A plea for thinking for yourself

22 09 2012

I am an advocate for something that we seem to have lost,or at least lost respect for, namely thinking.

Nowhere is its loss more clearly demonstrated than n the inaptly named group thinking. This has been evident recently in the situation surrounding WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

In this case, the fact that he took an anti-establishment position in exposing government secrets via the WikiLeaks website puts him beyond reproach. That he took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy to prevent extradition to the USA, where he would not receive a fair trail, is accepted as Gospel. Whether or not this is actually the case is not important at the moment, what is important is that each of us should feel free to think about the situation and feel free to comment.

For example, what has he to hide in refusing to stand trial in Sweden? Someone who has put their head above the parapets and exposed the secrets of those who would prefer to have them suppressed must surely respect due process when faced with a charge made against him, surely? A claim made in a country, Sweden, where one could reasonably accept a fair and open trial compared to, say, Ecuador?

And if we are talking about justice, what about justice for the two women who have brought the charges against him? Do they not deserve to be heard? Throughout history and on into the 21st Century influential men and the authorities who protect their interests have far too often dismissed allegations of rape. Reporting of rape, serious investigation by the police and successful prosecutions of rape are lamentably few. We must not dismiss or belittle accusations of rape. Advances for women’s rights in this area have been hard-won and remain fragile.

We  have to take these allegations seriously and not simply assume that because Julioan Assange did good things with the WikiLeaks website that he is a wholly good person and incapable of doing any bad thing. History is full of good men doing bad things. I only recently read o statement from a man who is serving a 16 year prison sentence for stabbing his wife to death in which he said, “ I have done a lot of good things, beneficial things, donated to charity. No-one remembers these things. All they remember is that I murdered my wife.”

And it is not for me to judge Julian Assange. He may well be innocent of the charges laid against him. But we have to be able to question the situation and not just go along with the group think that sees the only reason for his reluctance to stand trial is fear of onward extradition. When I posted a thoughtful, well argued piece by Laurie Penny to my Facebook page I was confronted by group think from his defendants. So I am using the case of Julian Assange to illustrate the group think phenomenon. I might just have easily have used the case of the Catholic Church who are asking all parishioners not to think for themselves but to place themselves fully and without question behind the churches opposition to gay marriage.

My assertion is that we need to think for ourselves. We need to think and apply thought all the time and not be uncritically accepting of anything, irrespective of who is relaying the message. If the investors in Bernhard Madoffs Ponzi scheme had done their own thinking, conducted just a little research, rather than relying on information from friends they could have saved a themselves a fortune

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