Beyond Criticism

Abstract: Most people have been taught that taking a negative attitude is the best strategy. In contrast, Optionality's strategy is positive in that it asks for different options to co-exist, rather than that it demands that a situation that is perceived to be negative is eliminated. Edwin Thor calls for like-minded magazines to stop critisizing each other and instead to start appreciating each other's positive contributions.


Knowing what you want

We always have a great respect for people who know what they want. Artists who have a vision of beauty and can create something that is appreciated by others, are fortunate indeed, even if they do not make much money. Unfortunately, our experience is that there are many people who claim to know what they want, but at closer examination they have only managed to define what they do not want.

Take freedom fighters; what do they want? Suppose they shout that they want independence! What does that mean? They hate the King who rules their lives? Suppose they succeed in their fight for independence and kill the King; what will they do? In the absence of any positive vision, they will probably crown a new King!

Yes, concepts such as independence, freedom, liberty and anarchy are essentially negative; they kick against authority and against the shackels of slavery; but do they ever achieve anything of significance? Do they ever formulate what they do want? If they manage to bring down a dictator, they keep on looking for things to kick at; the absence of something of substance actually constitutes a form of dictatorship: the compulsive search for something to kick at. There are fools enough who enjoy being in the spotlight, which can transform any fool into a powerful dictator.

No to Critical Thinking!

We can hardly blame most people for the way they think. Most people have never managed to rise above the atmosphere of discipline and authority they grew up in. They do not think at all! Those who have been taught a form of thinking at school, usually have been trained in what can be referred to as critical thinking.

Today, many (usually socialist) teachers present critical thinking as the latest method in education. But critical thinking has been around for thousands of years. Critical thinking arrogantly puts things in boxes and makes judgements such as yes or no, right or wrong and true or false. Socrates is said to have developed this method of critically analyzing any suggestion by searching for examples that refute it; this is supposedly done in order to come to a better proposal, which is in turn attacked with refuting examples and so on. Plato refined this method for social application. This method was used by philosophers such as Hegel and still is quite popular among today's scientists. The approach is negative in questioning everything, in a search for 'truth'.

Granted, this critical thinking has exposed many absurdities in the logic of rulers of the past, who insisted e.g. that the world was flat. But how much of an improvement is critical thinking over the traditional master-slave relationship, given its own self-righteousness and certainty in searching for a single truth? Critical thinking claims to know what's right and wrong, it presumes a single all- encompassing truth against which all this 'evidence' is presented for judgement.

What is particularly worrying is that many schools now claim to teach critical thinking and claim to do so in the belief that there cannot be any better method. This very attitude shows that they are still spoon-feeding children in the old-fashioned way, this time instructing children to believe in a single concept: the critical thinking method. As it turns out, such teachers give the kids a negative mind-set toward anything at all, except of course toward accepting the teacher's authority, the teacher's knowledge of a single 'truth' that is supposed to be out there somewhere.

So can we blame all the liberals, libertarians, anarchists and fighters for freedom and independence for their negative approaches? No, they have been taught to think this way!

Are there Exceptions?

There are of course many individuals, organizations and interest groups that have a more positive message beyond any of their criticisms. We like to give credit where it is due and we like to see and analyze details at Optionality Reviews. We Like to mention Carl Watner who articulates the concept Voluntaryism in his periodical of that name. We respect homeschoolers for their courage to live as they see fit, often in defiance of government rules. We like the people at the Match!, mostly for their sense of humor. We like the periodical formulations, for its quest to wonder what life will look like without government control. And there are many others, too many to name here (for more, see Optionality Reviews).

Of course, the views of these individuals and organizations are their own, they are not identical to ours, there sometimes are huge differences.

We like to take a positive approach. Instead of trying to destroy what we oppose (e.g. violence, dictatorship, coercion and oppression), we like to create something new or additional that solves the problem.

As an example, optionality will typically approach the problem of dictatorship not by physically attacking the dictator, but by exposing the inconsistencies in the 'logic' that is used by the dictator to fool people into supporting such a dictatorial regime. And even verbally, optionality does not attack dictatorship, but asks rhetorical questions such as: If dictatorship is so good, shouldn't we then have two or three dictators? Why only one dictator? Of course, the option of having more than one King ruling simultaneously ridicules the very concept of a King as an exclusive ruler.

By creating additional options, society improves in all kinds of ways, while problems that seemed so insurmountable just fade away. Even mentioning specific options constitutes a challenge for dictatorial philosophies that are not used to being questioned. Yes, optionality challenges any philosophy that presents itself as the absolute truth, even if that truth is not specifically articulated, as is the case in critical thinking.

No to Negative Thinking!

Of course, we have to apply the same line of reasoning to our own philosophy; our approach is to insist on the co-existence of multiple interpretations of optionality, none of which is to be regarded as the absolute answer. This magazine may give the impression that we have a commercial, business-like profile and if you don't like this, keep in mind that this magazine is only one implementation of optionality.

We are happy with this format as this allows us to print contributions from people who want some anonymity, yet who don't want to see their ideas disappear in the public domain. We may express our preferences, but we welcome additional efforts and we welcome comments and contributions from others. We just try to present interesting ideas to our readers.

We don't want to present our approach as the only rightful one, we welcome other views, but let's stop criticizing each other for a change. Our view is that if you put a whole lot of ideas next to each other, the better ones will come forward automatically. Give optionality a chance and most problems will fade away just like that!

Let's think Positive!

Have we been too negatave in our earlier statements on anarchy, libertarianism, critical thinking and those who fight for freedom, independence or whatever? Do you reject earlier articles? We are happy to change our minds, if you can convince us there is a better view. But if you have something to say, why not say it positively. Don't say that we are wrong, without giving an alternative. Try for a change to formulate what you think can be done, how improvements can be made, what steps can be taken and why you think things should be that way. Do not blame your misfortunes on us or anyone else, but try to imagine how things look like if everything is the way you think it should be.

We welcome further options. What do you see in your dreams? As Don Paragon says: Hold on to your Dream, however hard it may seem; the Dream you've got is more precious than the lot, hold on to that Dream! (see Hold on to your Dream).

We are interested to hear what your dream is. And we are sure that many readers are also interested in something positive. Perhaps something more positive than optionality?




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