When we use the word “society” to convey some truth or opinion we commit a grave error.
Statements such as society thinks:
- Murder is wrong.
- Love is good.
- You should help people in need.
- You shouldn’t lie.
- You should brush your teeth.
- You should be nice to people.
- Giving is better than receiving.
- Stealing is bad, etc.
are false. Neither because of the subject matter nor because they are bad people, but because society is essentially everybody.
Society is usually defined as “a body of individuals living as members of a community” or ” [a] community”.
And of course, we do not actually speak for everybody or even some majority of everybody, and everybody does not believe these statements — not to mention all the interpretations, qualifications, and exceptions that could be attached to these ideas. Then, people often say one thing, but do the complete opposite. And of course, only individual human beings think, decide and act.
That is a lot of misinformation for just two words followed by a statement, and a reminder that generalization is the death of anything important. Yet we hear politicians, media pundits, teachers, and people everywhere continuously commit this simple error.
This may sound like nitpicking and quibbling, but when conveying or arguing important ideas, precision is necessary. Unfortunately, detailed explanations require more time than a sound bite. In a world of ever-shortening time preferences, important details are increasingly lost.
Argumentation through gross generalization, if not patent falsehoods, and claiming or insinuating total societal support probably does not qualify as active listening. Rather it contributes to the setting of heels instead of having a more critical discussion and search for “mutual truths” (à la Ray Dalio); this failure fuels the fire of cultural polarizations.
The slowing of conversation may be the first step to opening space for more listening and the exploration of underlying principles and reasons for anyone’s assertion of a societal view.
Note: The views expressed are solely the opinion of the author.
Source: SC Striebeck for Wisdom of Anarchy, borrowing heavily from assorted writings by Murray N. Rothbard and Frank Choderov.
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