Extremism and the idiot

“Extremism is so easy. You've got your position, and that's it. It doesn't take much thought. And when you go far enough to the right you meet the same idiots coming around from the left." - Clint Eastwood

I'll be the last person to ever deny being an extremist at one point or another. But I will be the first person to say any extremist position is extremely probable to be wrong, however right it may feel. As human beings with universal needs, it is extremely comforting to feel right, and ignore any grey areas in an argument. Global warming is because of humans. Red meat causes cardiovascular disease. My God is the only true way.  2+2=4. You don't know what you're talking about, and do. Think about it. How much easier is it cognitively to think about something when there are less variables? 

But therein lies the trap. There are variables. Sometimes 2+2=5. Sometimes global warming is both nature caused AND human caused. Sometimes we can get cardiovascular disease without consuming red meat because of genetics. The reality is that there is a grey area that we subconsciously chose to ignore. We as humans are wired to delete, distort and generalize reality as a way to simplify our responses to our external environment.  But that's not faulty wiring. We want this process in our lives. It gives us the power of focus without taxing our cognitive resources to the extreme. (Look more into selective attention, and you'll know what I'm talking about)

Conscious extremism, however, is dangerous. Conscious extremism leads to actions like the events of 9/11 (and the subsequent destabilization of the Middle East after American happened there) Conscious extremism can also fuel bitterness between friends and lovers: "You never do anything nice anymore." Conscious extremism can even lead to our own depression through the extreme stories we tell ourselves.

So how do we avoid the extremist trap? How can we as individuals wired to have selective focus attempt to not be the idiots Mr. Eastwood describes? 

For the next 24 hours, flex the brain's awareness muscles. Just listen to yourself and those around you and pick out blanket statements, or extremism language (all, every, always, only, never). Listen to the news and hear many examples of things like the fallacy of the single cause, or the fundamental attribution error. (You can probably find 5 examples just by scrolling your Facebook feed for a few minutes)  

Most importantly, make the conscious decision to exorcise extremism from your being. Make the conscious decision to never take the easy way out again. Make that conscious decision, and you'll not only be less idiot, but once step closer to being the solution any problem, and not part of it.