Sunday, January 25, 2009

Dancing with Sheeple

Sheeple: People who follow along with a group think mentality without questioning--anything.

My husband surprised me yesterday evening by driving down to where I am house sitting. It was very sweet. We had a great dinner and watched Burn After Reading. Soooo not what I expected (the movie and, well, Tom, too), but good.

The title for this post was provided by Tom. He and I spent hours last night talking about the state of our country, the internet and how information and meaning are made and shared online. The technical term for it in my field is "epistemology" but the medium of the internet and the personnas people adopt when online has complicated things a bit.

See, I've come across quite a few people online lately that:

1. Think intellectualism=elitism.

2. Liberal=dirty, bad, evil, devil-worshippers

3. Science=Satan

The fact that so many people now have access to information online has changed people's perceptions of it. Notice, I used the word "information".

Information does not equal knowledge or truth.

Knowledge is not something that is locatable. It is sometimes found in books, or in online, peer-reviewed journals, but knowledge is a very personal process. And an active one at that.

Meaning has changed quite a bit, too.

But what Tom and I discussed until 2AM was how rigid some people are in their thinking, how LITERAL.

Point, skyewriter, get to the point. (Sorry, I'm on a bit of a tear today.)

Okay, so what it comes down to is this: I don't tend to hang out a lot with people who don't look at the world the way I do. I think people should have freedom of speech. They are entitled to own a gun (with proper licensing and background checks). People are allowed to believe/not believe in a higher being in whatever way they fancy. Everyone is created equal and therefore under our Constitution should be afforded each and every civil liberty regardless of faith, sexual orientation, gender, or race. If someone wants to have consensual, greased hog chasing in the privacy of their own home, they are allowed. If people want to have nekkid poker parties in the privacy of their own home, they are allowed. If someone wants to put their kitchen table in the living room instead of in their kitchen, by gum, they are allowed to do it. And in the last (almost) three months since I started this blog I have met many people who see the world very similarly to me.

However, I have also met many who see the world so differently I think they must be living on another planet. Academia is a space of debate and discussion. People are okay when they disagree.

Yet, my online experiences recently have confronted me with people with whom I cannot have a reasoned argument without them spouting scripture at me. In my mind, that's the cue, "Let's dance. It's on. You've been served."

And man, do they get pissed when you don't agree.

I find at times it's hard to be civil to folks who attack me; I'm learning, but it's a challenge when someone's every response is:

"It's in the Bible." ....................."It's in the Bible."................. "It's in the Bible."

Hey, guess what, there's lots of homosexuals in this country who live completely fulfilling and productive lives and nope; that's not in the Bible, but neither are the internet, cell phones, or x-ray machines. And the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. People have rocks and stuff like fossils to prove it.

I am very unused to this, because in most every field, the Bible is not taken as a reliable source for knowledge. I can point them to journal articles or books to verify my position, but time and time again I find sheeple retreating behind the Bible as if it is some mystical trump card over every other position in an argument.

Too, these folks aren't even OPEN to the notion that there is truth outside that book that really contradicts it. Empirically and everything.

So, what's so bad about this?

Well, there is a growing "movement" in this country where fundies and literalists are talking about HOLY WAR. Yes, you read that right. On blogs and websites using SOLELY the Bible as the means for their rationale, people are talking about gathering troops, joining the resistance, buying all the guns you can, and the organizations are looking more and more militant.

Staunch fundamentalists (Tom found a recent study and as soon as he emails the citation to me I'll post it here) are unable to think abstractly. They would rather be told what to do by someone who is like them, than to have to think for themselves (i.e., sheeple). This is what I think I've been witnessing on a scale I've never seen before. And frankly, it scares the crap out of me. I'm worried we have in our midst crackpots along the lines of Tim McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, or David Koresh who are plotting terrible things against their fellow citizens and their country.

I don't think everyone has to have a college education to be smart. I don't think everyone with a degree in higher education is automatically a genius, either.

But I do think this is a secular society and it was founded on secular principles (Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11 for any RWFN who want to pick a fight; check out the Library of Congress American newspaper collection from that time, too. 100% governmental and social consensus).

Government is there to protect us in times of war, manage the common services and infrastructure (schools, roads, police stations, firehouses, etc.), and deliver our mail. That's it.

As far as everything else goes, the government needs to butt out.

To borrow a phrase from that gem, chocked full o' wisdom film, Dirty Dancing (yes, I'm gonna do it):

"This is my dance space.... this is your dance space."

If you don't like my dancing, don't dance with me. If you don't know how to dance stay the hell off the floor.


cmacivor January 25, 2009 at 4:56 PM  

mosessSkye, This was beautifully written, true, funny and sad. It doesn't get any better than that and on top of it you have a great man. You are something special. Thanks for the gift of your mind and your writing.

