I invite all humans, including the educated and uneducated, the peasant the city dweller, the democrat the republican, the laic the religious, the conservative the liberal, the Armenian and the Kurd, the Turk, the Slav, the white the black the yellow and the redhead, the Cuban the North Korean, people who I cannot list here, take it on you too... I invite all humanity, all world citizens to doubt. I invite all to doubt.
I invite you all to use more question marked sentences before coming to conclusions, making final judgements.
The majority of people are incapable of thinking, but only of believing."
We Live With Our Beliefs
The human has a strong need for a legend, and thankfully (!) he doesn't lack neither the ability nor the creativity to invent it. With this ability or should I say talent, he finds a solution to natural events and all kinds of problems he cannot deal with. Then, the next thing you know is that he has accepted the legend he created as a “fact”, a “reality” and believed in it.
Research by anthropologists and some “primitive” tribes in existence today give us an idea about what kinds of beliefs ancient people held. The most classic is perhaps the belief that “defeating an animal and/or eating its meat bestows upon the one the special traits/strengths attributed to that animal.
Even though this kind of belief structure has fallen into decay in the 21st century, its place was never left vacant, being replaced with other types of beliefs right away. Today, a new set of empty beliefs which have kept pace with the new age has enveloped the world. The fact that the number of toys in our technological park has increased is in no way a sign of our being more “modern” than the people holding old beliefs. Our beliefs are just as primitive today. As primitive as the those beliefs we find so bosh and tosh, so funny that we look down upon in disdain.
Whereas, when we think about it, our beliefs are very “logical/reasonable” and of course “true”, right? Whereas those of others are at the very most empty beliefs that have no rhyme or reason, that is if we do not denigrate them with further condescension saying they are cock-and-bull. That's why if brains were on sale at the market, everybody would buy his/hers. In actuality, the brain (and the mind that goes with it) we are buying would not be a rational thought system but a complete body of beliefs. Because, in case of man being stipulated to reason based on concrete facts and proven/attested events, there is very little he can conclude.
But as man is... He does not relish the idea of agonizing in the consciousness of his ignorance/benightedness; thus, he activates “the mind” and constructs himself an entirety of belief. Then, he conducts/operates almost all his actions upon this belief system he has fabricated/devised/conjured up/weaved and organized/ordered/structured/shaped/curated/concocted/orchestrated/codified according to his wish and whim. That's why everything is so clear-cut in our world. There is no curtain of fog over our thoughts, perceptions, judgements, beliefs.
Our Beliefs of Causality
Man deduces a link, concocts a cause and effect relationship even for things he cannot explain.
Let's go on with examples:
At the times when sperm and egg were not known, man said: “Aaah, a baby came. It must be a present from the Creator.”
But he does not confine himself to only that; he does not accept the circumstance as is, as enough. Why did the Creator gift him a baby? He has to find an explanation for that too. Only then can he be content and feel at ease. “But why?” he asks. Then he constructs a reason, comes up with an answer in his own way: “I had been good to such and such neighbor of mine, that's why,” or “I had sacrificed an animal for the Creator, I had taken a vow, that's why,” “My husband had defeated this animal, had danced around the fire chanting these prayers, that's why.”
Our cause-and-effect relations today are mostly similar. Believe me, there is no fundamental difference between the above and our beliefs today. The only thing is, because we believe in them, the impressions they arise in us is very powerful, and in proportion to that strength, very “real” for us.
A need for explanation makes man to constantly ask questions and find answers. And mostly wrong answers!
Eh, wrong questions wrong answers... Thus, leads to wrong beliefs.
The One Who Travels a Lot is Condemned to Know Less
“Does the one who travels most or the one who reads most knows most?” they ask. We, more or less, know the answer. In Turkish, the proverb declares it is the one who travels most; still, some insist on it being the one who reads most. But who questions such templates molded into the depth of our consciousness?
It's automatic in every culture. By the time we grow up, we have internalized so much stuff, those assumptions we almost never question.
Once upon a time, I had attempted to probe this proverb though; thought I had developed it. I had declared “The one who travels most, reads most, then thinks most and writes most knows most.” Now, I'll take a step in the opposite direction. Because, now I am inclined to believe that this proverb has been constructed in reverse, as almost all our moral and thought systems.
