A herd of sheep is grazing in a field, and when there is a loud growl and some bleating, and the herd begins running in one direction. One sheep says to the sheep next to him, “Why are we running?”
The other sheep responds, “There are wolves behind us.”
“What lies ahead of us?”
In the allegory above, I think many of us are finding ourselves in the role of the inquisitive sheep and are disappointed with not only the answers to our questions, but how our questions are received. The killing of George Floyd was widely reported and agreed upon as a racist act, but perhaps you thought that there were no explicit indications that it was racist. Perhaps you were hesitant to voice those thoughts in a public setting, and perhaps even in a private setting.
Eric Weinstein, a podcaster and mathematician, has coined the term DISC or Distributed Idea Suppression Complex. The concept is that many times there is a dominating narrative, and this narrative is not always welcoming to challenge. The narrative relies on a group of parties, as large as the government or the media and as small as social clubs or work groups, to work together (unwittingly) to suppress the challenging ideas. It is a low-cost form of installing an orthodoxy because it appeals to the compassion and virtuosity of people to enforce the orthodoxy at a granular level.
If you were to raise your concern that perhaps George Floyd’s killing was not definitively a racist act, others around you may interpret your opinion as a signal of a much larger corruption in you. They may guess that you do not believe racism is a problem in the United States or perhaps you are of the impression that black folks deserve the treatment they receive at the hands of law enforcement. Why else would you be bringing this up?
I think one of the best ways to fight a DISC is with a DIES or Distributed Idea Expression Strategy. If we all try our best to be a bit more courageous, we could turn the tide of this tendency to orthodoxy and embrace a culture of heterodoxy. That is the purpose of this blog, to be a bit bolder and voice my ideas that lie outside of what might be said in polite conversation and to encourage others feel more comfortable doing the same. I may make mistakes and some of the things I say may be proved wrong, but that is a vital part of idea exploration and the evolution of opinions.
P.S. Yes, I did create the sheep allegory myself, and yes, it is didactic. I would just point out that there are plenty of examples of herds endangering themselves greatly by running directly away from another danger. Native American tribes would take advantage of this to hunt buffalo. They would run up to group of buffalo herd them off a cliff. A wiki article for those interested
P.P.S. In a later essay I want to discuss the temptation of orthodox and the danger of heterodox. Something that I see rampant among conservatives is the inference that leftists are crazy zealots hell-bent on destroying America. If we do not take the time to understand their legitimate grievances and motivations, we distance ourselves from them and lose the ability to connect.
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