Benevolent Skepticism – Part IV of IV

Pursuing a Quality of Life for All

By Jorge D. H. Prósperi 2019

Confirmation Bias has been weaponized by constructed public echo chambers  in order to divide by extorting the essence of, not only the truth, but the processes by which to pursue and authenticate it.

Confirmation Biases hold the truth hostage while collective noun believers hold on with dear life to its absolutism, ignorance and falsehoods. 

Confirmation Bias defies Critical Pedagogy, Critical Anthropology, Critical Psychology, Critical Race Theory . . .  all data-based knowledge and research . . . even common sense.

Like Dracula and his lifeless cohorts, biases, -ism and social phobias can’t be exposed to the light of day. They counter 21st Century realities and critical paradigms.

“Jorge! Please tell us how you really feel!”

Why am I so passionate on exposing the insidious tenets of Confirmation Bias? First of all because I am a fellow citizen – yes naturalized – but regardless -dedicated and responsible for my citizenship and thereby the quality of life – not only of my own life and family’s – but of all citizens. Yes, citizenship is personal and yet connected to a greater good – beyond self.

Secondly, because I am a son of two loving parents who instilled civility – regardless of citizenship. The message was unequivocally clear – respect and honor the presence of others. Go beyond kindness – pursue justice and fairness with courage.

Thirdly because I am a husband, father and grandfather. The future that awaits each member of my family demands constant attention and advocacy. As my parents sacrificed for my future . . . the future for our children must become our priority . . . the quality of each child’s life must be protected . . . advocated . . . embraced . . . celebrated.

Fourthly because I was an educator by choice and design for some 43 years dedicated to the learning and teaching process – always understanding that the process was dynamic, ever changing.

The classroom was not about me, but those eyes looking back with curiosity and expectations. They were temporarily in my care as students . . . not only to learn about a content area . . . but life itself.

They wanted to know . . . needed to know. I only had to ignite inherent curiosity and watch them burn bright with the passion of imagination and creativity.

Lastly because each of us has to address at some point “LEGACY” . . . with all our human imperfections and flaws . . . what we leave behind that endures with relevance . . . the essence of who we were . . .

Legacy . . . how we made people feel . . . how we listened . . . provided guidance . . . comfort . . . mentorship . . . empathy . . . not asking anything in return . . . hopefully passing on some wisdom . . . all left to interpretation by those who intersected our lives . . .

Confirmation Bias is the antithesis . . . it only takes, debilitates and hoards.

The message is simplistically clear and absolute. “We will tell you exactly what you want to hear without having to think, examine or research. We will relentlessly echo the bias 24/7 – 365! Just sit back and enjoy the daily talking points that are already familiar to you and that we agreed upon and that you told us you wanted to hear!”

Confirmation bias does not rely on conversion . . . but rather affirming already simmering socio-cultural FEARS, anxieties and chaos. A major goal is to create, promote and maintain a greater divide of the populous through FEAR. It is the common ploy of all AUTHORITARIANS, DESPOTS AND DICTATORS wanting to control with absolute power.

Create divergence – separation from the pursuit of the truth. Provide ready-made simplistic answers – point the finger the other way – blame, defame, tarnish, disparage – say anything to hold on to POWER and CONTROL of the “Confirmed” – “Affirmed” “Blessed ” . . . MESSAGE – NARRATIVE.

Trust that FEAR will be the glue that holds the “base” together.

So how do we, as well-intended citizens, not only resist, but confront confirmation bias?

To admit that there is a need for personal change is extremely challenging and can take many different forms – physical, intellectual and psychological.

Serious intervention may require psychological therapy in order to address deep seeded pathology- particularly when dealing with isolated social fears, prejudices, biases and hate – not to mention readiness – open-mindedness to recognize such issues and to seek intervention by choice.

To realize – admit that a way of life – a way of thinking – a way of feeling – a way of believing needs serious examination and alteration is a highly complex process.

Who is there to help us “unconfirm” our delusional biases and phobias? Those years called “being raised?” Those years “being “schooled?” Those years “being socialized?” Who were we listening to? Who did we end up believing?

Let’s also be realistic in the raw . . . to the core!

Segments of our society, living in the past with social biases, -isms and phobias is a reality – given the legacy of America, will always be in the DNA of the country – genetically part and parcel of WHO WE ARE . . . yes . . . even in the 21st Century.

Oh we try so damn hard . . . relentlessly to deny our insidious roots, but the tenets of -isms are there ever waiting to surface – just below the overt, covert, and/or adverse veneer of modernity. As if wearing new clothes cleanses the stench of social -isms and phobias.

Racists, sexists, xenophobes are part of our socio-cultural landscape. They are family members, acquaintances, employers, coworkers, neighbors . . . our fellow citizens. We travel to the voting booths with them each local – state – national voting cycle. They are here – and here to stay. They define hate language and actions differently finding and citing reasons for oppression.

