ere is a rather interesting photo of a lone man resisting giving the “Sieg Heil” salute at a Nazi rally back in the day and it led me to think about critical thinking and decisions that I make in my own life. Like (probably) most people I tend to think that I’m a reflective and thoughtful thinker and that I see behind most of the nonsense that I see around me — or that I even interpret many things as “nonsense” (like sugar filled children’s cereal). And I like to think that I make my own decisions rather than follow the leanings of others. I guess you could say that I largely think of myself as the man in the photo because certainly I would be the person who would stand up to evil if I go so far as to question sugar-cereal as a morning nutrient.
So here’s an interesting example. I read recently that the state of Arizona drug tested over 87,000 welfare recipients in the three years after all adults receiving aid in that state were mandated to be tested in 2009. That’s a lot of tests and I presume that the state was only searching for illicit drugs like cocaine, marijuana, heroin, and meth. And in those first three years they found exactly one (read: 1) person who tested positive. One might argue that this was a “success” because that meant that all of the people (who surely were using these drugs before testing began) were deterred from continuing so that they didn’t lose their benefits. But as anyone who has worked with users and addicts knows, THIS is not how things work in the world of people who are seeking a quick high. Few users of these substances think with considerable rationally about inhibiting their impulses to get high AND THEN ACT ON THOSE RATIONAL THOUGHTS so that they don’t lose out on that month’s $500 check from the state. Seriously. C’mon. So then another conclusion might be that few welfare recipients in Arizona (or presumably elsewhere) are getting high on a regular basis with help from those drugs and that we’re wasting our time and tax dollars testing for something that is not happening.
So here’s what looks to be an obviously rational social policy to some people but is, nonetheless, one that might not hold up to what we might say are events on the ground. I could simply roll my eyes at the people who line up to say, “YEAH…TEST ‘EM ALL.” But then I stop and think about the many policies or activities that I support or reject and that seem equally obvious — and maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. For example, what do I know about the phenomenon of people going to animal reserves to hunt for the heads of lions and elephants and other exotic animals, for example? At first glance it seems blatantly obvious that this is a bad idea and that people who engage in such “hunting” are F-ed up. It doesn’t take much for me to walk into the “that’s close to evil” camp. But what do I actually know about paying massive sums of money to hunt animals that are on the brink of extinction in places like Africa? I think I know a great deal but when the entire internet is lining up against these people–particularly one man who killed a lion that had been given a name–in the same way that all but one person in this photo is giving the Sieg Heil salute, I find myself wanting to resist jumping into the frenzy.
In times like these it’s not easy to keep one’s arm down like the guy in the photo.