Our viewpoints are not our own

Photo credit: David Molina

Photo credit: David Molina

The most unimaginative and redundant opinions are those most aggressively debated, and the truly important, consequential views are thoroughly ingrained and taken for granted. In any given era, the multitude of opinions possessed by the public is largely owed to the social or philosophical revolutions of the last few decades. This goes beyond your liberal or conservative inclination, beyond your Democratic or Republican leanings, beyond your religious or spiritual views or lack thereof, beyond anything contentious and superfluous.

The plain fact that you support a rule by the people is a generational establishment. Caught up as we are in the battle between Democrats and Republicans, we might easily be advocates of aristocracy, monarchy or theocracy, were we in another century.

It’s easy to study the history of science, or political rule, and be perplexed at what delusions and inane systems preceded ours. This only enforces how completely arbitrary our current predilections are.

Although history seems to be generally progressive, in terms of empirical discovery, liberties and innovation, our current era cannot be said to be any more grounded than a few thousand years ago. In another few thousand years, our ideas will, again, be scoffed at, viewed through the critical lens of posterity.

There are a few repercussions of this. The exposure of historical figures to modern moral conceptions is blatantly ridiculous. If American history courses were at all concerned with factual gruesomeness, many beloved characters would face the harsh judgment we so liberally impose on those outside of our contemporary ethical standards.

Another result is that we take for granted our skepticism for anything immaterial (that is, beyond the physical). We are mostly monists without ever considering it could be another way, whether that’s good or bad.

To supplement that, millennials are ever more detached from organized religion and Abrahamic beliefs. Speculatively, the subsequent Y-Generation is even further removed from religious institutions.

Chico State freshmen: welcome to the secular and apologist battlefield. Glad to have you. This statistic does no justice to how long it took to get here, nor credit to the scientific revolutions of the 16th and 17th centuries and existentialism of the 20th.

Whatever your views about the existence of a soul, a vicious debate spanning hundreds of years has worked for your opinion without even your conscious recognition of it.

All of our viewpoints are the process of thousands of years of intensive study and contemplation that we are blissfully ignorant to. Forget your political affiliation, which is probably not as radical as you think it is. What’s your view about how we gain knowledge? What’s your view on the reception of experience?

Ideology is an oasis in a great Saharan desert of existential meaninglessness. Every couple years, approaching dehydration, we take a new dusty trail down and fill our mental canteens.

Shallow and accessible, conservatism and liberalism float near the edge, alongside monotheism and fad diets. After wetting our ankles, we can explore libertarianism, socialism, agnosticism; our ideas about skepticism and cynicism begin to take shape and become apparent. The deeper we go, the more esoteric … but the more important.

None of us have arrived at our viewpoints by ourselves – except for the exceptionally mundane ones.

William Rein can be reached at [email protected] or @toeshd on Twitter.