Monday, 21 November 2016

How to live a life of hell: become a contrarian.

How to live a life of hell: become a contrarian.

Most people like to live a peaceful idyllic life,  avoiding confrontation and arguments. However, this is not the case for me! Due to me having a critical mind and finding it hard to “bite my tongue” I live the life of a contrarian. A contrarian is someone who rejects popular opinion or practices. It is not that they  disagree with everything but they may have an opinion which seems controversial which they are not afraid to express publicly.

Some people view me as a troublemaker - I just like to cause controversy or play devil's advocate for the sake of it. I can tell you this is not true! But I have never been afraid of questioning figures of authority in any circumstances whether it be school, Irish dancing or family. Figures of authority tend to resent me and wish to “teach me a lesson” .

I have always asked seemingly absurd questions for my parents and teachers to deal with for example at age 3 on a long journey home from a trip from the back of the car I asked my mum: “If God created everything, then why did he create the devil?”  right then my mum knew I was going to be a nightmare. My dad use to constantly tell me “One of the ten commandments is do not argue with your parents”. I then learned the ten commandments aged 7 when making my First Holy Communion and noted to my dad that he was wrong and the  commandments actually stated “thou shalt respect thy mother and father”, and explained that if you respect someone you should argue or debate with someone because you care about their opinion. Fun times lay ahead!  

But why am I like this? Why are contrarians the way they are?

Intelligence + Courage = Contrarian.

One of the main reasons is intelligence.  A basis of intelligence is one's ability to decipher accurate knowledge from other types of information. Scientifically this is called critical rationalism. Critical rationalism put in practice is contrarianism: when a contrarian encounters new information their cognitive reaction is to verify information and test it. So when I am told information no matter who it is, I always do my research to make sure they aren't lying to me. It is also the reason why I am eccentric like other intelligent people, because we feel less compelled to comply with society norms. On the other hand, this makes it very difficult for me to trust people, I alienate people and appear like a paranoid conspiracy nut case. But like Britney, "they say I'm crazy" and I'll do something crazy anyway because "I really don't care!"

But how come not everyone who is intelligent is a contrarian? Because it has a cost - it sucks because often the contrarian does not benefit from it often they cause social problems for themselves. They have to have the courage and not be afraid to argue despite what may be a negative outcome; though it may have a positive outcome in the future for the rest of society.  They are highly inventive because they are not afraid of seeing things from a different perspective - for example in Irish dancing if have sometimes done movements which are not normal at the time but yet a few years down the line everyone starts doing them, so other people get the glory and I don’t.  Similar to artists whose artwork is not appreciated until they die.  “Creative ideas usually get a weak reception, at least initially," says psychologist Robert Sternberg, provost of Oklahoma State University. "But contrarians give their lives meaning by attempting to change the way things are to the way they think they should be." According to Sternberg - The more creative an individual the more likely they are to be a contrarian.
Therefore the second reason is courage or bravery. They are brave because due to publically challenging ideas there is often inevitable ostracism and punishment.  Contrarians are more concerned with truths (what is right and what is wrong ethically and scientifically) than popularity. Thus a contrarian is an intelligent critical thinker with a lot of courage.

Why is it that Contrarian ideas can backfire? Why do even intelligent people want to reject logical ideas?
They like to stick to the status quo!
Fred Hoyle explains that humans reject new ideas due to being “victims of dogmatism” and their tendency to argue from pre-set ideas. Even scientists and other intellectuals have a tendency to be biased and wish to stick with the status quo. When someone's life has become very devoted to one idea it is very difficult for them to accept a new idea. An example of this that I have experienced was in festival Irish dancing: the “Mulholland” and other more traditional festival teachers being very resistant to  some schools incorporating feis movements and doing open platform feis; I find when you think about this objectively and logically it is very silly as those movements didn’t exist when Patricia Mulholland was alive and neither did those competitions on top of this Patricia Mulholland made her dancers curl their hair and wear wigs if their hair was too short. 
A second example was when I decided to add some spins into my lead around as I noticed they had come into fashion due to being a keen spectator of other Irish dancers. My teacher  and his assistant made a huge song and dance about this, apparently "I looked like a princess" and doing high kicks in a kilt is far more masculine. Strangely enough, two years after leaving this school he had put plenty of spins in other boys dancing.  Unfortunately, even eight years at university does not guarantee that you are the "sharpest tool in the shed", especially if you are better at going on holiday than attending the feis. Thus the new truth whether be in science or any other field is often rejected to preserve fragile egos and hold their principles whether they are moronic or not.

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Why should society thank contrarians?

The world owes contrarians a lot of gratitude. If it wasn’t for the contrarians no ideas would be challenged and thus no progress would be made. Where would the human race be without Socrates, Darwin, Freud, Jesus, and Martin Luther King? Contrarians are fundamental to society due to their creative abilities to see beyond the status quo and courageously challenge teachers, the government and religious figures alike. Establishment intellectuals are only required to back and broadcast the status quo, but are unable to challenge these and thus contrarians are needed to evolve ideas and bring about enlightenment.