Yeah, I meant to spell it that way, even though Mr. Gates puts a squiggly red line under it.
Almost 60 years ago now, Certs produced a TV commercial featuring identical twin sisters arguing over whether Certs was “a candy mint” or “a breath mint,” only to be interrupted by the omniscient announcer inserting, “Stop! You’re both right!” and then pontificating that Certs is “two, two, two mints in one!”
If it’s more important that a commercial be memorable than artful, this was one of the great ones, because the other day it sprang fully formed from the murky mists of my memory.
I’ve commented before on one of the pre-eminent features of our culture, The Outrage of the Day—something that calls to mind Orwell’s “two-minute hate.” Over the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed a mob invasion of the US Capitol, a disputed certification of votes, and an inauguration; an explosion of sewage from the life of Ravi Zacharias; a significant weather event across the nation, but especially noticeable in Texas, from which one of its senators escaped briefly to sunny Cancun; the death of the World’s Most Controversial Celebrity; and a bunch of highly controversial executive orders, which, despite the ease with which an incoming president can spay and neuter the previous set, seem to be the most popular way of governing in a democratic republic with a largely incompetent, ineffective, and self-absorbed legislature.
There—did I leave anything out?
There’s a lot we could say about the social commentary on all this—
- The psychological phenomenon of confirmation bias, in which we believe what we want to and explain away or ignore what we don’t;
- The long-lost art/science of evaluating the credibility and reliability of sources;
- The weird way everybody suddenly becomes an expert on whatever topic is currently under discussion;
- The compulsive need to comment publicly on matters we had no interest in yesterday.
Feel free to add to the list.
I’d like to give some attention here to something I noticed just the other day, on a couple of unrelated issues:
Even my commenting friends who are asserting diametrically opposed positions have something true and useful to say.
It’s counterintuitive. They’re saying opposite things, and yet they’re both right, in at least some sense.
I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days, and I’ve ruled out a couple of facile explanatory possibilities:
- I’m intellectually infantile, and easily convinced by flagrant rhetorical fallacies, consequently agreeing with whoever was the last person to opine. I got good grades in school—punctuated by the occasional down-spike typically as the result of character failure rather than lack of ability—but there were always kids in my classes who were smarter than I was—I wasn’t the valedictorian in my small high-school class of 27. And these days I regularly have students who are demonstrably smarter than I am, though I try not to tell them that. 🙂 And in any case, I’ve learned over the years that academic smarts are not the most important indicator of success in life, and in fact are sometimes inversely proportional to that success. At any rate, I used to teach rhetorical fallacies to college freshmen, and I draw on that teaching all the time. Since I often recognize rhetorical fallacies in the social commentary today, I’m not inclined to think I’m falling for them in the case at hand.
- I’m reading arguments from my friends, and I like my friends, and I’m subconsciously trying to justify friends who disagree with one another; I’m a peacemaker. Well, I don’t buy that either, since I haven’t noticed a strong tendency to be a peacemaker in days past. 🙂 I’ve noticed when other friends are wrong, so I’m inclined to think that I’d notice in this case as well.
- I’m getting soft on moral absolutes, turning into a mealy-mouthed relativist. I don’t think so; feel free to ask my friends if I show any tendency in that direction.
So I’ve been meditating on this for a few days. Next time I’ll lay out a biblical and theological basis for the phenomenon I’ve described, and I’ll draw some conclusions and make an application or two.