It is Wrong to be Right

By Balaji Prasad

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong
gives it a superficial appearance of being right."
~Thomas Paine

Being right feels good. It feels so good, that we want to be right most of the time!

But therein lies the rub. When we begin to feel good about something, we start to want it. We might even get addicted to the thing that gives us that feeling. Addictions can be invisible. Many addictions are not even recognizable as addictions, especially if the behavior has been normalized by its pervasiveness in the society around us. For example, the attitude of “being right" is quite pervasive. Many of us really like to be right. Pretty much all the time. And we are licensed to have that attitude, because it is not viewed as being out of the ordinary. Also, we are endowed with the power to generate what we would like to feel, regardless of what the reality might be.

What a feeling!

Human beings are creative. In a very fundamental, inescapable way, making up stuff is who we are. We create all the time. Whatever we see, hear and feel is re-created into something inside our heads that is, at best, a distant cousin to whatever happened to stimulate us to fabricate it into “sense". Or, nonsense. The distinction between sense and nonsense is a fine one. And it requires an equally fine judge to make that tasteful delineation. Fortunately, we do have a judge who is always there, ready, willing and able to pass judgment on what is sense versus nonsense. Or … unfortunately so, if the judge is corrupt! If the judge is addicted to the feeling of being right, we will always get a verdict of “Yes, that is right"? Also, besides being creative, the judge is a logician who can turn an ornery word on its head, make it do somersaults and more (after all, the judge moonlights as a lawyer, and is skilled at the art of argument). So the judge can take anything, and turn it into anything else that he or she is inclined to turn it into. “Your whim is my desire, my sire," says the judge-turned-lawyer, as, with a sleight of hand, the water morphs, miraculously, into wine. All inside the head, of course! In the real world, though, water remains water, and wine remains wine, and never the twain shall meet, unless the rivers run off their course and crush all the grapes in the vineyard, thereby causing us all to get drunk. As if we weren't, already!

Judge, jury and executioner

Our judge is quite multi-talented. We can not only make judgments about what is right and what is wrong, and make it stick with our argumentative powers, but we can also act upon such judgments. And even rig the jury around us if we must, to get to the right end-point.

The point of all this rambling is that there is a parallel universe that may be somewhat within our control, and which lies in the entrails of our heads. This inner universe is subject to our whims, vagaries and desires, which we happen to have in abundance. We also possess a “discipline" that we call logic, which allows us to double down on whatever we materialize within this fake universe and make it more real than real can be. Who needs the world, when you can roll your own? And who needs the rules by which the world spins, when you have your own rule-building toolkit – your skill with words and logic?

The rational animal

We are rational animals. So they say. I tend to agree with the latter part of the proposition, that we might quite likely be animals, much as the other beings that we call animals are animals. With regard to the “rational" part, I must confess to a certain degree of discomfort with such aggrandizing self-labeling. Maybe. Possibly. We could be rational sometimes, when the real world runs over us like a runaway train. At other times, maybe we are “passional" rather than rational. We like to feel, rather than think, for the most part. And, “thinking" could actually be more akin to drinking. Not rational. Passional. Maybe “fashional" too, at times; we like to show the other animals around us who we are, causing us to don opinions and views that don't fit well even in the strange parallel universe inside us.

So, we can be right when we want to, even when we are actually going left.

Those #*%@ rightists!

If you wear a leftist label, you are likely to curse out those who stand next to you, on the side opposite where you wear your label. And, should you be a rightist, then the left looks pretty woozy and demented from where you stand. But the beauty of it is that whether you are a leftist or a rightist, you are right. And, right in an unassailable, inarguable way! You are #@%& right!! Just ask any blue-blooded democrat or a red-blooded republican, and you will see that I am right. Unassailably right. Democrats can make up extraordinary arguments to support why, for example, the country needs more people, even if we need to go outside the law, to expand the diversity that we “sorely lack". Republicans, of course, will wax eloquent on the subject of fools versus tools, and how it is never the tools that matter, if it is fools who wield the tools. If you fancy that you think independently, you might tear your hair out trying to make sense of the self-assured positions of both these kinds of people. Of course, you may not be thinking independently too; it may just be a badge of honor, as it is with the other two groups. So who gets to call whom pig-headed is a bit murky. But that doesn't stop anyone from doing so.

When pigs fly

Would it not be nice to have a rehab for overcoming addiction to rightness? After all, there is a price. You lose friends … and sleep. But more than all of that, you lose your own self in the twisted, tangled, fabricated tales that you weave, as you try to make the world bow to your desperation to be right.

The beauty of not being addicted to the illusion of being right could be that it opens up the hope of getting to a place that is actually right, because you might then devote more of your energy in the direction of the reality rather than being besotted with the illusion and being pig-headed about it.

When might that happen? When pigs fly?

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Balaji Prasad is an IIT/IIM graduate, a published author, SAT/ACT Online and Offline Coach, interview, resume, and career coach at NewCranium. Contact: 704.746.9779 or balaji.prasad@newcranium.com