Between Black and White

“Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”

~ Sir Winston Churchill

More often than not, the youthful attraction to liberalism is lumped together with natural processes such as coming of age and puberty. At least the tendency to challenge authority parallels coming of age, since neither are biological in nature, but both will occur at a given stage of development. The rebellious aspect is unquestionably related to puberty. But this stage is much more than a period of acting out.

Our thoughts always develop from simple associations to more complex ones. For this reason, younger brains work at simplifying decisions, rendering them binary. This results in black and white thinking: yes/no, good/bad, like/dislike, all/nothing. There is matter in the middle that merits attention and I will refer to it as grey matter. To a black and white thinker, this grey matter is made to appear either black or white, leaving nothing in between; no room for interpretation. If a situation is not all good, then it is not at all good. It is bad. A black and white thinker tends to respond erratically, lending her a reputation for being reactionary, while a more experienced individual will have come to learn that the salience of a situation can contain more than binary factors, much more. The situation’s most subtle features are usually in this shady area and require a more complex reading to be appreciated.

Our society has, in many ways, sought to eliminate grey matter. Marketing tells us what to like and dislike. We are told that with the proper foundation, we can achieve everything we ever dreamed of. Prophetically, Marx and Engels predicted the liberal-capitalist socioeconomic structure of the Western world was destined to produce an all-or-nothing stronghold of the planet’s resources. But this is the American Way, a tried and true system that takes advantage of the lazy minds of black and white thinkers and encourages them to ignore the grey matter: “Mmm… Wal-Mart: big selection. Wal-Mart: small prices. Wal-Mart: good!”

It gets worse. The modern liberal has grown so accustomed to having the grey matter deciphered for him that he feels confined to the middle of the road and remains there until forced to one side or the other. Look at how the average driver straddles the centre of the allotted driving space and only takes a proper lane when another driver competes for the same space. This is not poor driving etiquette, it’s poor conditioning. We are raised to believe that we are more important than anyone and anything, but not everyone and everything. But left to her own devices, the black and white thinker will time again decide her importance trumps her environment’s every time, because if she supersedes anyone and anything, she will never find anyone oranything that she doesn’t. Fallacious logic results from a lack of education.

So the common thinker retreats to the safety of numbers, to the concealing shadow between the black and the white, where decisions aren’t made and responsibility can’t be passed on. The black and white thinker forms the status-quo.

to be continued…