The correct version should be: One knows less in proportion to the most he reads and travels.
Yes, of course! Why did I not think of this before? The more you have traveled, the more you have read, that is the more you actually know, the lesser you know. Because you are as less sure.
The one who travels most is doomed to know the least.
Actually the same thing might be true of the one who reads most but people are generally biased to read those things that support their beliefs, that seem palatable to them. Even if they read contrasting/divergent/assorted/diversified articles they put the thoughts they don't like into a chest, lock them up as to render them “invisible.” We are good at invalidating and nullifying things we do not like, things that do not suit our book. Therefore, the probability of our readings to remain one-sided is quite high.
Whereas, when one talks about traveling most what's implied is not shuttling to the same places continually- not beating the same track all the time; it is traveling to a wider geography, as wide as possible. Being physically present in contrasting settings/spaces one is exposed to diversified mentalities, traditions, values, assessments, interpretations, perceptions, judgements. One sees it's possible to lead a life that is in total contrast to his beliefs. Some things go against/contradict the belief system the traveler has set up until then. But he can't close his eyes and pretend those lives non-existent. Those lives that are concrete, very real, so much that they have been witnessed.
The one who travels most sees that it is possible to live contrary to the things he considered true until that day; what's more, these contrary ideas/beliefs can be just as “true” as his. (Unfortunately, globalization is about to deprive us of that possibility, it will soon expropriate our uniqueness.)
Travel makes us question our concepts, perceptions, beliefs. And the more we question these, we become less sure; we know less.
Whereas We Are So Sure
If a message we have sent to a group has not been posted “a whole half darn day”, we conclude there is censor in the group. We growl. Can there be any other explanation? To question is meaningless and unnecessary. We skip the questioning part and jump unto the spouting, spurting, erupting with anger part.
When somebody does something, our belief of “why” he has done it is ready. We are all knowledgeable after all. We have full grasp of other people's reasons and intentions. If not ourselves, there is all the rest of society; we copy and paste, affix one of the labels we heard around.
Admitted: Some of our beliefs, rest on very solid-sound-valid foundations which seem rational. HOWEVER, even those need to be questioned first. But man, who has the capacity to blindly believe even those ideas that are founded on much loser ground, does not leave any room for a margin of error in this case. He doesn't bother and think; he doesn't question. Because he is so sure.
Some have believed in the invincible power of Google. A piece is there and you claim the Google God cannot find it? Google not able?? No way! His belief is so strong that, even when he is to pass a verdict of penal sanction due to this belief, he does not think “What if?”, he does not doubt. Eh, the man who does not doubt does not require proof/evidence/verification, he executes the penalty. He is so sure that he knows, he understands technology; he cannot fathom there can be special circumstances; he is the great presumer.
What do you mean? Search engines like Google read the internet every day. Even if not now -the explanation is ready: Because the site is loaded -albeit, as discussed earlier, since our mind works as a tool/device/instrument/vessel to support our beliefs, we are blinded to see the folly of asserting that a site which has only writings and small photographs to be loaded-, it could be that it did not register it right away, but Google SURELY, CERTAINLY, INCONTESTABLY will find it. He asserts. Nothing escapes Google! It cannot, not possible, don't you understand, don't insist needlessly. I told you, it's futile.
But then again, sometimes even our infinite trust in Google needs to be shaken.
-I was kicked out of a school group just because I had shared a piece on my website which contained a name, mind you, just a name only, no surname, so there was no way of anybody knowing who it was unless they were in the group and if they were in the group, then everybody knew who said what anyway, so what was the harm?
Thing is, it was the Dreyfuss affair, as because of some coding problem, Google really could not find anything on my website. I knew this for sure as I wanted to be found and was upset I couldn't be found.
After they realized that I was correct, that Google could not really find it, they wanted to get me back in the group. Naturally, I wasn't interested in being a part of such a group.-
This was a simple example. Unfortunately, most of our beliefs based on/originating/stemming from our wrong opinions/views/convictions/impressions lead to much more calamitous/perilous/fateful/grave/acute/dire repercussions/reverberations/ramifications.
There is a force that couples a person who has grown up in the provinces/rural areas, uneducated, unemployed, broke and someone who has gone to a “good” school in the big city, holds a “good” job, is rich: That force is Being Sure.
