In the course of writing this essay I have begun to picture an ad for my own campaign for the truth ‚Äì that is, the real truth. A hundred smokers kick down the doors of ‚Äúthe truth‚Äôs‚Äù headquarters. Each finds a staffer, takes a big long puff, and blows it in their faces. Then they find the door of the president‚Äôs office, flick their butts at it, and post a huge sign on the door (I picture it stuck to the door with a large, Crocodile Dundee-type knife) saying, ‚ÄúWE ARE NOT DUPES!‚Äù Then, as they are walking out single file the last one grabs a nearby staffer by the lapels and says, ‚ÄúWe actually like smoking, we know what we are doing, so why don‚Äôt you shut the hell up!‚Äù
I am not a smoker although I have definitely enjoyed a cigarette or two in my time. I don‚Äôt agree with the choices of smokers but I respect the choice and the individual choosing. The true test of one‚Äôs aptitude for living in a pluralistic society is the ability to view the different choices of others as being authentic and worthy of respect. To do so is to practice true tolerance and liberalism. But there is an intuitive attractiveness to castigating the confusing choices of others – those that clash with your own values – as inauthentic and coerced. Such an attitude not only simplifies the world but allows it to be exclusively filtered through one’s own value system. Aberrations need not be explained and respected as being, in some sense, equal to your own views but only need be categorized under the subordinate heading of “illegitimate.” It is in this sense that the ideology of ‚Äúthe truth,‚Äù in addition to numerous other ideologies (the type of campus feminism that believes the majority of women have been duped by the hegemony of the patriarchy), are elitist rather than pluralistic. The first folly of such ideologies designed to help the ‚Äúcommon man‚Äù is the belief that there are, in fact, ‚Äúcommon men,‚Äù who are qualitatively different from the ideologue ‚Äì less knowledgeable and aware and more susceptible to the wills of others ‚Äì and are in desperate need of assistance. It is sad that programs so bent upon assisting in the struggle of the ‚Äúcommon man‚Äù must first satisfy their egos by kicking him into a dark, dank swamp of unforgivable ignorance before they bend down to lend a hand.