Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Preposterous Shaming Words: Narrow-minded

While there are certain times and situations where shaming may be appropriate, most attempts to verbally or socially shame another person are completely uncalled for. Today, during a discussion, someone referred to certain ideas as "narrow-minded." Strictly speaking, all that means is the the person in question didn't like the ideas. But, the word "narrow-minded" has very specific connotations attached to it, which turns such an expression from being one of simple personal distaste to verbal shaming based on the implications of a fixed standard. While the literal meaning of the term doesn't imply any shame, in today's world calling someone "narrow-minded" is a major insult, akin to calling someone a "racist," a "bigot," a "sexist" or a "homophobe." Why do we allow such a generic, yet connotation-laden word to be used? I don't know, but I certainly oppose it.

My reason for opposing it is that the word "narrow-minded" really doesn't mean anything at all. Allow me to explain. Strictly speaking, something that is narrow is limited or constricted. Therefore, narrow-minded simply means that an idea or belief is limited or constricted. Alternately, in colloquial usage, narrow-minded means that some idea or belief is inflexible, intolerant or prejudiced. As a culture, we have been conditioned to view such thinking as unreasonable and petty. We have been brainwashed into thinking of narrow-mindedness as a character flaw of the highest sort. However, simply a moment's consideration is required to dismantle this ridiculous perception. I must ask, which idea or opinion isn't narrow? Supposing that I believe the sky looks blue in the daytime, by definition my belief is exceedingly narrow. That I think the sky looks blue necessarily means that I do not think it is red, yellow, purpose, green, black, turquiose or maroon. Nor do I think that it is invisible. Similarly, my belief must be inflexible or it isn't a belief at all. If I am certain that the sky appears blue, then it would take a lot of arguing and persuading for me ever to consider changing such a belief. If I am so uncertain that I can be easily swayed, then I don't really believe the sky is blue at all. Therefore, so long as I think that the sky is blue, such a thought must intrinsically be both narrow and inflexible.

Allow me to utilize another example. Let us suppose that grape popsicles are my favorite dessert. If grape popsicles are my favorite, then it is necessarily true that no other dessert is my favorite. Key lime pie, chocolate chip cookies, rainbow sherbet and candy canes may be perfectly delicious, but none of them is my favorite. Only grape popsicles are. My taste is intrinsically narrow. Additionally, if my taste in desserts is too flexible, then the concept of favorite means almost nothing. If my favorite dessert changes ever day or two, then saying that grape popsicles are my favorite means nothing at all. Only if my preference for grape popsicles is fairly static does my preference carry weight at all. Therefore, favorites are intrinsically narrow and inflexible. Moving on to a more serious example, let us suppose that I believe murderers should be put to death. If I believe that murderers should be subjected to the death penalty, then it logically follows that I do not believe murderers should be paid to kill more people, go on vacations to Hawaii, or shop for clothes at my local Target. My belief that they should die necessarily excludes those things. Similarly, my belief must be relatively static or else it doesn't mean anything at all. My belief in the death penalty is by definition narrow and inflexible. Likewise, if you oppose the death penalty, then you believe that murderers should not be drowned, shot in the head, stabbed in heart, injected with lethal poison, nor electrified. Your opinion also is narrow, since it necessarily exlcudes a great many things, and it is inflexible, else you don't really oppose the death penalty. I could list a thousand more examples, but my simple point is this: all serious ideas, opinions, tastes and beliefs are necessarily narrow and inflexible.

Granted that all serious ideas, opinions, tastes and beliefs are necessarily narrow and inflexible, it logically follows that all is strictly meant by calling something "narrow-minded" is that it is actually a thought. Since all ideas are ideas, all opinions are opinions and all beliefs are beliefs, calling something "narrow-minded" means nothing at all. The fact that it is a word laden with connotations means that when you call something "narrow-minded" you are trying to shame the other person for holding an idea, simply on the grounds that it is an idea.

Although, there is one other way such a statement could be meant. Perhaps one is not complaining that an idea is narrow (since all ideas are), but that the given idea is narrower than it should be. For an idea to be narrower than it should be, there must exist a standard for acceptable and unacceptable amounts of narrowness. Unless this standard is fully stated and supported, then it is simply an unfounded accusation. But, it is an unfounded accusation that is usually used by people who have embraced modern political correctness and are attempting to use political correctness as the standard for any idea. In that sense, saying that someone is narrow-minded simply means that their beliefs do not conform to acceptable social norms. But why should an idea conform? Political correctness is tyrannical demagogic excrement. Political correctness is used as a shield for the fearful to live in denial of reality and socially shame others into doing the same.

Therefore, any reasonable and courageous person would do well to completely reject the idea that narrow-mindedness should be opposed or frowned upon. In its literal usage, narrow-mindedness is intrinsically unavoidance. In its colloquial usage by those who support the modern system, narrow-mindedness is generally something that should be supported and applauded, since "narrow-minded" individuals are the only ones courageous enough to step outside of the box, think for themselves, say what's on their minds and question popular consensus. As a non-conformist, I take pride in being called narrow-minded or having people object to certain ideas I have. Holding "narrow-minded" ideas is the only way to move towards reform, oppose democratic tyranny, and fight for liberty and justice. When I do dicuss ideas with people I disagree with, I use logic and rationality to oppose their ideas, and don't stoop to using cowardly tactics like simple name-calling and shaming. No reasonable, courageous, logical person should ever refer to another person or idea as "narrow-minded."

2 comments:

  1. The problem is that while your logic works, the social power dynamics are far more important. Thus you would be better off learning how to be socially dominant, rather than logically correct. Of course having a witty riposte (not necessarily a logically consistent one) can buy you the time you need to reassert dominance.

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