Saturday, September 25, 2021

Negating Denialism

In ancient Indian philosophy, there was a formula called "neti, neti," which literally means "not this, not this," found in  ancient Hindu texts such as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The double-N "meme" was used to guide the seeker through a process of metaphysical elimination, ruling out various things that were found to not be the true essence of reality. The goal of this was to gain understanding of what was truly, eternally real, the cosmic Self, the Atman. In our time, we find a somewhat similar process being conducted by right-wing propagandists, who reject the reality of  contemporary threats to life and health  like climate change, the Covid pandemic and the January 6 attempt to disable American democracy, deny the necessity of taking any action to solve or protect against these dangerous problems, and denounce the politicians, journalists and authorities who advocate such action. The goal  is to generate hostility toward any person or organization who dares to challenge the authority of Donald Trump, and to glorify Mr. Trump as the ultimate arbiter of reality . 

It works like this: What Trump says, goes. What others say is anti-American, liberal garbage.  Trump = truth.  Non-Trump is non-truth. Do not trust the fake media. Trust only in Trump. What glorifies Trump is real. What does not glorify Trump is not real. Who glories Trump is trustworthy. Who does not glorify Trump is not to be trusted.  If it is claimed that Trump lost the 2020 election, this is not possible because Trump could not have lost an election. The election must have been stolen. Trump tells us to rise up and fight. So we must rise up and fight. If Trump says that our electoral processes are fraudulent, then our elections are frauds and we should no longer trust elections. Who needs democracy? Trump shows the way to something better:  authoritarian dictatorship by the only reliable authority in America:  Donald Trump.

This would be laughable if not for the worrisome truth that a sizeable minority of Americans seems to be  completely devoted to this false logic. I have found Trump followers to be impervious to logical argument. Ancient Indian philosophers they are not. They have absorbed a binary view of the world where they will take Trump's word over any other authority or information source and reject anything else as wrong, evil, even Satanic. According to Trump's evangelical supporters, Trump is the fulfillment of prophecy.

How can we fight against this?  This mass delusion is powerful and growing. I do not know the answer, but I would counsel one thing: DO NOT BE SILENT.  When you hear Trumpian nonsense like anti-vaxx, anti-mask and anti-election conspiracy theories being spoken by people around you, challenge it. You do not have to be nasty, hostile or snide. Just let it be known that you do not agree, that you feel that what is being said is incorrect.  If the person gets agitated or hostile, back away, just as you would if dealing with a psychotic person who you feared might become dangerous. The point is not to convince this person to alter their worldview, but more importantly, to let that person and those around you  know that not everyone agrees.

This is important because, with many Trumpians being belligerent bullies, many people who disagree with what they say will remain silent, will become intimidated. DO NOT ASSIST THIS INTIMIDATION by being another silent person. Each time someone speaks up to oppose Trumpian dogmas, it shows others that disagreement and opposition DO exist and ARE possible.

So please, do your part. In the words of a First Lady of the 1980s, "Just say no!"  It is important. If enough people say "no" everyday, then Trumpian illusions will lose their momentum and appeal. But if everyone who opposes these things stays timid and silent, Trumpian denials of reality will gain force and credibility. Which outcome would you prefer?.

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