You Are Not a Cow

The world is full of people who want to tell you what to think. And of people who want to be t0ld what to think. They’d (we’d) deny it of course. But it’s true. Most people don’t want to think for themselves.

People who want to tell you what to think permeate all corners of our life. It starts in school (or, actually, perhaps at home). Many teachers think their role is to tell you what to think. To dispense facts, theories and knowledge. To “educate.” They imply everything has a right or wrong answer. Most of the time, they are well meaning. But they do much damage nonetheless. They indoctrinate. Brainwash. They foster intellectual passivity. They suppress skepticism, curiosity and individuality. They hamper people’s ability to navigate ambiguity and uncertainty. It is one of the reasons so many people don’t need or want to think for themselves. They’ve been trained not to. It’s one of the reasons we find ourselves in the pickle we’re currently in.

People who want to tell you what to think are found elsewhere, of course. Journalists and taking heads of cable TV are prime examples. Everyone has an opinion, and they think so highly of theirs they want to beat it into you. They’re not content to give you the facts and let you decide for yourself. No, they want to tell you how to interpret events. What to think of the world. And what to do.  You’ll seldom hear them say they don’t know, but is really odd because more often than not, they don’t. The worst thing about journalists and commentators who engage in such subterfuge is the deceit. The ones who try to pass off opinion and commentary as fact and truth, they are the most dangerous ones. There are many dangerous ones out there today.

People who want to tell you what to think populate our pulpits, too. They do as much damage as many of our teachers and professors. They indoctrinate. Propagandize. Coerce. Threaten (albeit often in soft ways). Not all preachers of course. But many. Possibly most.

People who want to tell you what to think are what I call “commentators.” I run into many commentators in the investment world, too. At first, due to my inexperience and naiveté in such matters, I gave these commentators too much credit and power. I deferred too much. Usually, with bad results. With time, I’m more inclined to ignore them. More inclined to think for myself. My results have improved.

Thinking for oneself is not as easy as it sounds. It’s not how most of us were reared. Well meaning yet controlling parents, teachers and preachers saw to that.

Yet the older I get, the more convinced I become of the criticality of developing and fostering that mindset, Vera: the mindset of intellectual independence. And the more convinced I am of the insidious, destructive power of those who seek to tell us what to think and believe.

I’ve also grown skeptical of my ability to resist the power of those who seek to dictate or control. I appreciate more than ever, at least for feeble me, the necessity of cordoning off as much of that commentary from my life as possible. To protect and safeguard the space that independent thought requires.

It’s one of the reasons I don’t subscribe to commercial television. And never watch cable talk shows or listen to radio talk shows. And rarely read anything on the opinion page of the newspapers. And am drawn to sources and people who are portals into the world of real events and conditions, which, if I’m lucky, may at least point towards the truth.

I’m trying to become better at ferreting out facts as opposed to commentary. And to being more skeptical. And more adept at resisting the influence of commentary. And more confident in my own abilities and judgment.

Again, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

As a grandparent, I hope I can resist the temptation to tell you what to think and what to believe. I hope I can foster within you a healthy skepticism. And encourage you to develop your mind and cognitive abilities. To think for yourself. To be less dependent upon and susceptible to those who want to tell you what to think and believe.

The world is full of such people. And full of people who are content to think and believe what others tell them.

Think about it. For a moment. Is this the best way of being you? Or is it the best way of herding people?

You are not a cow.

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