False dichotomies keep us in real illusion
One of the favorite strategies of emotional manipulators is setting up false dichotomies. For example, a former US president who launched a war against terror claimed that those who were not for that war were for the terrorists.
Such dichotomies emotionally pressurize dissidents to fall in line – who would want to side with terrorists? But these dichotomies reduce things to simplistic categories that don’t reflect the complexity of reality. Many people could well have been opposed to terrorists while considering that particular war an inadvisable way of opposing them.
The preceding is not to say that dichotomies are always manipulative – not at all. They can powerfully highlight differences between things. But spotlighting existing differences is one thing; foisting non-existent differences on things by labeling them is quite another.
False dichotomies don’t just misrepresent reality and manipulate people – they also mislead the advocates of those dichotomies. How? By perpetuating the self-righteous belief of those advocates that they have got it right and anyone who differs from them has got it wrong. Indeed, false dichotomies are intellectual rationalizations used by the ego to pat itself on the back.
To counter the delusion of simplistic categorization, we need a worldview that accommodates the rich complexity of reality. Gita wisdom offers such a worldview through its framework of the modes of material nature. After describing the characteristics of the three modes (14.06-09), the Bhagavad-gita stresses that the modes are in constant competition (14.10). So, a particular thing may well embody a combination of all the modes in varying proportions. This reflects the reality that things exist not just in black and white, but also in multiple shades of grey.
By training ourselves to see the world through the Gita’s eyes, we can protect ourselves from illusion, even if it attacks with sophisticated weapons such as false dichotomies.
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