Posts Tagged ‘cognitive biases’

Chad  The wisdom of Internet memes, this time from the only-God-can-judge-me crowd.

Before I get started dismantling the faux wisdom of this meme, let me make a couple things perfectly clear. 1.) I am covered in tattoos. I have two half-sleeves, both chest panels and a backpiece covered in a variety of designs. 2.) I am not a Christian. Instead, I’m an Odinist, which means I honor Odin and the rest of the old, Northern European gods, such as Thor, Tyr, Freya, etc. With that out of the way, let me tell you why I think this meme is bullshit, for the most part.

I will acknowledge that there’s a kernel of truth to this meme. Yes, not everyone who has tattoos is a vicious killer or conniving criminal. And yes, all of know at least one person who piously attends church every Sunday yet somehow seems to miss the better message of what being a Christian/Jew/Muslim should be all about, and that’s love, acceptance, forgiveness of self and others, etc. That said, this amount of truth to the meme is an acorn compared to the towering oak tree of bullshit that it implies.

Now let’s look at the bad, of which there is a lot. Those who would share this meme are doing so in search of validation. Chances are, they’re tattooed and likely don’t go to church – which neither of things are bad – and they’re struggling with feelings of low self worth. (Hint: we all do this to varying degrees.) Thus, sharing this meme is their way of saying, “Despite my flaws, I’m a good person. Right?” And each like and/or comment from their like-minded tattooed friends acts as another brick added to the poster’s “self-esteem wall.”

Another problem with this meme: it’s thinly-disguised tribalism. What I mean by this is it basically draws a line in the sand between one “tribe” – tattooed people – and another “tribe” – non-tattooed people who attend church. This creates an us-against-them scenario where people are reduced to mere stereotype of what each “side” represents to the other. This robs people of their humanity, which is known as “othering,” as in people become reduced to something other than human. Example: Someone looking at a group of tattooed people and saying, “Look at those freaks over there! They’re not like us at all. They’re evil!”

Thing is, it works just as well in reverse: “Look at those lying sons of bitches with their hands together, pretending that they’re praying. Half of them will go home and beat their wives!” (Sound familiar?)

The bad news is that it’s hard to escape the “tribal mindset,” as it’s been ingrained in us since the dawn of our species. By trusting in and taking care of only our own “tribe,” our primitive ancestors ensured their survival. This same biological memory doesn’t serve us so well today, where our culture has moved from tribal to one of a diverse global village. Now, whenever we separate humanity into “tribes” that are diametrically opposed to each other, we create conflict where there needn’t be any. This can lead to atrocious acts committed upon members of the other “tribe” in the name of survival of one’s own. Example: How many Jews were killed by the Nazi regime because they believed Jews to be evil and a threat to Germany’s prosperity?

One more thing about the tribal mindset: seeing the world as us-against-them blinds our eyes to the wide range of diversity of thought that in which humankind actually presents itself. Example: how many tattooed people go to church? Likely more than you think, and they’re not all bad (or good) people. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it should not be ignored that many murderers, rapists and other criminals have tattoos, and  there are many people doing good things – ministry, healing, charity work, etc. – in the name of their chosen faiths.

Wow! I’ll bet you didn’t think a meme that says so little actually says so much!

scary3“You just can’t handle me because I’m honest and tell it like it is!”

How many times have you heard that one from the so-called friend or acquaintance who prides themselves on “telling it like it is?” If they’re not saying it, they’re boasting about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Their penchant for blurting out unsolicited opinions about you and/or your life is usually lacking in truth and tact, but that doesn’t stop them. If you don’t like it, they’ll rudely say that you just “can’t handle the truth.” They might call it “brutal honesty,” but they’re only half right … and honesty ain’t got nothin’ to do with it!

Perhaps the biggest pitfall of the Honesty Fallacy is that those who commit it often mistake being honest for telling the truth. Full of themselves, these people sincerely believe that their honest opinion is equivalent to an incontrovertible fact or truth about a person, place, or situation. An honest opinion is still just that – an opinion – so those who engage in the Honesty Fallacy are doing nothing more than playing the part of the proverbial “armchair quarterback.”

Those who engage in the Honesty Fallacy aren’t honest at all, especially with themselves. Ever wonder why these folks are so eager to share their unedited, unfiltered thoughts about you? Is it that they’re trying to help you by cluing you in to some of your flaws? Hardly! These folks are being brutally honest because they want to hurt you, and they’re usually motivated by jealousy or a deep-seated – and often denied – hatred toward you. This brutal honesty of theirs is nothing more than a passive-aggressive way of lashing out at their frenemies in a thinly-veiled, socially-acceptable manner. It’s a game they play with you and they continually up the ante to see just how much further they can push the meanness envelope.

And may the gods help you if you ever snap on these bastions of honesty!

The Honesty Fallacy doesn’t go both ways. Though it might seem to be the irony of ironies, those who revel in being brutally honest are usually extremely sensitive when it comes to things said about them. “You’re just being mean!” they scream, as they struggle to choke back the torrents of tears and baleful sobbing that are sure to follow. Try it and see! You’ll wound them ever so deeply while simultaneously exposing the fact that their so-called brutal honesty was nothing more than their ego overcompensating for their insecurities.

While I typically don’t advocate capriciously harming others, I’ve always seen those who engage in the Honesty Fallacy as bullies, and bullies deserve the retribution that they inspire in their victims. And for those who think that someone can only be a bully if they’re violent, keep in mind that verbal assault is violence too … that’s why it’s called an “assault.”

*Artwork generously donated by Steven Michael Pace of Flint, MI.