Words are just symbols, sign posts pointing the way toward meaning, but never actually getting there.
When you use words that people have a strong association to in a negative light, sometimes they misunderstand what you actually meant to say.
This is normal. It’s part of being limited creatures who are not telepathic. We have to try and connect our brains using these awkward little squiggly lines.
Sometimes our brains make the connection, sometimes they don’t.
So, in saying that “zealots” are a threat to humanity, some people mistook me to be saying: “one should not hold any extreme point of view. Extremists are bad.”
Nope. 100% NOT the point.
In fact, I tried to criticize that view in the opening of the article, when talking about Vinay Prasad’s view that we should just avoid extremism and shoot for the middle in all things.
That is not smart. When you’re out picking berries and you identify some as edible, and some as poisonous, you don’t mix them together in equal parts to avoid being an “extremist”. That’s called poisoning yourself.
Same applies to poisonous pharma products, or even poisonous ideas.
You don’t take a wonderful, beautiful, functional idea like “liberty” and temper it with a little bit “slavery” in order to avoid extremes. That would be, well… slavery.
Obviously, it is good to be 100% “extremist” on certain things. I am 100% an extremist against poisoning myself. And enslaving people.
The sense in which I was using “zealot” was: someone who actually believes their evil designs or ideas for humanity are GOOD--a true believer in their cause. (As distinguished from someone who is merely using their evil designs for profit, or criminal gain, or to advance some deeper, hidden agenda.)
To this I cautioned: their ideas are bad enough on their face.
Even if we assume no further agenda than what they say--that they really and truly want this awful future they have in mind for humanity—those ideas have to be fought. Not because they are masking some deeper agenda, but because they are wrong and destructive. They are extremely dangerous, even if we assume nothing “behind” them.
We have many, many historical examples of atrocities perpetrated by people who were honest about what they believed, the Nazi regime being the most painfully obvious. You don’t need to dig deeper to find the “true”, hidden, or criminal motive behind Nazi behavior. Their leader published a manifesto some fifteen years or so before he took power, spelling out exactly what he believed and intended. It was not met with horror and rejection--this manifesto had sold 5 million copies by time Hitler took power. He was voted in by a popular majority. He didn’t “trick” anyone and advance a hidden agenda--he did exactly what he said he was going to do.
Sometimes evil ideas are blatant and unapologetic. They come wrapped in the banner of “virtue”, and “caring for others”, and “making the world better” and “public good”.
These ideas, in my view, are the worst, most dangerous kind, because they indoctrinate millions of otherwise good people who believe they are “doing the right thing”.
And these ideas must be fought by people who know better.
Hopefully that clarifies things.
Think for Yourself is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Photo by Dex Ezekiel on Unsplash
I thought it was clear in your original post. It also is clear here. Great job.
Loved original post....shared it on GETTR...... always food for thought, your substack......I share and share, far and wide.....hoping it will change some minds and hearts..... 💕