Discover more from Sparks from Culture by David Roberts
There are many good reasons to read Tim Urban’s excellent new book “What’s Our Problem?” One of them is how he hammers home the point, both with words and pictures, that higher-end and better thinking about any issue should be based on the issue’s merits, rather than on who is on which side of that issue.
It’s really hard to do!
During the Trump presidency, I had a Pavlovian, negative reaction to everything Trump did or was for. A good example is the ongoing question of whether Covid started inside or outside a lab. Trump said it came from a Chinese lab, along with all sorts of pernicious and discriminatory language such as “Kung Flu.” I immediately dismissed the lab leak theory as wrong. It became a political issue for me and probably for many if not most Americans. Instead, we and our elected representatives should have been focused on the dangers of labs experimenting with “gain-of-function” research.
(I had no excuse for my anti-lab leak view given my deep background in reading (at least twice) Stephen King’s “The Stand” and watching both of its adaptations to TV miniseries.)
I also failed to give proper credit to the Trump Administration for Operation Warp Speed, which gave us an effective vaccine in record time. Instead I focused on his unhinged comment about using bleach as a Covid cure.
But now I have Tim Urban looking over my shoulder as I form opinions. It’s still hard for me to learn that I might share a view with someone I otherwise disagree with passionately on most other things. Take Ron DeSantis (“please,” says Henny Youngman’s ghost).
I find DeSantis’s ongoing social crusade against what he calls “wokeness” to be awful and often cruel. Sometimes he’s even ridiculous as when he recently blamed the failure of Silicon Valley Bank on its being “woke.”
But this week DeSantis went on Tucker Carlson (another person in my rogues’ gallery) and spoke about American policy in Ukraine, and I found myself in general agreement with DeSantis. This is what he said:
“While the U.S. has many vital national interests — securing our borders, addressing the crisis of readiness with our military, achieving energy security and independence, and checking the economic, cultural and military power of the Chinese Communist Party — becoming further entangled in a territorial dispute between Ukraine and Russia is not one of them,”
Most critics have focused on his unfortunate characterization of the Russian invasion as a “territorial dispute,” which technically it is, in the same way that a thief attempting to steal your car is a vehicular dispute. But his main point of not “becoming further entangled” is one I agree with.
My agreement with DeSantis gives rise to some cognitive dissonance for me. To speak as Gollum speaks, “me hates DeSantis, me agrees with DeSantis.”
But it helps me to look at it the following way. Slavish disagreement can be just as foolish as slavish agreement.
So I will work hard to refuse to outsource my opinions to anyone, just because I admire or despise them.
Here’s a link to Tim Urban’s book that sparked this post.
Finally, below is a public service announcement about the dangers of gain of function research.