They would both bet money on something because they are extreeemely/uttttermost/terribly/fiercely/intensely/infinitely/exceedingly/to the nth degree/in the highest degree sure that they understand what they read, that they interpret correctly, that they know the intentions of say, a writer. Even if the one who has written those lines repeatedly repeats “No, I did not say such a thing. That's not what I had meant there, what I meant was this,” it is of no use, counts for nothing. As a matter of fact, even thousands of people saying/writing that what the writer meant is diametrically opposed to/in stark contrast to what he believes the writer was trying to convey, he still is not convinced. He believes what he believes.
Don't beat the air, you cannot convince such type of humans. Effort to explain is futile/in vain.
He, does not question himself but judges others.
He is good at chalking up things. He writes people in to the “enemy” category, classifies them as “traitor” but it never occurs to him to question his perception. “Is it possible that I have misinterpreted what was said? Is it possible to ever know the real intentions of anyone? Even including myself?”
Oh no no no, such questions would take him down a peg or two. He does not feel the need to ask “Was this what you were trying to say?” and get confirmation. He puts words in other people's mouths; he does the saying on behalf of the other he does the judging. Once he has believed that the other is an enemy, his firm belief can never ever be shaken. For example, even when something is talked about a million times in the media, his belief that an Armenian writer (Hrant Dink in this case) has said “The poisonous blood of the Turk” is firm. An Armenian criticizing Armenians and saying “Hatred of Turks is poisoning the blood of Armenians” is out of his belief capacity. Yeah, people have belief capacities. Because his belief will never accept it, his mind will never see it.
That man who... is so sure that he is pure, uncontaminated, the most true... He cannot allow even his ancestor be spoken ill of. He is above blame. He cannot bear the slightest slur to his name. He is so sure of historical facts too. It is not possible that the Armenians who have died in his soil exceeds three-four hundred thousand. It's not possible that his ancestors did anything bad, killed people, had bad intentions. If his ancestors have killed, those they killed have deserved it. Simple as that.
People are so sensitive in their beliefs that they cannot bear any opposing/counter-view. They do not question themselves, they do not like those who question them; no, they do not even like that person who questions himself. As their starting/departure point is not an idea but a belief, even when you touch upon an alternative, the answer you'd get would still be a personal insult. Ad hominem is the most used tactic in the world. Instead of discussing the rationality of your idea/thought, they attack you, the person. Some throw stones in your head with words in the virtual platform, their upgraded version just fires a bullet in your head on the street in daylight.
Being sure, is a serious source of violence.
Questioning Beliefs-Concepts: On Perception
Travel, teaches you truths like the subjectivity of perceptions by hitting you right between your eyes. When you are traveling, you live right within events, you witness firsthand. Your views/opinions are no longer theoretical, you have seen them applied in practice. In a sense, ways of life, social studies has been put to test.
For example you know that the same event, the same words can tell exactly opposite things to different people. (Shaking your head from side to side is a yes or no? It depends you know ;) After all, the belief system-concepts of people is founded upon a different mentality/logic according to the environment they grew up in, and the circumstances they live in.
One of the best examples of this is the story of Sally and Jody in Ethiopia:
Sally and Jody went to the mercato to buy a t-shirt. Sally is a bit plumpy woman, whereas Jody is lightweight. In every shop they enter “We have things that would fit her, but not you; you are fat,” they say to Sally. I mean one tells such things more politely, not calling a spade a spade but beating around the bush a bit; you don't tell it like it is that there is no t-shirt for her, slapping/rubbing your fatness in your face. These men, shamelessly, say “You are fat”, as if out-of-spite. Sally is furious. “I suppose these men are not aware that telling someone she is fat is an insult!” she fumes. The moment she utters those words, she realizes. That she is in Ethiopia at the moment. In a country where there is famine... Corpulency is a sign that you are able to find food, it is sign of abundance and wealth. Being fat is a good thing, let alone being an insult “You are fat” is a compliment!
Another example was in Iran. I went there alone. Everybody I met asked me “Where is your man?” This theme was so ubiquitous/omnipresent that after a while I started doubting myself and questioning “Perhaps I must have a man. Somewhere. And preferably with me all the time.”
