You don't have to reconcile all of the contradictory things

posted by Jeff | Monday, March 28, 2022, 4:00 PM | comments: 0

The Internet has a lot of opinions about last night's Oscars, where Will Smith smacked Chris Rock after a pretty terrible joke about his wife. I don't need to weigh in on that, but I do want to weigh in on the phenomenon where people try to rationalize contradictory things.

One of the things that I always get tripped up on, and that I see in my son as well, is that when we see things that in our understanding that we feel can't coexist, we struggle. When it's really bad, it leads to a meltdown, which I absolutely recall having as a child, and I've seen my kid have them. For example, when you do something wrong, there are consequences for that action, even if you apologize. Simon really struggles with this, because the social contract as he understands it is that an apology cancels out the misbehavior. Imagine believing something so inflexibly that you can't respond rationally. In this case, it's often useful to choose one of the contradictory things as acceptable.

You don't have to be affected by autism though to want to pick one thing out of a group of contradictory things, and this seems to drive literally everything in our culture now. It's always left or right, up or down, and there's never room for nuance. It's not a paradox when two things that seem contradictory are both correct. And yeah, that's where that whole thing with the Fresh Prince comes in. Rock was absolutely out of line and wrong for his joke about Jada. Smith was absolutely wrong to assault Rock. Smith was wrong for taking the light from Questlove and his well-deserved award. And he may have, at the same time, deserved the Best Actor award (I didn't see the movie, but I'll defer to others). He may have believed he was defending his family, but at the same time he could be exhibiting toxic masculinity. All of this can simultaneously be true.

I'll admit, this is the hardest part of critical thinking for me. We're often faced with irreconcilable observations, in which case we often fall back on our biases.


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