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Talking to the Opposition

“In every age the common interpretation of the world of things is by some scheme of unchallenged and unsuspected presuppositions; and the mind of every individual, however little he may think himself in sympathy with his contemporaries, is not an insulated compartment, but more like a pool in a continuous medium — the circumambient atmosphere of his time and place.”

F. M. Cornford Foreword of Thucydides Mythistoricus

This was an amazing insight for me personally when I stumbled across it in research on a paper regarding heroes in literature. This is a truth: if you are a rebel, what you oppose is determined by your time and place.

We are all biased, but if we recognize the existence of the bias we can adjust for it when looking for the truth. Don’t judge history by modern standards; judge it by its own standards.

This concept is vital in the intelligence field. You must see your opponent as he sees himself to understand what he may do. What is insane for you; may be eminently reasonable according to his “circumambient atmosphere”.

At its root the word privilege means one’s own law. People of privilege don’t believe that they are required to live by the laws that are in place for common people. Their world doesn’t include a concern for those outside their class.

While most think of money when discussing privilege, expand the view to include a belief system. If you believe that you are one of the select, why concern yourself with the views of those who are not?

What they say can only be understood from within their frame of reference and they are making no effort to understand, nor communicate with anyone who refuses to accept their weltansicht. The burden is for the outsiders to craft their speech using the terms and definitions of the privileged, as that is the only assurance that any communication takes place. You don’t have to accept the views of the privileged, but you have to understand them.