Thursday, 6 May 2010

A Beginner's Guide to Ignoring Your Conscience

[Inspired by long political debates in online forums]

Sometimes we want something, but to get it we have to endorse a group that does something bad. Like persecute a minority, one that you might even be part of. Say for example you want to vote Tory because it benefits you in some way, but you’re gay, and they have tendency to wish gays didn’t exist. Fear not! All you need to do is convince yourself you’re right, and that conscience will just have to shut up. There are tried and true methods for this, passed down through the ages to excuse all sorts of atrocities, and they are so simple anyone can use them! Even you!

Step 1 – MINIMISE what it is that your conscience objects to. For hundreds of years people have justified doing bad things by minimising their assessment of its impact or meaning. You don’t even want to do something bad, you just want to ignore something bad someone else did, so it’s even easier! Just take the awful thing that was done (such as passing homophobic legislation) and minimise it to the point where you can claim it was irrelevant and should be dismissed. The rookie mistake is to deny it ever happened – but you wouldn’t do that!

Step 2 – NEVER use any facts or figures or logic. When reason isn’t on your side, don’t use it. Of course, you should never state this explicitly, because everyone knows facts, figures and logic are good things. That’s ok, all you need is a veneer of reason, just steer well clear of the substance.

Step 3 – ALWAYS sound absolutely certain of your authority on the subject. People often enter into debate to get at the truth of a subject, and in doing so will often concede points on which they may have made an error. However, we’re not after truth, are we – that’s just going to fuel the conscience. Don’t be drawn into actually admitting you might have got a point wrong, it’s just a downward spiral to admitting you might actually be wrong all together. So never ever let up on the certainty that you are always utterly correct on everything. Most people don’t have time for facts and reasoning anyway, they tend to defer to the most authoritive sounding person, presuming they know what they are talking about. So all you need to do is ALWAYS sound authoritive, and people will eventually believe you.

Step 4 – DON’T answer any direct questions for evidence, proof or reasoning. It’s tricky, but stick to just making statements you want to be true. Say these over and over again. Remember the statements you want to be true are: A) The original thing is irrelevant. B) You are right. Try to think of as many different ways you can say these things, because this will give the impression of substance (after all substance just means lots of something, it doesn’t necessarily require variety).

Step 5 – PRETEND you’ve already explained yourself and given evidence and reasoning. This is the big gun in your arsenal. You can also do this by pretending the evidence for your point of view is so obvious, you don’t need to go into explaining it. This works best when you are also doing step 3. Remember, never actually give any evidence or reasoning for your point of view, because you will likely be called on it, just pretend that you already have. Act patronising to anyone that claims you haven’t, and tell them they just aren’t smart enough to understand the evidence and reasoning (that you’ve pretended to give).

Step 6 – ATTACK the irrelevancies. This is the fun part you’ve been waiting for. If you’ve been patient with the previous steps, you should have built up a reasonable amount of response, which will inevitably boil over in frustration at your use of steps 2, 4 and 5. Typically, you will start to get personal attacks on you for being stupid, or some variation thereof. This is the perfect opportunity for you to take the ‘high-ground’, and attack other’s responses for being ‘immature and puerile’. You can also twist this into further evidence of why you are ‘right’ and they are ‘wrong’, without actually referring to the subject at hand, because you are on the ‘high ground’ and they have made ‘low blows’. See, you’re starting to feel better about that conscience already!

Step 7 – ONLY respond to comments you can take out of context, mis-interpret or obfuscate. By now you should have lots of responses to choose from, and it is important to ignore any clear, well reasoned criticisms that ask for a direct and specific answer. If need be, you can take a small part of a well reasoned comment, not relevant to the main point and attack that, but if they insist on bringing it back to the main point and asking for direct answers to their questions, put them back in the ignore box. You can have some real fun here, and really start to convince yourself you’re right. Some tips for this: Use examples not related to your main point. This will allow you to take the argument off in a different direction, somewhere you have a better grounding of evidence; Let them provide the evidence for your argument – remember how you claimed to have given evidence or examples without doing so? Well eventually your detractors will point to examples used by others with similar views to yours, hoping that is what you meant when you implied ‘everyone knows’ and that your evidence is ‘obvious’. Don’t endorse these examples directly, then when they are criticised as poor evidence, you can use the ‘I never said that’ defence, claim your were misinterpreted, and use it as further evidence of why other’s are incapable of understanding you; Only ever make direct statements that are opinions, ie ‘I’m right, you’re wrong. It is good, it’s not homophobic’. When you feel compelled to back-up these statements, only use implications, which will allow you to confuse meanings, particularly of abstract concepts, even ‘implication’ itself. If a detractor says ‘You implied X’, you can respond, ‘I never defined X like that’ or ‘I never said X’. Or ‘Just because I implied it was pro-straight, doesn’t mean I said it was anti-gay’. The old ‘Pro-white, not anti-black’ false dichotomy can be very useful.

Step 8 – PERSISTENCE will pay off. Stay on the attack, and never explain yourself. Demand that others make explanations for you, then discard them when they crumble. Just keep going, even if your rebuttal is just as simple as outright denying things you said before – after all, they just didn’t understand you. Turn everything into evidence as to why you are right, even exasperation at you can be implied as weakness, which must mean they are wrong. Remember, even if you have to change your opinion over the course of the discussion, the important thing is to feel right at the end. That will mean you were right all along, and hence your original position is also correct! There’s nothing like feeling that your opinion is being stifled or oppressed to make you feel certain it’s right! You will never win the argument in the traditional way of people agreeing with you, but if you stay persistent then eventually everyone else will give up out of exhaustion. This is your conceded victory, proof that you were always right!

Isn’t it wonderful to have proved to yourself you’re right! That warm glow of smugness will definitely keep the conscience at bay. Just think, with these techniques, you don’t just have to justify the actions of a person or group you support, why you could justify anything you wanted to do at all! The world is your oyster!