On Consistency

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For some reason people seem to love consistency. I mean this in the sense of consistency of ideas. This is especially true in the world of philosophy/politics. People seem to prize themselves on being adamant. And yet I do not understand why.

Everything is subject to change. Change is natural, change is inevitable, and change is everywhere. Yet, whenever someone ‘changes’ their opinion they seem to get alot of backlash. In regards to politics, people who change opinions more than once are viewed as being unreliable, or a ‘flip-flop’. The idea of say, a Communist becoming a Fascist is somehow a ‘bad thing’ so to say. If a person switches from being a Communist to being a Fascist, I guarantee many people will bring this up as a negative. They will say things such as ‘oh, well that guy was a communist at one point in his life, so why should we take his opinion seriously’ or ‘well that guy switched from being a communist to a fascist, so we shouldn’t listen to his ideas, because he clearly doesn’t know what hes doing’.

Of course this is only one example. A person who switches religions will probably get hate from his previous religion, and people in his new religion may view themselves as being better than him (since they were in the religion from the beginning). Lets say a person coverts from Christianity to Buddhism. His Christian friends will view him as a traitor, and his Buddhist friends will think ‘well he may be a Buddhist, but he has not been a Buddhist as long as I have,’ or ‘he may be a Buddhist now but he was once a Christian’.

Of course these are simply allegories but still. The point is that people dont seem to like change. They want consistency. People who are adamant are prideful of this. People are always bragging about how long they’ve been this, or how long they’ve been that. How long they have been a member of X organization, or more importantly, how loyal they have been to that organization. This is especially evident in Conservative religious groups, who pride themselves on how they have ‘never strayed from tradition’. Even the liberals, who claim to be proponents of change and progress – they too like to brag about how long they’ve supported X belief. They mention how they have always supported Gay Rights since its conception, or how they have been pro-choice since the creation of birth control – or something like that. In other words, both groups use their ‘well we’ve been supporting X since so-and-so year’ which is essentially another form of saying ‘look how consistent we are’.

In my opinion everything is subject to change. Change is natural, and people should not be afraid to change. If you want to change religions then do so! If you want to change political parties then do so! You dont even have to have a radical ‘change’ so to speak, yet most people will try hard to say consistent.

For example, there are some people in the Republican Party who were once pro-life but are now secretly pro-choice, but they do not want to admit this. Why? Because this would seem inconsistent. By disagreeing with one tenet of their party, they will come off as being ‘not in line’ with the rest of the party.

Many people are afraid of researching or reading about ideas that may conflict with their own. Why? Because they are afraid that they may find something that will change their minds and opinions. They are afraid that they may like what they have read and thus must now make a decision – should they change opinions and face scrutiny or conceal their true feelings and wear a mask in order to seem consistent.

I met one man, a Catholic, who said that he was interested in Satanism (not interested as in he wanted to become a Satanist, but interested as in he was fascinated with its ideas and was curious about it; similar how a person may be interested in say, baseball. It doesn’t mean they want to become a baseball player, it just means that they want to know more about it). Anyway, this Catholic man said that he was interested in Satanism but that he did not want to read any more about it because he was afraid he might like it, or agree with. And of course I asked ‘so what if you like it? If you prefer Satanism, then become a Satanist.’ But he did not want to become a Satanist even if he liked its ideals, simply because he was afraid of changing ideas.

He was raised a Catholic, and he was afraid of anything that might turn him away from being a Catholic. Thus, subconsciously speaking, this man was afraid of being inconsistent. To go from being a Catholic to a Satanist is very inconsistent – you are essentially adopting the anti-thesis of your previous beliefs.

And why was he afraid of being inconsistent? Because our society seems to prize consistency. We do not like change, as I have mentioned above, and we do many things to try and discourage change. Sure, we tell people to ‘think for themselves’ – but people who really do ‘think for themselves’ end up like Nietzsche, or Charles Manson, or the Unabomber. Now, I am not saying all people who ‘think for themselves’ become terrorists or killers (hence Nietzsche), but what I am saying is that people who really do ‘think for themselves’ tend to become very distant from societies rules.

Society does not want too much change, because society is based off of consistency. A society functions best when everything follows a certain pattern. Change is detrimental, and thus there seems to be this unconscious fear that anything ‘inconsistent’ is somehow bad. Thus, we look down on people who are inconsistent. We view them as being unreliable or untrustworthy. We view them as being lower than those that never change their views.

A person who rarely changes views will probably hold themselves very highly. They will probably think that they are always right, and that is why they have never had to change their views. But I largely disagree. A person who remains adamant is not necessarily right, they are simply afraid of changing views because it will look inconsistent. Whether consciously or unconsciously, they refuse to admit that they may be wrong, and thus stubbornly hold on to their beliefs.

I personally do not mind inconsistency. As I have mentioned above, change is natural. Change you views! Change them as much as you want! There is no law, neither man-made nor natural, that states you must believe X all your life, or that you can only change opinions X amount of times! You are free to change your views as much as you want! So do it! If you want to change your views and admit it to the world than you should! Who cares about consistency? I dont, thats for sure.

The world is a chaotic place. I do not see why opinions should be any different. If you really want to be true to yourself then you will believe what you want to believe and will admit it proudly – regardless of how ‘inconsistent’ your ideas may appear over time.