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12. The Anatomy of Contradictory Ideas, from Alternative Economics 101 -Tax Your Imagination

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In a classroom, we discover a quantity of objective knowledge that is exciting to learn, but it is not a great epiphany. It is the discovery of ourselves that mark our epiphanies. They usually occur after a wrenching emotional moment. The rage spurred by fear, pride and greed is eventually exhausted, and a spiritual and rational calm fills the void. For example, former neo-nazi skinheads have transformed into Buddhist monks. These transformations occur within everyone. No one starts out as a neo-nazi or a buddhist monk. We reach our current state through a process of emotional evolution. At some point we overreach, and then we begin the process of retraction.

The grandson could not change the boys who stole his knife, but he had to decide what he expected from himself. He could have easily planned a counter-attack by getting his own group of friends or adults. The decision centered on which wolf he would feed, and therefore who he would be in the world. We all bring some share of hurt into the world.

Everyone believes that their opinions are well-reasoned, that their anger is justified, and their fears are commonsense. That is why self-analysis is a critical element of enlightenment. 

There are cabals that encourage the opposite. The gang of boys that stole the knife allowed themselves to be swayed by cruelty and greed. This is not the normal state of man. Every nation trains young men to glorify their baser instincts. Soldiers return from war zones with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because they are unable to cope with the wide discrepancy between their emotions, actions and the intended goal. Love of comrades and hatred of enemies cannot coexist. The struggle to change their values causes the trauma. When the wolves do battle, the mind and emotions are tortured.

A house divided is when the means and the ends are opposites. Epiphanies are difficult. The capitalist and the socialist both have trouble accepting that they could be wrong about the economy, and that their enemy is more like themselves than different. The same is true of those would make moral judgements on others. The stone-thrower is not more righteous than the adulteress. He has simply adopted a different sin. 

For everyone, it is our own unique dissonance that is our greatest struggle. When we form or join a group, we need to be careful about the assumptions of the group. The single purpose upon which it is founded may be doing as much harm as good. Recognizing contradictions, and the role of fiscal stress, is the first step in eliminating both.

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Steve grew up in a family business, was a history major in college, and has owned a small business for 25 years. Practical experience (mistakes) have led him to recognize that political rhetoric and educated analysis often falls short of reality. (more...)

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