“Aunt,” Amalia asked, “why are we so ignorant?”
Beatrice paused in her work and looked at her niece.
“Well, now,” she said, “that is a rather unexpected question. Before I attempt an answer, please tell me who is ‘we’ and why is ‘we’ ignorant?”
Amalia waved her hands in a circle.
“We, all of us—me, you, Uncle Hosten, Father, Mother, Aunt Beryl, Lammett, Finn—you know, all of us.”
The Book of Rhino
Amalia’s reasoning is an example of taking something that is local and making it global. I have observed that this phenomenon occurs frequently among humans. It is inductive reasoning taken to the extreme.
“I think, therefore, I am—and so does everybody else.”
The globalization of a local issue is done by the pernicious use of the word “we.”
“We all make mistakes.”
“We are none of us perfect.”
“We are poor little lambs who have lost our way. Baa, baa, bah.”
It’s as if a local mistake, defect, or character flaw must not be confined to one person. It must be expanded to include everybody. I suppose some things are too painful to bear alone, so people drag others into that lonely place by the word “we.”
The ubiquitous use of the word “we” is especially evident in politics where things are done because we, the American people, want it. Well, I am an American people and do not want a lot of things that I’m told I do. The current debate on health care is a classic example of local gone global.
The phrase “the America people” is invoked like a religious mantra. It used to justify most legislation, whether it's good or bad. What is ironic is that when global legislation is dissected, it turns out to be local after all, written for the benefit of a select group of people. The majority of “we, the people” are shunted aside, their collective name having served its purpose.
I do not know what anyone else thinks about it, but I (local) do not like being used in a collective “we” (global) without my permission. Whenever I hear or read that “we” think, feel, or act in a certain way, my “I” stands up in defiance. I refuse to be a “we” unless my “I” makes that choice.
When I was in junior high, I read the novel Anthem by Ayn Rand. The main character, Equality, resonated with me, and when he discovered his “I”, I cheered. I still do. But that’s just little, local me. But I do wonder of there are others out there with whom I can be We.