Once upon a time long, long ago some courageous individuals did something shocking. They dared to think. Out of this creative activity, they began to hold personal opinions. This groovy practice caught on and became widespread. After all, this was way before movies, books, television, rock n roll, and drugs, so these early peoples had a lot of time on their hands, and this seemed a good way to spend it.
Some enterprising individuals eventually figured out a way of making a profession of this thinking activity. Those who became pure thinkers were called Scholars; those who became the sharers of the thoughts of thinkers past and facilitators of this practice were called Teachers; and those who took it upon themselves to tell others how they should think were called Preachers.
Inspired, guided, and agitated by members of these three professions, the masses formed personal opinions and eventually gathered together in two camps based on their similar beliefs, values, and preferred ways of doing things. One of these groups quickly gained widespread popular appeal and it grew and grew until most people were members of it.
As is always the case, leaders emerged and decided to organize, prepare a mission statement, set an agenda, and go about having things their way. Members of this larger group called themselves CONSERVATIVES, and this was their mission statement: We conservatives believe it is self evident that absolute truth is knowable and that we know it. We see it as our moral duty to convert everyone to our correct view; to coerce them if necessary (for their own sake and ours) to conform to the one truth, adopt the right way of doing things, and join our movement. We assert that life is not as complicated as it seems and that everything, in the final analysis, boils down to clear-cut choices between true/false, right/wrong/ good/evil, moral/immoral, appropriate/inappropriate, proper/improper, etc. Because we humans are free agents with a will of our own and capable of making correct choices, each person must be held fully accountable for his or her actions. To keep everyone on the true path and to keep the conformity ball rolling, anyone disturbing the status quo by spreading false beliefs or exhibiting deviant behaviors must be severely punished. This will help the ones who stray to see the light and return to the fold, and it will demonstrate to others that if they should do likewise, unpleasant consequences will follow. Our goal is creating a monocultural society in which difference, dissent, and free thinking is discouraged.
Since the masses at that time were illiterate and ignorant, this simplistic way of looking at things made sense to them, and those who joined this camp attempted to resist change because change and the unknown are scary, and they struggled to preserve the status quo because it feels comfortable, safe, and secure. Anyone in this CONSERVATIVE camp who, from time to time, rebelled, were branded as traitors, heretics, or troublemakers and they were treated as outcasts.
At the same time, another smaller group formed, and its members called themselves LIBERALS. They formed the LIBERAL camp. They too organized, prepared a mission statement, set an agenda, and began trying to create a world reflecting their very different view of things. The liberal mission statement goes as follows: We hold it to be self-evident that absolutes are unknowable because they transcend the capacity of the mortal mind to know and understand We understand that all things are relative and can only be put in perspective by means of comparing and contrasting. Truth seeking is a noble and worthwhile endeavor, but there are many truth paths, each of which adds to the collective understanding. Since it is obvious that diversity and change are cosmic norms, we welcome diversity and free thinking. Since we admit to not knowing absolute truth or "the way," we are reformers always trying to change things for the better. Our focus is on the journey. We do, of course, set goals, but when these goals are reached, we do not see them as final destinations but rather as launching pads for still another leg of the never-ending journey. To help our society grow, learn, mature, and improve, we welcome all members to think for themselves, to hold personal views, and to share these freely in the open market place of ideas. We are slow to judge others because we realize that the causes of behavior are multiple, complete, and interrelated. We willingly and aggressively champion the cause of any individual or group that does not have full access to the good life. We believe the best possible environment in which to live is one that is dynamic and pluralistic.
Since the olden days when all this began, human beings throughout the world have tended to gravitate to one or the other of these philosophical camps. And it is the ongoing tension generated by these two opposite ways of seeing things that creates the energy that propels our social, political, economic, moral, and spiritual evolution. so, whose side are you on?