Ayn Rand wrote, “Those who deny reason cannot be conquered by it.” At the same time, police officers say, “Accept nothing, believe no-one and check everything.” Police live on an evidence based basis (so the reason someone invented the phrase ‘evidence-based policing’ when it is ALL evidence-based policing, escapes me.)
Both phrases relate in some way to the Second Resolution. Rand’s lends itself to Character – the acknowledgment that we are not all-knowing, and that where we express opinion we may be wrong. In other words, humility. Ideologists don’t like that idea. They prefer to counter Rand’s tenet by shouting louder. Argument is not key to winning; silencing the other side is their route to ‘right’.
The police motto lends itself to Competence. It’s about not accepting ‘facts’ blindly. It’s about questioning to identify fact from fiction, truth from exaggeration. All towards ensuring that action taken is the best solution to the challenge faced.
There is a corollary to that, of course. When I hear the expression ‘there is no evidence that….’, my next question is always ‘Has anyone actually looked?’ Zebras didn’t ‘exist’ until someone saw one. The evidence wasn’t there. Then, when the first person to saw one described it, some disbeliever or doubter would say, ‘That’s just anecdotal evidence’. Which all eye-witness testimony is, so it’s as valid an evidential basis as any.
Yes, there are overlaps between those character- and competence-based expressions – there always are. To a degree that is hard to quantify, character enables competence, and competence develops character. But character listens, because competence requires it.
I watch too much television, but I try to watch debates to gain a better understanding of ‘things’. And it grieves me to watch the shouters who can’t wait to debunk their opponent’s statements before they are clarified, and do so by shouting over them. Those shouters are the ones Rand means when she writes of those who won’t be cowed by reason – they won’t listen to see if something is reasonable.
I’ll be frank. A lot of the v-word debate at the moment smacks of an unwillingness to listen. There are too many emotion-based, rather than rationale-based arguments being made. I have questions (police tenet) but the answers I get are likely to be emotion-based rather than factual. Truth be told, my experience of the whole COVID things is different to others. I know of absolutely no-one in my circle of family/friends/community who has died, or who has suffered more than a sore throat and lack of taste for a couple of days. This situation serves my scepticism. It seems that if you know me, you’re safe.
But listening to the ‘don’t kill granny’ arguments, I accept nothing, believe no-one and question a lot. Not so much about the virus, but about how the situation is being used to do things which otherwise would not be countenanced by a free society. And I admit to wondering why this immunisation programme differs from tetanus (10 years), Hep C (5 years), smallpox, MMR (both once, ever) and other preventative treatments. Which doesn’t stop me seeking them, just questioning why it is the only three-times in a year version.
But as long as the fire of debate is fanned by those whose interests do not necessarily match my own, I will remain doubtful about any argument that is made at a higher decibel level than that used by the other ‘side’.
When you shout, you can’t use – or hear – reason.