I loved this so much that I promoted it. You may get some right wingnuts as a consequence. Forgive me.

cmacivor January 25, 2009 at 4:57 PM  

Delete the mosess. having computer issues and that was your word verification... :)

cmacivor January 25, 2009 at 4:59 PM  

I diodn't want you to think I was referring to you as Moses. LOL!

skyewriter January 25, 2009 at 6:55 PM  

Thanks, Catherine for the compliments and the promotion.

Sadly, I am unable to edit comments on blogger (I have looked everywhere for that functionality and even posted on a discussion board). I can't change even a period.

I kind of thought you were referring to me as "Mrs." Skye. It made me giggle.

Shady Lady January 25, 2009 at 11:47 PM  

I just found your blog yesterday and had to comment at how much I love what you have to say.

Seeing Eye Chick January 26, 2009 at 8:57 AM  

Skyewriter, What is truly scary about your observations and your husbands--is that these people you speak of, stocking up on ammo--keep your powder like your bible, handy and dry...use that word *sheeple. In fact the first time I ever heard that term was on Conservative talk radio then later by people who were associated with citizen-militias back in their home towns.

They believe the opposite is true--that people like you and I are brainwashed, that we are unable to see the truth, and that we are the *sheeple being led by [pick one] Jewish Banking Conspiracy, Liberal Conspiracy, World Wide Satanic Conspiracy, Illuminati--Reptilian Alien Overlords--no shit. I do not lie. Its crazy. Part of what starts this crap or exacerbates is local bureaucrats. These folks are already distrustful and suspicious and they run afoul of a local cabal involved in some aspect of local or state government, and whammo! Every fear they imagined is now confirmed, 110% true and its time to start stocking up on canned goods, MREs and Rounds of Ammo.

skyewriter January 26, 2009 at 10:14 AM  

Shady Lady:
Thanks for stopping by and for the compliment. Please come by anytime!

Seeing Eye:
So great to hear from you. I know how busy you are.

Tom said the other night, "I heard this word--sheeple-- I don't know where I heard it, but doesn't it seem like a lot of right wingers these days?"

It saddens me, not because this is NOT a new epithet to chuck at the wingers, but because it makes me think this country may never heal.

We think they're wrong--they think we're wrong.


I guess it's always kind of been that way tho'. *sigh*

All I (we) can do is keep plugging our viewpoints and stay vigilant of theirs.

With the large turn-out of young, first-time voters last year, (most of whom were Democrats) hopefully the seeds of change have been sown. We just need to nurture them now, right?

Seeing Eye Chick January 26, 2009 at 2:37 PM  

We have to pay attention to the Extremists but Praise the moderates. We each have something to prove to each other. That liberals aren't going to outlaw Christianity or force them to accept the mark of the beast, and that they won't force every knee to bend, or enslave women or other minorities.

It can be okay to disagree, even vehemently, the real problem is disagreement, its outright loathing and a lack of mutual respect.

I can actually say that with a straight face---LOL. I do live in a very Red State. I am surrounded by them.

We have to stay focused on the issues and not let people like Flush Limburger and Stan Coulter divert the discussion into unfixable what if scenarios or base name calling.

They and people like them, the fear-mongers, the hope-suckers, and the hate spreaders need to be made irrelavent--Left or Right. And that way, the cooler heads in the center can prevail.

I am not interested in Purism, I am interested in Efficacy. I dont want to fix the economy at the expense of the poor and working class, nor do I expect the rich to shoulder all of the burden, I expect that we all pull our sleeves up and get to work because we are all in this together.

People choose not to work together with their fellow American Human, in favor of those past reindeer Games, are irrelavent. Immaterial. Leave them on their soap box and spend your energy else where. Fight idiocy with reason.

I never said that the Right Wingers couldnt be correct. They make a lot of good observations. My complaint is the way they choose to blame instead of solve as of late.

We dont need any more scape goats, thats just one more ideological mouth to feed. We have herds of them. We need people with critical thinking skills, who truly care for their fellow citizens enough, to work with those who for whatever reason are less fortunate.

Not handouts, but maybe a hand up. A little hope? A little Common Cause.

willpen January 26, 2009 at 4:18 PM  


Great post and so true.

I think I have been experiencing a bit of information burnout myself. It feels like I have been blogging forever and it has just really been since August. That goes to show you how intense these last six months have been.

It seems that all the RWFN are out in numbers trying to undermine Obama's Presidency before it even starts. They are trying so hard to take him out with a swift kick to the knee caps.

It seems that for every positive piece of news that I see there are 3 negative pieces of news.

It seems that all the good may become buried in all the crap that is being slung out there.

I am just tired. We have so much to worry about and every precious minute that is wasted on the negative crap just stops us from accomplishing the more important issues.

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