They are part of that “Greatest Generation” that Mr. Tom Brokaw so proudly wrote about. In 2020 they live and rule from the White House via 1940s paradigms . . . “You also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”

So who believes that Nazis ever were/are very fine people except Nazis?

Hey – it’s 2020! Let’s stop with the charades, denials and veil of deceits. Those who swim in the cesspool of discrimination, delusional superiority, prejudice, fear and hate carry the stench . . . regardless of the masked rhetoric – regardless of washing with Holy Water and countless Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glory Be’s . . . the stench remains.

Yes, sad and tragic to admit . . . especially on behalf of our children and fellow citizens . . . but as citizens we don’t have at this time an educational system – a social dynamic that provides antiserums, antidotes, vaccines, antigens against PRECONCEPTIONS, IGNORANCE, HATE and PREJUDICES.

If we did, we would most likely provide the cure while the child was in the womb. At least those who would even want the cure. Yes -isms, biases and phobias can become quite comfortable to live with – a hidden identity of sorts. Only showing itself behind the screen of a voting booth when “The Greatest Generation” has yet another chance to prove greatness – or cowardice.

Recently I watched an episode of “Hoarders.” It was the first time I had watched the show and the immediate reaction was one of shock – followed by sadness and a multitude of questions. The main question being . . .

“How does a human being in the 21st century live by choice in an altered reality and then normalize its conditions and existence? ”

The premise of the show is to respond to a family member(s) or friend(s) of a person who needs serious intervention regarding what has been defined as extreme hoarding. The hoarder saw no problem living as they did.

Often the hoarders have lost living space without having a place to sleep because of the mountains of debris and accumulation of items. During the episodes, social workers and psychologists work with the hoarder in order to provide counseling, acceptance for the need to change via interventions.

What is striking with hoarders is their relentless – absolute belief that their way of life should be considered normal and appropriate – that it is part of their independence, their rights and a matter of their choices to believe and live as they wish. This is a trait familiar with the tenets of “Confirmation Bias.”

Those defined as hoarders seem well-intended genuinely believing that each item hoarded has value and is precious. They struggle to keep each item. At the same time they begin to face new realities that their home may be declared condemned, loss of family members, friends and neighbors who no longer tolerate the hoarding spilling over into front yards. They most often find themselves isolated.

In my opinion, what the hoarders seem to avoid is the eventual confrontation with an unaltered reality FEAR of a final determinateFEAR of inevitable CHANGE – and change without choices.

Their hoarded world begins to dissolve without knowing what the future holds. The reality of no longer living with clutter by choice becomes disturbing, uncomfortable and threatening. As said, it was all a sad reality for all concerned. As an audience we are left helpless wanting for solutions for all involved.

The episode also led me to ask whether we hoard our feelings, ideas, concepts, predispositions . . . hoard them in our minds, hearts and spirit without others knowing to what extent we have hoarded -isms and phobias.

To what degree do we hoard predispositions based on prejudices, biases, racism, sexism, xenophobia, islamophobia, misogyny? How, when, where and why does such “confirmation hoarding” take place?

Unfortunately, as in the Hoarder episodes, social workers and psychologist do not stand ready to address our -ims and phobias . . . as most often they remain deeply buried.

We can’t see what another fellow human being is hoarding in their minds, hearts and spirits. We can only surmise at times by what they express via language or deportment. In our own ways we tend to tell each other who we have been, are and perhaps even want to become.

So how do we begin to address Confirmation Bias upon realizing that we want to enhance our citizenship – want to amplify and authenticate knowledge and thereby the essence of our citizenship ?

To ask this question has led fellow colleagues to share,

“Jorge, you are a dreamer!” . . . Confirmation Bias is an absolute belief in absolute terms. Don’t expect change! PERIOD! Remember, we fought a civil war over one of the most inhumane “confirmation biases” and are still fighting it!”

Regardless, hope is ever present and must be part of citizenship. The door must always remain open for those who one day may consider that hoarding fears and biases can no longer be tolerated as a personal choice.

Michelle Obama Quote-Inspiration-Keeping Hope Alive

Therefore . . . keep hope alive . . . let’s keep it running through our veins. In the meantime, continue to identify and define Confirmation Bias. Become knowledgable of its sources, be it cable/radio outlets, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. This will provide awareness of ongoing talking points that most likely surface among its disciples.

Remain alert, astute and critical . . .  of the Digital Cold War . . .

Keep in mind that Facebook is now a major target of political parties and candidates. Billions of dollars will be spent on “confirming biases” for the 2020 elections on Facebook. The process has already been launched!

