The Tyranny of Absolutism – Erik Kondo

Updated: Feb 16

I like to write about the dynamics of mobility devices as I understand them. As a full-time wheelchair user, I have a large number of different adaptive devices. Some of which I have bought, and some I have made/modified myself. Along with traditional devices such as an off-road handcycle and a monoski. I have unique devices such as several wheelchair scooterboards, a wheelchair hoverboard, multiple types of electric wheelchair skateboards, a two-wheel handcycle, wheelchair snowboard, and some other DIY devices. I use these mobility devices for pleasure and experimentation.

Invariably when I write about the dynamics of these devices, there are those who say with absolute certainty that I am wrong. Or that they know better. Maybe they understand what I am talking about, maybe they don’t. All forms of communication are subject to misunderstanding. But what seems to be most important to some of them is NOT trying to learn from my perspective and experience, but to engage in absolutist statements that imply a definitive “right” or “wrong” way of doing or seeing things.

I find that there are several types of Absolutists. There are those that engage in Ideological Cherry-Picking. They point out only the “best” aspects of their point of view and ignore any disadvantages. These people are part of a tribe that sees things a certain way and are offended by anyone with a different viewpoint. Being “right” and getting everyone to agree with their tribal point of view is more important than evolving their viewpoint or taking into consideration nuance. Rather than looking at, and evaluating both sides of an issue, they only promote the cherry-picked aspects of their chosen side.

A tribal viewpoint can form around almost anything. For example, there is a tribe of monoski enthusiasts devoted to the idea that shorter outriggers are better than longer ones. And another tribe that believes that longer outriggers are better than shorter ones. Yes, I know this sounds crazy, but these tribes do exist (at least on the internet). Rather than discuss the relative advantages and disadvantages of outrigger length and how optimum outrigger length is a function of the physicality, experience, environment, and specific needs of the individual skier, they would rather expound upon the merits of their point of view. A common tactic is to use one-sided examples as evidence of the absolute correctness of their viewpoint. When that method isn’t convincing enough, their fall back is to tout their long-time experience as proof of their rightness.

Ideological Cherry-Pickers discourage conversation and exploration of the subject with their absolutism. But worse are the Identity Peacocks. These people see any type of discussion as an opportunity to display their cherished identity. For these people, their viewpoint has become their identity. And they want everyone to know it. An Identity Peacock has no interest in evolving their point of view because such evolution would directly threaten their carefully crafted identity (whatever it might be). There can be no rational discourse with them.

There are also the Espousing Dunning-Krugers whose lack of knowledge on the subject drives their confidence and willingness to talk about it. The less they know about a subject, the more certain they are of it. They think they know all there is to know. Nuance be damned!

The existence of those who don’t need something does not eliminate the existence of those who do need it. The fact that some people need more of something, doesn’t invalidate the needs of people who need less, and vice versa. Sometimes, I am a person who needs more. Sometimes, I am a person who needs less. It depends upon the circumstances. Promoting using something some of the time, doesn’t mean that you are advocating for using it all of the time. Absolutists see everything in terms of a slippery slope to the opposing side. Agreeing with the middle ground is the same as total opposition to their point of view.

Imagine that when skiing, you use a special technique 1 time out of 100 movements on average. That means 99% of the time you don’t use it. Do you need it? Well, it depends. If that one technique prevents a likely fall, and that you do 100 movements on an average ski run, then that one movement prevents one fall on every ski run. Should you learn the technique? Some would say you need it to prevent the fall. Others would not worry about it and accept the consequences of the fall. There is no right or wrong answer. If your goal is to prevent falling, then you need the technique, if not, then you don’t.

The Tyranny of Absolutism is to quash opposing and evolving points of view. Absolutists don’t move the conversation forward. They try to stop it dead in its tracks. If you are NOT an Absolutist – thank you for your open mindedness and willingness to explore, experiment, and evolve your and my point of view.