When friends of mine, a male and a female, went to Iran, they experienced something different. Even though they were not even a couple, they pretended to be married. To them, the question people asked wherever they went was different than mine. “How many children do you have?” To the Iranians it was only logical that a couple would have children. Seeing people truly disappointed and worried on their behalf, my friends started saying they had one. This time, people expressed sorrow of an only child. So my friends started making up more children, 3-4, depending on how they felt. Iranians were not judging, they were just showing genuine concern for something they took for granted and considered “normal”. Something they considered a natural course of life, we in the West have forsaken.
Another example I like is on Indians and concept of property:
Our perception/conception is that property rests on the principle of barter or mostly by buying with an artefact we call money, and by inheritance. If we have paid money and bought something we “believe” it belongs to us. As the people we interact with generally believe the same thing, there is no contradiction of terms/concepts amongst us.
Whereas Indians have a different perception. According to an Indian, something you do not use does not belong to you. If there is something in your house that you make no use of, he does not see any harm or anything wrong with taking it to his home. The white man would accuse him of theft, but his answer is ready: “You weren't using it.”
He thinks like this: “If someone is not using something, it doesn't belong to him and anyone needing it can get it.” Therefore, what he has done does definitely not go into the category of theft.
Whereas in our society, the same act is considered theft; it's a crime and has to be punished. When you think of these, you start doubting; you start questioning your concepts like theft and property. Which approach is right?
Travel allows one to fine tune his beliefs and perceptions. It makes one question the clear cut truths that he has learnt and thought he knew; it makes you doubt.
The Comfort Our Beliefs Provide and Its Cost/Price
I suppose it's clear by now that when I say belief, I'm not talking about religious belief; in the most general sense, I refer to our perspective of political and social events, our evaluation and perception, our opinions/convictions that have no concrete foundation, that cannot be proven, our definitions and all belief that goes with these.
Yes, we live with our beliefs. Actually, this is totally natural. If it wasn't for our beliefs, we'd feel so helpless and lost in the middle of a cruel world.
But we live with our beliefs.
So much that if I say “Our life is a chain/train of comforting beliefs”, it seems like it won't be wrong. And those beliefs are so strong...
Most people have a very strong opinion about almost every topic that is impossible to reach a conclusion with our intellect. As a matter of fact, at least one of these is so meaningful and sacred that one is ready to fight for it.
In a sense, the belief systems we've invented, protect us; they provide sanctuary/refuge and consolation; we can even go on further to say “a belief system is necessary for the continuation of the human race.” However, on the other side, don't you think we pay too high/heavy a price for it at this point? People are constantly killed for their beliefs, permutations of pain in the world proliferate at an alarming rate.
If only we knew, or were aware that...
Most of our beliefs do not rest on a rational foundation. Mostly, they are shaped by our desires and what society has taught us.
Especially our beliefs on what others think and mean rest on quite loose ground. Our such beliefs are shaped by our own thought patterns, our prejudices and fears.
In the middle century, people were burnt at stake because it was believed they were witches. Nowadays, how many people believe in the existence of witches? I suspect that “traitor”, “enemy of the state”, “enemy of the people” will seem just as irrational to the future generations. There are no traitors, there are no enemies of people; there are only people who see things in a different way (That's why the term “terrorist of one is the freedom fighter of another”). There are selfish, greedy people, there are people who are not at a ripe stage of development mentally or psychologically, there are many immatures. These, there are. But there is no pure evil; villains belong to the movies, to novels, that is, to fiction.
Where and How Should the Belief Line Be Drawn?
We all have conscious and unconscious beliefs. We believe in luck, we believe in the influence of colors on humans, we believe that you can determine the health of a person from his hand-writing, we believe in astrology, we believe in panaceas/cure-all/heal-all creams, good for what ails you, we believe in multi-vitamins, one-a-days... We believe and we believe.
There is no end of belief in the internet age. That's why people make a buck out of human gullibility.
We believe in the evil-eye, we believe in reading fortune from coffee-hand-water, any medium will do ;) we believe all kinds of fortune-telling, we believe in the beauty of the slim, we believe in reiki, we believe in happiness, we believe in talking to flowers, we believe in advertisement... Believe non-stop, believe. We believe non-stop.
