In Praise of Skepticism

Big Red Car here. It rained yesterday in the tropical rain forest formerly known at Austin, Texas.

We are starting to like the daily rains. Everything is green. It is like the Amazon valley.

I am skeptical as to whether it will continue, which brings me to my thought for today — skepticism.

At the core of skepticism is doubt. Doubt is the feeling that one gets which questions the truth, reality or explicit nature of something. That something could be an idea, a policy or a thought.

Skepticism is not opposition. One can be a skeptic and not oppose whatever it is they are skeptical about.

Today, we need a little skepticism; and, when it is appropriate, that skepticism should become full on doubt. Sometimes, that full on doubt should become opposition.

It all starts with skepticism.

What is the brief for skepticism?

When you have children, you will have trouble. They travel in a pack — children and trouble. All entangled and smelling of puppies, cigarette smoke and beer. You may detect margaritas if you live near good TexMex.

They will come home late and slip into their rooms. The next morning they will bring to you their tale of woe.

They will say, “Dad, it was two o’clock in the morning . . . ”

Stop them right there. Every story that starts with the setting being ” . . . two o’clock in the morning. . . ” has a bad outcome. Trust me on this one.

This is when you become a skeptic.

Give me an example, Big Red Car?

OK, we are told that the upcoming trade legislation being attempted by the administration and the Republican — yes, Republican — fellow travelers is going to be great. If Donald Trump were involved, it would be the greatest legislation ever in the history of the world and Mexico would pay for it.

[The Donald, who interestingly enough I learned is rich, is going to give us all a lot of entertainment. Some of his nonsense is way overdue. We need to hear some healthy criticism of the fat cat political class. But, I digress. Sorry.]

But, then, you are a skeptic — which really means you have a functioning brain. You ask yourself, “Why does a democracy conduct its legislative process in secret? Aren’t these boobs in Washington our employees? Why are they keeping it secret from their employers? Why isn’t our free press examining the agreement and singing its merits?”

And, this, is where you become a little skeptical — doubtful, wary, careful.

OK, another example, you were told by a famous fellow in that same neighborhood, the one with the big White House, that the ISIS bunch were the junior varsity, remember that?

Or, that if you would just support a particular piece of healthcare legislation, you could keep your doctor, your insurance company, your twenty year old Volvo station wagon. Remember that? [OK, the twenty two year old Volva was thrown in to see if you were paying attention.]


Beware of zealots. Recently, in a conversation about bitcoin, The Boss made a comment about bitcoin that was skeptical.

He failed to make the sign of the cross or to genuflect and a particularly zealous chap called him out on it. The Boss pointed out that he wasn’t unhappy with trusted third party intermediaries and that he could not yet find a useful application for bitcoin — actually the blockchain, not bitcoin itself.

The chap then began to recite all the great things the blockchain would be able to do in the future.

Of course, the entire point of The Boss’s comment was that currently — currently — none of these things were a reality. He was not speculating about the future; he was talking about the present.

The zealot would not let it go like a Democrat running for County Commissioner promising a cure for baldness as part of his campaign.

Beware zealots. The second you get a whiff of that smelly, tense — slightly mildewy — flop sweat, beware. Deploy your skepticism.

As you get older and have seen the promises of life withering on the rocks of reality, you find it easier to be a little skeptical.

Be skeptical! It may save your life.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. It’s raining in the ATX. Whoever has been praying for rain, STOP! Right now. [OK, we’re still a few feet from the fullest Lake Travis ever, so some short prayers are fine. No more rosaries!] Be good to yourself. You deserve it, you skeptic.