There are just too many things in our mind that are delusional, that even before we start to think, we have to “clean our mind out first”. Just too many things. Lets try to consider one today - the idea of consensus.
I feel that today, “consensus” is one of those words that have received unchecked respect. Probably because it has served well some groups over the years for some ‘practical purposes’, it has come on to ten top ten list of “values to market”. What is consensus anyway?
We understand consensus to mean agreement. But please go further. It means an agreement among the members of a group or community where some of them retain the discretion in decision-making and follow-up action. So, consensus does not just mean agreement. It includes a follow-up action to ensure that the agreement is not breached.
AT the outset itself please understand that consensus has nothing to do with logic or rationality or common sense though sometimes they may coincide. From example, we may form a chatting club called “Nut crackers” and reach a consensus that only males aged between 35 and 50 from Penang can become members. We also reach a consensus that each member will greet the other with the gibberish “Ajija!”. If anyone ask us why, we just reply because we are Nut cracker members. Consensus requires no rational reason.
Consensus must be artificially created otherwise the desired conduct will not exist. Example, members must agree to call each other Ajija!” otherwise that conduct will not exist. On the other hand, we do not need to reach a consensus that the Sun is hot or that the gravity exists. Our consensus or lack thereof does not affect the conduct of the sun and gravity. Knowledge and not consensus that makes us aware of the truth.
What are delusions? It is a word that incorporates “deception”, “fancifulness” and “false”. If something is delusional, we mean it is false and deceptive. A delusional person thinks something is true when actually he has been deceived into thinking so. It is false. In simple language, we become delusional when we are misled into thinking that false is true. In psychiatry, the definition is necessarily more precise and implies that the belief is pathological (the result of an illness or illness process)
With this, let’s consider some thoughts.
Truth does not require consensus for it to be true. Those who deny the truth are either fools or ignorant. I think it is easy to understand so far because I have used easy examples. Let us try something more “complex”.
Let us consider another kind of truth – killing terminates life. It is a truism and you do not need a consensus to verify it. If you do not want to terminate a life, you do not kill. If you kill a human being, that means you want to terminate his life. If you kill an animal, you want to kill its life. These are logical conclusions that follow.
Now you go to war. You kill human beings. If we say you do that because you want to terminate the lives of those whom you kill, you will most probably object and say: “That is not the objective”. Or worse, you may say: “That is the consequence of war or collateral damage” or you may say “they are enemies”. These justifications that meander from the truth are a result of consensus. You have reached a consensus that those whom you kill are not human beings but enemies. Consensus has made us become delusional.
Now you go deer hunting or boar hunting. You kill animals. You do so because you reach a consensus that you are hunting and not killing. The agreed concept of “sports” becomes dominant in your mind and the death of the animals disappears from your consciousness. Consensus has made us become delusional.
There are resources in the world and there are living species that require sufficient amounts of these resources to live. No clean water, we die. Food, clothing, shelter, health are essential for human survival. The opposite of survival is extinction or death. This is the truth. If we deny or allow the denial of these resources to fellow human beings, we allow their extinction or their death. This is true.
But consensus comes in the way of this truth. Consensus makes us delusional.
By consensus, we agree that the theory of “survival of the fittest” shall apply. We agree that persons can own property and once owned the owners can do what they like with it. We also agree that resources can be owned by those who have the means to own them. We agree that “human wants are unlimited and the means to satisfy these wants are limited”. Our delusional mind has equalized the concept of “wants” with “greed” without realizing it.
Hence, you have persons owning a 1000 sq feet bathroom while many others sleep in the open air. Hence you have persons who have food stock up for the next 20 lifetimes while some others cannot find food for 20 days. But we have reached a consensus that it is okay. We even have agreed terms for it “hard core poverty”, “third world countries”, “income differentials”, etc. Once ‘termed’, it becomes an “issue”, no longer real. Once ‘termed’, we become delusional and hence indifferent to the deprivation suffered by other species, including human beings.
Truth does not require a majority vote for it to be a truth. It simply exists. You deny it at your own peril. Falsity requires a majority vote because without consensus, it will not come into being. This is what the Quran says:
“If you obey the majority of those on this earth, they will lead you far from the Way of Allah. They follow nothing but their imaginations and they do nothing but lie” (surah 6 verse 116).
I have always been wary of collective consensus because I have discovered that it is often untrue. A few persons will collectively agree and decree that is the “accepted value or mode of thinking” to be adopted and large sections of the society unthinkingly adhere to this consensus. Due to the fact that most of these consensuses are false, they only increase further the problems experienced by human beings and the world.
Collective consensus, in my humble view leads to mass delusional behavior. It is like a disease which only gets worse and worse because it is left untreated. This is what the Quran says:
“In their hearts there is a disease and this disease does Allah increase in them, and for them is a painful tormenting because they are false (to themselves). And when it is said to them: ‘Do not do evil on earth’, they say ‘We are but the reformers’. Of a surety they are the ones who do evil, but they realize it not” (surah 2 verses 10 to 12)
So, look out for collectives consensuses masquerading as the truth.