Updated: Apr 30, 2020
In a magazine to which I have subscribed for forty years, the editor began a recent issue with an explanation of the publication’s editorial policy. Included in his comment were these thoughts: “We seek to publish reflective writing that’s not the product of mental laziness or poorly reasoned thought. Critical thinking is dear to our self-understanding.”
One of the drums I’ve been beating for years – which needs be vibed from shore to shore – is the need for responsible homework prior to deducing conclusions and proclaiming them. The oftentimes lack of careful and studious research produces, in me, at least, agitation and consternation. All too often social movements and government policies result from blind adherence to unexamined presuppositions. Add to that, “but we’ve always done it that way,” and injustices can be perpetrated and sustained for centuries.
To wit: the assumption that females are inherently inferior to – and therefore meant to be subservient to – men; the conviction that Caucasians are genetically and intellectually superior to people of color; the belief that revenge is divinely inspired and mandated. You get the idea.
President James Garfield was assassinated six months into his presidency in 1881. But he didn’t die from the gunshot wound. He died because his physicians, who denied the existence of germs, refused to use anti-sepsis measures or the need for cleanliness to prevent infection . . . and it was infection which killed him. Ignorance and closemindedness led to the death of a man who could have been one of the country’s greatest presidents.
It can be difficult to break outside of the box of preconceived notions which have been taught as truths, but it can be done. Many years ago, at the height of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, I sat with a young white Afrikaner in downtown Johannesburg. He had been raised within a hardliner apartheid-believing community. I asked what brought him to the point of supporting the black African community’s struggle for freedom. He replied that it was reading, studying, examining, thinking, discussing, and most importantly, developing meaningful relationships with Africans. He told me that his concepts eventually changed from that which had been programmed into him as truth.
Homework. Serious, determined, careful, diligent homework. That, combined with an open mind, can either affirm one’s beliefs and perceptions . . . or change them completely. To refuse to engage in such a process is neither sane nor responsible.