Common Sense: sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.
My original plan to celebrate Common Sense Day was to write an article listing all the ways the Trudeau government has used its common sense to better the lives of all Canadians.
Key Word: ALL.
Then I recognized the fact Trudeau government doesn’t much care about all Canadians; that it only cares deeply for a select few well-connected Canadians, as evidenced by the litany of scandals flowing out of the Prime Minister’s Office pretty much since Justin Trudeau was first elected in October 2015.
So instead, I drafted a short list of ways to enhance your own common sense so you can better discern when our elected officials and unelected government mandarins have utterly lost the ability to use theirs.
1. Read Thomas Paine’s 1776 pamphlet on government, titled Common Sense.
This will take you approximately 90 minutes, at most, and is worth every precious second. A few lines to whet your appetite for this timeless classic are below.
“In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense: and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to determine for themselves: that he will put on, or rather that he will not put off, the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his views beyond the present day.”
“Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices.”
“Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a Government, which we might expect in a country without Government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.”
2. Dare to challenge your most deeply held convictions, even when it makes you uncomfortable.
Cognitive Dissonance is the mental conflict we suffer when our behaviours and beliefs do not align or when we hold two contradictory beliefs at the same time.
Frantz Fanon, a psychiatrist and political philosopher from the French colony of Martinique, put it this way:
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.”
Cognitive Dissonance causes intense and immediate feelings of discomfort and unease, such as feelings of anxiety, guilt and shame.
Cognitive Dissonance significantly affects our behaviors, thoughts, decisions, beliefs, attitudes and our mental health.
Since another of our core needs is to avoid discomfort at almost any cost, those suffering from cognitive dissonance will often:
- try to hide their actions or beliefs from others
- rationalize their actions or choices continuously
- shy away from conversations or debates about specific topics
- avoid learning new information that goes against their existing beliefs
- ignore research, newspaper articles, or doctor’s advice that causes the dissonance
3. Never ever accept a politician’s words at face value – no matter your political preference.
Politicians will lie, obfuscate and contort logic into a pretzel of their own liking to convince you to buy the swill they’re selling.
This is true of every politician in every political party across the political spectrum, without exception.
4. Spend three minutes to research the facts behind any newspaper headline or Ministerial edict before parroting them as Gospel.
Google can deliver almost any piece of source information to you instantly, yet far too many of our fellow citizens believe a headline is the story, be it on Twitter, Facebook or your favourite newspaper.
A headline is NOT the story.
A headline’s only purpose is to entice you, dear reader, to read the article.
5. GroupThink is cowardice personified, not intelligence. Avoid it at all costs.
Groups do not possess intelligence, individual people do. Unfortunately, too many folks park their intelligence the moment they join a group because our basic human need to belong outweighs almost everything else – including common sense.
At its extreme, GroupThink is the mob who destroyed downtown Vancouver after the Canucks lost Game 5 of the Stanley Cup. It’s the mobs burning down large swaths of American cities or beating people for daring to wear a MAGA hat.
At the less extreme end is the person who walks past one human abusing another, be it physically, verbally or emotionally, without lifting a finger to help.
Separate individuals from the group wreaking this havoc upon their communities and their neighbours and, with extraordinarily rare exceptions, those individuals would never condone those actions, let alone participate in them.
We passively condone such abuse when we pretend it doesn’t exist.
The Lemming mentality (everyone is doing it so I should too) is all around us, and it’s far too easy to slip into this mindset if we’re not careful.
If you have a way to help bring about a revival in Common Sense, please share it in the comments section below.
Happy Common Sense Day!