Yes, it is almost impossible to live without a belief. However, only the man whose brain has not been washed or/and someone who is unbiased is aware that the things he believes in are only a matter of belief. He does not put these in the center of his life; he does not judge others with his beliefs. Even when he does, he does it after a comprehensive, exhaustive thought process. Even if slight, he pulls a fog curtain over his beliefs; once in a while wonders “Is it really?”, “What if?”, “Could I be wrong?” he asks himself.
I, too, once upon a time believed that nothing was by chance. Everything had a reason, definitely. Then, for a time, I believed that was stupid. Now, I'm not sure.
But don't worry, I've put other things in its stead. Nowadays I believe NOT we are all magnets. (Alas, can you have as many stones as magnets fall on your head!) However, we might be pulling/attracting what we think. It seems important, the principle of positivity. Because I know the negative example: When one says “Don't think of a pink rabbit”, you think it. I deduct from that. Perhaps I am right too... I do not have any other proof yet but... Perhaps I'll have it one day. Is there any drawback/disbenefit to my believing this until then? As far as I can see, no. Does this hurt anyone? No to that too.
But there is a drawback to some people reserving themselves the right to define/decide who is a traitor or not. There is a huge drawback to some people believing that they know very well what intentions others have. There is serious drawback to people judging without solid and valid evidence.
At the point where our beliefs hurts us or others, we need to draw a red line and pass into the doubt zone.
The Rubbish Empty Rhetoric We Believe In and Their Rate of Diffusion/Propagation/Contagion
What I've been saying and trying to express in different ways is that: “Today, as much as we have advanced in sciences, even the majority of what we call 'scientific' is a wrong belief, only proven to be so at a later stage of advancement. Let's be less sure. Let's doubt what we assume/presume to be correct and things we think we know.”
In the medieval times, there were theories that sugar turned into ants, wheat turned into rats. Even doctors, scientists believed in this. I wonder if there is anybody in the world today who doesn't know that ants come if you leave sugar out?
Beliefs change costume, they masquerade in different clothes from age to age. But the essence that remains, that's perdurable is the same: Even when it is far from certainty, in fact even when totally devoid of certainty man's total trust in it- the firmness of his belief.
These firm beliefs find reciprocity in personal and social relationships, come up in conversations and are spread. Beforehand, because it was ear-to-ear, playing Chinese whispers, it spread slower; nowadays, -as man's gap of his need for interaction grows due to his fast life pace isolated from nature,- with today's technology, flapdoodle which has no relation whatsoever to truth/reality and sophistry spread exponentially under the pretense of “information.” So much that...
Today we swim in a huge cauldron of grapevine; we are entangled in a web of claptrap/tall stories/bunkum/applesauce/whopper. What's worse, we believe these!
Nooo, it's not only the women and magazine programs that do this schmooze. The “big” men in newspapers and televisions do it too. And it is no longer found odd. Aren't there those that are true amongst all the hearsay or accounts/reports? Of course there is. But mostly kneaded with the erroneous. Finding the pure truth is getting harder in our world.
Perhaps that's the most dangerous thing today. We live in the age of communication; we were saying “Ah how nice, everybody can talk, nothing stays secret”... Then we see that different forms of bullshit is put in front of us as “truth” with all kinds of compelling, convincing “evidence”, so much that people are brainwashed. Someone makes up a lie for personal gain, or makes a sloppy remark, then put an end to it if you can! It's just like “One crazy man throws a stone in a well, hundred sane men cannot get it out.”
Especially over the internet, nonsense, made-up stories are spread like a virus. Please do not propagate, please let's stop and think for a second before pressing the forward button under our fingers.
Let's think first: How valid is the source of this piece?
For example, “Most of the people attending Hrant Dink's funeral were fugitive Armenians and Kurds.” (Or any other article accusing migrants... Or any side of a propaganda, regarding political parties... Or anything giving out figures...) Which observation, what research is this assertive sentence based on? Perhaps it is actually true, but when such things are said as accusation, in order to counter a certain discourse, when there is an agenda behind it, I do not feel like believing. I question five times more. Because it is very dangerous for people to declare every article that goes around as “THE TRUTH” without any foundation of its credibility; it is very very dangerous. Especially when the information is used as a propaganda, one needs to deliberate, tread on water to be on the safe side. There is a mountain of difference between banging on someone's head with “It is like this!” and bringing up/putting forward an issue to inform or to discuss, to get feedback.
