In which Aviatrix tries to get to the point that eluded her last time.
My last blog entry wandered off on a tangent, but I hope not before making the point that equally intelligent people can come to completely different conclusions from the same data just because they believe the world to be constructed of different kinds of cheese. What is self-evident to me may be a crazy idea to you, so if I want to convince you to take an action, I must create a logical path to that action that begins with something that is self evident to you.
A while ago I had a long e-mail exchange with someone whom I knew to be intelligent, logical and compassionate. He was, and still is, very concerned about the spread of the Muslem religion in the world. He believes that it will lead to a global decrease in human rights. He exhorted me to act. "But what do you want me to do?" I asked. And at every iteration he responded by saying that hope was not enough. I finally said, "Are you asking me to take up arms against every Muslim I see? Write letters to my congressman? Sneer at women in headscarves?" I of course didn't think he wanted me to shoot anyone, as he is respectful to his Muslim neighbours and customers. His problem is with the proponents of fundamentalist law. I was hoping by my question to get him to say what action he was actually asking for. He is very concerned about people being complacent to the threat, and spent a lot of energy urging action.
We remained cordial, but he never answered the question in a way that made any sense to me. After a few revolutions of the argument we both accepted that it was something that just wasn't going to cross between our minds. He said "I've made it clear enough.....We just don't speak the same language." And we dropped it.
It came to mind recently as an example of a baffling impasse and I mentioned it in an e-mail to someone who was helping me understand why Texans were getting angry at me for being scared of them, and he had an explanation for this too. It still doesn't entirely make sense to me. It may not be the correct explanation, but it is an explanation, and even brings this whole thing back to an aviation example. He wrote:
Ah! Ok, he wants people who believe in the rights and freedoms that are enshrined in the Constitution, to defend those rights. He won't tell us how to do that (though he may give advice if pressed), because one of the things he believes we need to defend against is one group of people telling others what they should do. He may not have understood your question, but if he had I would predict it wouldn't help. He would probably say something like "Do what ever you can".
It's really quite extraordinary that we have this invention caled language, that, most of the time allows me to make noises, or transmit squiggles, and you to hear the noises or look at the squiggles and a reasonable facsimile of my thought appears in your head. I should really be amazed by how often it works, rather than being confused by the times it doesn't. Sometimes the gulf can be bridged by stating the obvious, but it's a skill to articulate the obvious. The people who have, say Newton giving his La ws of Motion or Descartes equating thinking with being, are lauded as philosphers. They say things that we kind of already knew, but never knew we knew. What 17th century farmer hadn't noticed that stuff stays where it is unless you push it, the same push has a greater effect on smaller stuff, and that if you push something, it pushes back at you? But to recognize those as axioms of motion -- that took Newton.
Thomas Jefferson is also held to be a great man, and he put into words some things that he and free thinking people of his time were coming to believe.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
If you don't consider these things to be self-evident truths, then you are going to be baffled by some of the arguments made by people who do, unless those people are clever enough to build their case from another direction.
And finally, I promised to bring this back to aviation, my correspondent gave this example.
You have run up against one of the principle differences between Canadians and Americans. Canadians believe in building consensus and the few making small sacrifices for the good of the many. Americans believe in personal freedom and personal sacrifice to defend it. The rules around VFR flights are a good example of this. In Canada we can't fly more than 25nm without telling someone else where we're going. In the US as long as we avoid controlled or restricted airspace we don't have to tell anyone. Personal freedom trumps making it easier for SAR to find us.