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
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.