Then we need to think again: How much does the idea we are propagating serve humanity? If it doesn't serve all but only a select group, if it serves someone's personal interest, if it is flattery or pomping up of egos, then please let's not multiply those.
Just Enough Doubt to Shake the Concrete Foundation of Belief
In the past, faced with events they couldn't deal with, people have survived by developing various beliefs. Even though man has made progress technologically, humans today still live with similar primitive beliefs. The cognitive faculties we call the mind, is not an instrument to question but to support and confirm our beliefs. Man is duped by his own mind, by presenting his beliefs under the guise/pretense of science through prominent people's words.
I don't know if there is a dark force, a monster or a bugaboo, a demon who is trying to stupefy, to blind people, to zero questioning, thus injecting its own truth but the overall situation is getting acuter, graver and more dire every passing day.
Even in the most distinguished class/group/mass/cluster of humans, there are so many people who judge without questioning, what's more who are to the uttermost degree and exceedingly sure of their judgements.
We are so sure of another's intentions and who is trying to do what. We have such supreme omniscient, prophetic and/or psychic capacity to judge that there is no need even for a mind-reader. We know. In fact, we know to the extent that there are no question marks in our minds.
Oh humans... If you cannot manage to ask questions where you are sitting, if you cannot do any exercises to think differently, if your neck is stiff from looking in one direction, if you have become unable to see any other apart from your own ego/self/conceit because the aquarium you are living in has become so soiled, go out and take a stroll in the ocean. Get a move on too, travel before globalization makes everywhere the same, before the world becomes a huge aquarium swimming in its own shit. (Besides, there is freshness/respite/deliverance in change of place and space. Of course, if you are to travel, don't go with tour agencies and travel in a fish-glass; don't be a bell-jar.: Don't take pills that have everything planned and programmed in advance.)
Go to the rain forests in South America, go to the Land of Fire; wander and meander in the savannahs and deserts of Africa; go up the high snowy peaks of Asia, idle around and about in its steppes.
Discover that there are other countries and lives than North America, Europe and the associates. Discover, Discern, Realize... Become aware that there are different shapes of perception, that there can be different reflections and approaches to the same issues. Realize these so that you learn to question yourself and your “right”s, your “truth”s.
Let's become aware so that we learn to construct sentences with question marks.
(I question myself all the time if what I'm advocating, i.e. a world where everybody is free to roam the earth they are born in, could/would really be good. Even though I have no doubt about the fact that it is a moral imperative we must strive towards, I have my qualms about it.)
We make explanations in our own way and believe them. We make comments and believe them. We make judgements and believe them. What others put in front of us, we believe with our eyes closed.
There is no harm in belief; belief is nice and pretty, it keeps one alive and kicking, adds meaning to one's life etcetera, but it looks like we have lost our grip. We should rein in/rein back/bridle the monster we have created a bit. Let's put a question mark on our beliefs, let's be a little less sure. Especially if we are to bear enmity/animosity towards others, if we are to impose sanctions, if we are to judge people to have malicious intentions, ulterior motives etc. we should enlarge our question marks.
I slept with Faith, and found a corpse in my arms on awaking; I drank and danced all night with Doubt, and found her a virgin in the morning."
O humanity! Let's circulate a bit the muddy water we swim in by wagging our tails from right to left, left to right, by flapping our flippers. Let's disperse the haze of the water for even if a short while.
Please let's question- both what we read, both what we hear, and ourselves. Also what we think we know.
Please let's doubt- both what we read, both what we hear, and ourselves. Also what we think we know.
Please let's investigate and question before coming to judgements about others. Especially if we are to impose sanctions, let's take action only after being definitely sure. First, let's take a couple of doubt pills. Let's not add to the pain of the world needlessly.
The weak foundation our beliefs rest on needs to cave-in.
We need to overthrow the scientifically weak but emotionally strong foundation our beliefs rest on.
I underline and emphasize:
We need to create a new thought system based on doubting the truth/reality of things we call information and our beliefs. It is an indispensable necessity. It is incumbent.
Only then do we stand a chance, can we have hope for living in a humane world.
The man who has no doubts about the noble blood beating in him can never reach the full potential of his nobility as a homo sapien.