: more expensive) schools attended by children of privilege – which of course cannot be afforded by the general public…as this piece suggests you already know this. continue…

    1. Thank you for stopping by, BITD.

      You are right, the only places that probably offer an environment that fosters creativity are the exclusive schools. However, apart from being off-limits for most people these institutions tend to attract folks that aren’t in pressing need of the learning anyway (film-stars’ kids and the like!)

      The physicist, Richard Feynman is one of my idols. On many occasions, I find myself hoping that we had a few Feynman clones today. The world would be a much better place…

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