Freethinking ain't as easy as most think. For instance, there are many surprisingly taboo impediments to freethinking that most ignore. These include:
1. Fundamentalisms -- Fundamentalisms aren’t just for Christians anymore. Any system purporting to solve almost all the problems are fundamentalist. Politically this means Capitalism and Socialism, Anarchism and Libertarianism, and yes even Democrats and Republicans. These fundamentalisms may be right, but they are greatly suspect to any freethinker. They give blanket generalizations for all circumstances instead of tailoring solutions to unique events.
2. Meaning -- The drive to feel meaningful, to do meaningful work, is a basic human drive which is so powerful that, once passionate meaning is found, effective freethinking may be impossible. We are loath to question our important meanings, much less give them up. Once you see all people as driven by this goal, including yourself, you have greater distance in trying to figure how to deal with the opposition, as well as greater flexibility for yourself.
For instance, gold and diamonds are such meaningful rocks that people pay enormous prices for them. In reality these obsessions create a logjam of meaning around shiny rocks. A scarcity fetish attached to a status-seeking obsession reinforces it. It’s true that some rocks have non-decorative properties that are inherently valuable. But paying $100,000 because it’s a big diamond, or agreeing that gold is the most stable commodity in a crashing economy — these aspects are immense irrationalities.
Only food and water, heating fuel, shelter, good will and weapons provide any security if the economic scat really hits the end-of-civilization fan. Hold up the “meaningless standard” to diamonds and gold and they quickly return to what they actually are: chemical compounds with a high refraction index causing them to reflect lots of light. Fool’s gold, cubic zirconium and colored glass all reflect light well enough and, except to experts, can appear about as bright. Many more serious meanings are just as fragile, but nonetheless important.
3. Comedy vs Seriousness -- The drive to be a serious person is connected with our drive for meaning. Yet comedy is one of the most effective ways to evaluate meaning, life, and a specific issue. If you can’t joke about it you can’t think freely about it. Take all the satirical comedians who have become our best political commentators including Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, John Fugelsang, etc. But instead of comedy the human tendency is go err on the side of seriousness. Being human is in great part laboring under the heavy weight of humanness, the tragedy, seriousness and humorlessness of the human condition.
4. Morality -- Morality is another subset of meaning. Once we consider something to be moral then it becomes a rock solid meaning and something you can no longer joke about or analyze. The sparkling wonder and great value ofmorals is tempered by the their ability to imprison the mind..
For instance, the 40-hour work week has congealed into a morality for America. The moral of the story is that if you don't work 40 hours and have no other income, you don't deserve to get the basics of survival. But in 1933 the U.S. was only a few lousy congressional votes away from a 30-hour work week. Called the Black-Connerly Bill, it meant the U.S. was just a few votes from what would have been a permanent 3-day weekend! The moral of the American work story would have now be centered around the 30-hour work week if not for those Congressman. As it is, Americans can't debate a less lengthy work week because you will be accused of being immoral, a lazy bum, a slacker, a Trumpian loser.
5. Self-Righteousness -- Mounting one’s high horse and exclaiming passionate what-fors at racists, militarists, greedy plutocrats, sexist morons may seem like an onerous duty, but it’s also very meaningful, very moral, and thus fun. And though we need to continue shouting our truths from the mountaintops, we also need to see how enjoyable it is, and how such feel good rants can destroy communication lines.
6. Expectations -- By expecting life to be one thing or another we shut out possibilities for enjoying what is, and for achieving what could be. Too little and too great expectations plague us through life. Let’s be like Forrest Gump and take life as the disguised box of chocolates, while also transcending expectations and dreaming of glorious possibilities such as world peace, universal self-expression, and all tragedies are mourned.