On Holding Assumptions Hostage and Terrorising Extremists

Assumptions. Say it again, this time, savoring the word on your tongue. That cloying taste lingers, and your body reacts and retches, a stream of words fired one after another as you seek to rid yourself of that menace, the menace that is assumptions.

For anyone who has had to write an academic essay, challenging assumptions is a must. Debunking them is good, evisceration is best. We learn that, to bolster our argument, we must first consider the opposing viewpoint, and then tear it apart by attacking its implicit assumptions. Using the eidos-techne-eikos framework as our lens, the indiscriminate carnage is laid out. Eidos deals with the idea itself, while eikos is its manifestation. Techne bridges both entities as the process by which the idea is materialized into the form of its representation/s. Invoking the process of techne creates an implicit by-product – a list of assumptions that validate these representations as symbolic of the idea.

By enshrining the rigorous deconstruction of assumptions as the holy grail of rational discourse, we have come to adopt a distorted way of thinking. Assumptions, which are borne out of the situation as a product of techne, have become the main criteria by which an idea is judged. Essentially, an idea is good insofar as the number of situations it can be applied to is the greatest; in other words, the number of assumptions (erroneous or not) it holds is the least, providing the least number of weaknesses that could be exploited or targeted. Somewhere along the line, the idea that an idea must be universal became universal.

The number of “-isms” that are brandished around today, coupled with our subconscious dislike of being labeled anything “-ist”, is evidence of our deep-rooted hatred for assumptions. To be called a racist makes you party to the years of slavery and genocide. To be called an extremist implies that you are constantly finding ways to blow yourself up. To be called a sexist paints you as a bigot who derives pleasure from suppressing the other sex. We are all of these things, yet none of them at the same time. We exist in a sort of limbo, hovering uncertainly in a gray area, all in the name of being objective. We reject holding extreme viewpoints because of the nefarious assumptions they connote. We learn to critique these assumptions and strive towards a balanced view; middling somewhere, anywhere but the sides. We are the Objective-terrorists.

Our objective is simple: to eradicate and suppress all extreme viewpoints. Fanatically fighting for a balanced argument implies that straying to either extreme is wrong, that the only valid viewpoint lies somewhere in between. To hold an extreme viewpoint somehow speaks of a lesser being, someone who is unable to conduct proper rational discourse, someone who is an idiot (in both the Greek and modern day sense of the word). The paradox here is that, by espousing the objective viewpoint as the one true viewpoint, it becomes an extreme viewpoint in itself.

Being objective also makes us murderers, guilty of the crime of obliterating you and I. By adopting the sanctimonious pronoun “one”, we essentially remove our entire sense of self in whatever we write; death in writing, so to speak. Writing in third person invokes a sense of distance and divide; that somehow, regardless of what one writes, you and I are safe. Looking beyond linguistics, being objective is often mentioned in the same breath as being unbiased – that somehow we must divorce ourselves from all of our biases, and that somehow this is actually possible in the first place. If we accept the notion that biases comes from our own experiences, the proverbial smoking gun is brandished. In stripping ourselves of our biases, we have smothered all traces of you and I; renounced everything that made us what and who we are, at gunpoint.

Simply put, you and I can be biased, but one must not.

One killed us all.

Image from ClipArt

About the Author

Jerrell is infected with a serious case of wanderlust that can only be cured by travelling. Often found napping, never sleeping because, you know, year 4.