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Why is Common Sense So Rare?

Author - Bala Pillai

A philosophical article that looks at the way we think and the way we perceive reality. The author argues against ditheism - habit of looking at opposites.

The main and root cause is ditheism -- the unnatural belief and emphasis in two opposite forces. Humans have drifted too far from Nature and Naturalism. Ditheism has bred oppositism -- viewing the world with man-made binary (opposites), either-or and "us versus other" lenses.

Consider the following examples:

Take any pair that are said to be opposites and see it as a process, as two points in a spectrum of points, or as constituents in a complex, and you will sense a complementary circle of life. Similar to waves, mountain ranges, ecosystems and the spinning orbiting Earth.

Default viewing things as opposites has lots of ripple effects. Ignoring corollaries is one. For example when someone says "Oh it is expensive". We ought to be thinking "expensive compared to what?" and "can I afford to have the problem continue -- can I afford *not* to spend in solving the problem? What are the costs of *not* buying?". And the best answer would come from balancing the obvious with the corollary.

Another ripple effect is defensiveness and hypocrisy (deception) because of focus on the superlatives rather than the infinitives. For example, for good reason, in most Eastern languages we ask "how age are you?" not "how old are you?". Age = infinitive. Old = superlative. With "how age are you?" the question is asking for state information. It does not allow for emotive loadings upon "young" and "old" to develop as easily. When we ask "how old are you?" we immediately put lots of people on the defensive. We also encourage folks to lie (by rationalisation) if the answer is not an "acceptable" answer. Isn't language meant to bridge human beings, not cause trillions of dollars worth of misunderstandings?

Viewing the world as default opposites, obscures one's ability to abstract. Combined with defensiveness which feeds insecurity, fear and declining transparency, this oppositism has many to exaggerate the exception and downplay the prevalent. It shifts the balance from reason to favouring rhetoric. It has us to under-perceive that which we are less comfortable with -- denial. This is the second-most gravest effect of oppositism. It dulls one's perception of reality. It weakens one's ability to act on ambiguity. It fattens procrastination and makes proposed endeavours more ambiguous and riskier than they are. It fertilises navel-gazing. It has many to pass the buck to an illusionary "other" (government etc) in the "us vs other" oppositistic worldview. The glistening blade of perception we are born with turns into a dull edge. When a population cannot distill observations, when they behave akin to those who insisted that the Earth is flat because it is uncomfortable to admit it is spherical, they cannot become smarter. They become prey to incumbents with power. Like in the Dark Ages of Europe. And no amount of KM tools are going to change this.

What is the gravest effect? By having us believe that our misperspectives are truths, and since one man's misperspective is going to be default different from another man's misperspective, oppositism embeds and reinforces high default friction, distrust and disunity into the underlying structure of societies. Take a walk in the woods and contrast with friction levels amongst other beings in Nature. A design-level flaw. How can there be unity if the operating system is not common? When common sense is so rare? How do we work ourselves out of this structural mental morass? Focus on fostering amity, sentience and synchrony, and meaningful unity can happen. Currently, since unity is understood as conformity, if you focus on unity, you will have not have unity, amity or synchrony.

How do we go forward? Try viewing the world naturally for 7 days -- see corollaries. Sense the dialectic. See that side of the moon that your eyes can't see. See that part of the tree, the crown roots, that your eyes can't see. Feel the world, as default processes full of complementaries, apparent or not. Feel the space between opposites. Try blending them. For example when someone asks "how's your day?", consider answering "roses, thorns and in-betweens". This probably is more accurate than "good" or "bad" :-). If it helps your perception of ambiguity and feel for common sense, great. If not revert back to status ante.

Bala Pillai
9 September 2003

Please write to me your comments about the above article.

Bala Pillai is a consultant based in Sydney, Australia.

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