Contrarianism for the Masses.

Contrarianism is widely considered to be only a stock market strategy. Since most investors are completely incapable of predicting the future moves of the market it stands to reason that opposing the flow and doing the opposite – selling while others buy, and buying when others sell – is more likely to lead the individual to a beneficial result. What I suggest is that most people, in all categories of human activity, are completely out of their depth and likely to cling to the popular and conventional beliefs and attitudes out of desperation. The chances are – they’re wrong.

One has only to consider the huge number of people – mostly men – who spend no time preparing and informing themselves to confront the serious matters of their times, but who can spout off the whole teams of players at their favorite sport and list the scoring records of these individuals right back to the time they came off the Ark. How likely are these individuals’ opinions about social concerns and voting choices in elections to be guided by wisdom and good sense?

That is why we celebrate the times when the great mass of the public excel themselves in producing consensus in problems that really do matter and take part in actions that lead to improvements in the human condition. Those events are truly worth celebrating, but it’s a great pity that they do not come more regularly. What I suggest with my promotion of contrarianism is that enough people consider alternative opinions and mind-sets all the time that society has a wellspring of wise discrimination, and beneficial decisions become more common.

What about some examples?

Firstly matters of health. Far too many people live thoughtless lifestyles of greed and self-indulgence in the expectation that some pill exists, or will exist, to treat their ruined health when nature follows its natural course. Even medical doctors mouth the platitudes of preventive health care – while merely prescribing the latest panacea pill that big pharma has produced, in the hope it might alleviate the symptoms.

The whole western world enjoyed the spectacle of a simple faith that property could only increase in value, and that it was wise to take on huge burdens of debt in order to cash in. Real property is a finite resource, and over the longer scheme of things it must inevitably be sought after by an ever growing population, but none of these plungers into huge mortgages ever considered the shorter term considerations defined by their employment histories and likely lifespan. The contrarian noticed that the real estate bubble had become unstable and stayed the heck away.

The tricky subject of religion shows the immense power of the herd instinct. If the neighbours go to worship in this mosque, this church, this synagogue, this temple, then most people follow the crowd – even when in their hearts they find the platitudes and or diatribes totally irrelevant and unsatisfying. There is absolutely no shortage of religious expression in the world, but very few people have ever had the gumption to examine the ones they were born into critically and consider leaving them. The contrarian can be expected to do so, for after all, you are stuck with this life and should make the most of it.

What about the music the herd listens to? Ever notice how little the popular taste resembles music? What about the movies – very few of which are worth the price of their admission. What about the lawn in front of the house when water shortages and total waste of your leisure hours could be reduced from converting the grass to xeriscaping? What about the political party you vote for? The same one that your dear old Dad supported – and every ancestor of his since Magna Carta.

I get a big kick out of the Gnostic Gospels – the Nag Hammadi library discovered at Jabal-al-Tarif in 1945. In one, the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus is reputed to have said, “Men think perhaps it is peace I have come to cast upon the world. They do not know it is dissension I have come to cast upon the earth: fire, sword, and war. …” If the Christian religion did only one good thing, it was the releasing of western society from the bonds of tribal conformity and allowing us the gift of thinking for ourselves. And changing old ideas for better. Let’s hear it for the contrarians. Let’s hear it for the rebels.

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