Doubt is to certainty as neurosis is to psychosis. The neurotic is in doubt and has fears about persons and things; the psychotic has convictions and makes claims about them. In short, the neurotic has problems, the psychotic has solutions.
A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
To see the world clearly as it is, gives rise to a sense of certainty – but true certainty must be affirmed with facts, arrived at from facts and be free from skeptical reserve or personal preference tainting the observed state.
Certainty can be wrongful achieved by seeing only one’s preferred interpretation coupled with strong cognitive dissonance to ignore or dismiss all evidence to the contrary and rightfully achieved by seeing the world as it is when it does not conform to your preferences or expectations. Certainty, when it begins with the conclusion and then seeks facts to support the conclusion, is not certainty, but confirmation bias parading as certainty.
Religion is the most dangerous example of certainty absent evidence; because it is the sense of certainty that gives not only permission, but the duty to those enthralled to act as if the certainty is irresistible and undeniable truth. It requires them to spread their confirmation bias through the word or the sword, if they are true believers – moderate believers tend towards contentment to keep it to themselves and to live and let live – however, these moderate believers give a social validation to the fundamentalists.
The courage of one’s convictions is a measure of certainty and I am appalled when people are admired for their convictions when these convictions were proven wrong or were dubious claims to begin with. It is not admirable to as if something is certainly true, when it is patently not.
It is curious that the same Americans who stand patriotic, my country right or wrong, are only willing to do so when their “country” is in line with what they think is right, even if it’s proved wrong later such as Bush II and the mythical weapons of mass destruction – because these right wringers are the same people that form the birther/tea bagger movement, who cannot accept that their country voted in a black president – a man the world had endorsed as being the right man for the job – who are basically claiming to stand with their country when they are actually standing against it by undermining their President and their government in partisan games with the global economy at stake while they threaten to take their ball and bat and go home.
Who claim that judges are activates when judges rule within the law and legal precedent because they seek to assert their usually religious beliefs as being above secular law and more often than not, they haven’t bothered to actually understand the secular law of the land, because cognitive dissonance cannot be maintained when faced with contradictory facts and confirmation bias is the process by which we avoid inconvenient facts and truths to maintain our certainty of bias and perception.
Which is why, when a person expresses their certainty with extreme action, such as in Norway this year or 9/11 in 2001 – because Margaret Meed is right, a small group or individual can change the world, and often, small groups and individuals are disaffected and disengaged and seek to impose their certainly about how the world should be through violence – the mainstream then is appalled and cannot reconcile that they share characteristics of the violent terrorists and seek to disown them as not true whatever the common ground is – but the reality is that the people who are so certain of their rightness, of their truth, are the truest of believers and their violent actions serves as evidence of their certainty and belief – total commitment of themselves and lives to advance their beliefs.
How is this meaningfully different than President GW Bush sending American troops to Afghanistan and Iran?
The only substantial difference is that the terrorists tend to doing their own work in support of their ideals while politicians send other people to carry out the business of enforcing their ideals and decisions in support of said ideals. But it’s not a meaningful difference.
To the certain person, everyone who opposes their certainty is expendable for the cause – that we give a mandate to some people of certainty to occupy a position of power is not meaningfully different than a person who acts without a popular mandate as a lone gunman. Both certain people are costing other people their lives in pursuit of what they are certain about – the consent or lack of consent of those who’s lives are lost, is only problematic for those of us who doubt that anything is worth costing a live or lives for. The loss of life is not a concern for those who are certain of the cause.
We do not always have to await the judgment of history to see disaster in the making, if we look at facts and remove, reduce or account for personal preference and confirmation bias. If we take effort to see the facts on the ground, the situation as it is, understand the historical and current event context – the past explains the present and informs the future.
It seems to me that if a cause is truly just, then it is achievable through peaceful means and within the systems available in society – this is why gays and atheists do not engage in violence to attain legal rights and recognition.
It is only when the cause is not just but is held by fanatical certainty, that the adherents make no headway through legal and peaceful means, which do not and cannot dissuade them of their certainty, that they resort to violence to either force others to accept their convictions or to terrorize people into not opposing them.
Because of this, resistance is never futile – even if all is lost – because dying defending against injustice is a more meaningful death than dying to impose injustice – either are martyrs to their cause, but at least being against injustice is a cause truly worth dying for, and the world needs to unite against injustice and against the violence that would assert injustice to become a world without hate and bigotry – a world truly worth living in.