Realize that Facebook is not an innocent social format in order to share innocent chatter regarding family and acquaintances. Facebook is now weaponized with each of us a target. Keep in mind that many citizens now get their news from Facebook and Twitter. Remain alert, astute and a benevolent skeptic.

Wake up America! Facebook is BUSINESS focused on tax cuts, avoiding legislative scrutiny and anti trust legislation.

Pay close attention to LANGUAGE. The language that is used – its tone and timber will shape information to lean towards conclusions. Hold off on concluding – file it under “to be reviewed, to dissect and analyzed.

Even with – I invite critical analysis. What is the website trying to promote? Does it urge critical analysis or blind faith?

Seek credibility that will lead to trustworthiness by way of proven veracity. In plain English . . . can we trust what the pundit is saying? What is their reputation? Are they pathological liars? Are they prone to mislead with generalities and misinformation? Do they ask us to believe by making childish statements such as . . . 

“They say . . . I hear that . . . I’ve been told . . . You know that . . . You know it’s true . . . It’s being reported that . . . A lot of people are saying . . . Everybody agrees with me that . . . It’s been reported that . . . It’s general knowledge that . . . You know it and everybody else knows that . . . “

This is how a middle school child presents a case, not a president of a country!

Politicians hold positions that require credibility and trust . . . without credibility there is no trust.

Identify and define information regarding socio-cultural issues by looking through different lenses. View the problem from the eyes of those most impacted by the issues – not only your own. Who is speaking? Who is present at the table of discourse – who is missing and not represented?

Become aware – sensitive to hearing or reading what sounds like assumptions, biases, opinions, generalities and misinformation. Do not take yourself out of the inquiry, introspective and review process.

Political discourse can quicky become heated. When the blood pressure begins to rise – pause, take a breath, listen, ask questions – not to prove someone wrong, but to sincerely try to understand their point of view.

Become aware of over simplifying answers to difficult complex issues. This is a common ploy used by “confirmation bias” advocates who simplify how THEY will solve the problem. Typically by generalizing and making simple promises without real data. Their mantra being . . . “Just trust me! I’m the only one who can fix this!”

Become a “Benevolent Skeptic.” Don’t be fooled – Skepticism differs from Cynicism. Skepticism is based on Critical Pedagogy – Critical Theory – Critical Thinking  – wanting to know more – prodding for more knowledge. It seeks veracity for the greater good – solutions based on knowledge that can sustain progress and change.

Cynicism is contemptuously distrustful of human nature and motives. It does not project nor promote hope and change. It beckons the worst rather than the best in us.

 Avoid weaponizing an affinity group and its associations . . . be it by gender, race, sexual orientation, gender orientation, ethnicity, nationality, language, religion, region, situational factors, status, class, profession. Focusing on only one perspective because of one’s identity can limit awareness and empathy regarding other groups.

Avoid shutting down contributions by those considered not to be part of an affinity group. Such comments as, “Well, you just don’t understand because you are not ________” may sound to others its own form of “confirmation bias” shutting down dialogue.

For example, a novice dealing with the complexities of race relations should be encouraged and mentored. All of us begin at some learning curve and should be given the opportunity to catch up.

Remain open to knowledge about the breadth and depth of the human condition. Listen to counterstories and learn from them as each is unique and resonates our humanness. 

Keep in mind that there are no “academy awards” for oppression and its multigenerational trauma. The impact of oppression is on humankind . . . without exceptions.

White – Black Paradigms, Privilege, Entitlements Peggy McIntosh

Don’t shy away or avoid learning about “White Privilege”, “White Entitlements”, “White Nationalism”, “White Aversive Racism”, “White Domestic Terrorism”, “White Loss”, “White Capital”, “White Critical Studies.” 

If you don’t know the term well enough to discuss it, then begin by doing research on its history, premise and leading scholars on the subject. Discourse requires referencing different knowledge bases in order to be able to discern relevance and credibility.

Discussions about such subjects are difficult and uncomfortable but must not be ignored, dismissed or avoided. Each discussion should be a journey towards awareness, understanding, introspection and change.

Identify sources based on ideological narcissism – particularly those in leadership roles who promote self-interests, nepotism, defensively use the blame-game, resort to childish name-calling, stoke fear – hate – bitterness, focus on accumulating and maintaining power and control, defensive postures of doom and gloom ideology. 

As one colleague challenged, “That is quite a list Jorge! . . . So let me get this straight . . . you are asking the average citizen to address each consideration and dedicate time and effort to such processes?! Good luck amigo!”

Yes, I do expect citizens to care, protect, defend and embrace their citizenship because it is directly connected to the quality of our lives, the lives of our children.

Yes, I expect each citizen to make the time to become a benevolent skeptic . . . even though they may not have been taught to be by family, schooling and society.

It is our inherit inalienable right, privilege and duty.