“It’s better to think the best of everyone and be wrong than assume the worst and be right.”
–Nessy, Too Many Curses
We are an inherently suspicious species, but it is, often, a dishonest form of suspicion. We don’t mistrust and suspect on evidence but on our own preconceived notions and ideas. Once you know where to look for it, you see it everywhere.
I have a weird habit of watching paranormal “reality” shows like Finding Bigfoot and Ghost Adventures. Not because I believe in these things. If anything, these shows have convinced me there is simply no such thing as ghosts, psychic powers, or cryptids. Yet when I discuss these shows with other unbelievers, it’s often assumed that the participants of the shows are all duplicitous or deceptive. They don’t believe. They just pretend for the camera.
That suspicion always bothers me, and you see it everywhere. In politics, it’s the assumption that the other party is full of scheming manipulative tricksters while our party of choice is full of flawed, but sincere, idealists. In culture, it’s the unspoken truth that if someone likes art we don’t care for, it’s because they simply don’t “know” any better. How many prejudices are justified by assuming the worst of a group simply because they look, act, or live in a different area? This sort of default suspicion isn’t founded on anything other than a desire to discredit and dismiss those who walk a different path than us.
There are hypocrites and cynical manipulators. These sorts of people do exist, and you’d be hard pressed to find a level of society or a social group they haven’t infiltrated, but determining whether a person is genuinely sincere or not isn’t as simple as determining whether they agree with you. It’d be simpler if that was true. There are times when I’m watching Zac and the Ghost Adventures gang running around in the dark, NOT actually finding anything even remotely close to a ghost, and think, “They can’t still believe this stuff.” But then I think, belief is a funny thing, isn’t it? People believe all kinds of weird things, and to those on the outside, those beliefs look downright bizarre. I’m sure this applies to myself as well. And to you.
Sincerity isn’t a measure of how often people agree with us, and if our first thought is that someone is lying to us simply because they say something we don’t like then we aren’t being skeptical. We’re being obnoxious.